26 Apr 16 Tried and Tested Wisdoms for your Workplace Wellbeing Strategy
We are in the privileged position at MHScot to be party to many insightful discussions around workplace wellbeing. We talk with employers and employees from many sectors of the economy and at all levels, about their experiences of introducing and embedding mental health and wellbeing initiatives into their workplaces and practices.
Whether people are working from home, practicing a hybrid work model or are back in specialised workplaces, the same barriers to implementing wellbeing initiatives crop up. These barriers are not due to technology or decentralisation but rather due to a lack of buy-in from senior management and the struggle to operate within a top-down culture.
True Costs and False Profits
Considering the cost of recruitment and training plus the revenue lost to absenteeism, one would expect senior executives to pro-actively support workplace wellbeing initiatives. Many do and they are the successes but we often hear that wellbeing initiatives are treated as a tick-the-box activity, are provided only lip service or that the entire project is delegated to line managers. These key managers are left exposed, trying to balance the needs of an enthusiastic and educated workforce within a disinterested organisational culture and a senior team focussed solely on profit.
Mental Health training can’t fix these structural and cultural issues. It does however enlighten and empower people to help one another and in doing so they become attuned to the elements that directly affect people’s wellbeing at work such as workloads, management styles, communication weaknesses, bullying, stigma and poor practices. Perhaps senior executives are reluctant to open these conversations for fear of setting off a chain of events outside their control. Workplace wellbeing initiatives are more about developing an attitude and practice that permeates all human interactions within the workplace. What this requires from senior teams is that they show up, offer encouragement, some small financial supports and help to develop the protocols and frameworks that management teams and staff can work within. The graft will happen organically if wellbeing initiatives are allowed to flourish and positively impact people’s quality of life at work which ultimately creates healthier and more sustainable workplaces.
Wellbeing for its Own Sake
We can’t do much about the stresses that people carry into work from their personal lives, but we can avoid creating unnecessary stressors at work even in the busiest environments by opening up channels of communication at the earliest points and putting resources and supports in place for people to access.
We all know the economic, political, and social benefits of having people-centred workplace as the evidence is well documented. Deloitte* reports that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £56 billion a year and that 61% of employees leaving or planning to leave, cite poor mental health, stress and long hours as the reason. Deloitte estimates that every £1 invested in wellbeing delivers a return of £5.30, so wellbeing ought to be a strategic priority for leaders.
What we find encouraging, is when senior executives drive mental health and wellbeing initiatives for their own sake. These organisations share their experiences, via our Networking Events and on our Leadership and Culture Workshops, which are all the more powerful for their input.
Here are 16 of their tried and tested wisdoms for implementing a workplace wellbeing strategy:
- Be proactive, not reactive – by the time you wake up and address the issues of workplace stress, the damage might well have been done.
- Put training into practice. People want to see mental health programmes in action so support your Mental Health First Aiders so that they in turn, can provide clear guidance on where to get support and information.
- Avoid lost opportunities by building on the momentum of having trained enthusiastic First Aiders ready to be operational by developing a core group of key people to drive and manage the whole wellbeing initiative.
- Get input from employees as to what their wellbeing needs are so that the wellbeing strategy aligns with their needs and expectations. This can be done via wellbeing surveys, focus groups and open discussion.
- Get active buy-in from the top to create a collective effort involving key people from all levels of the organisation, including all the trained Mental Health First Aiders. Top management support and involvement is vital to the success of workplace wellbeing initiatives. A lack of leadership interest can undermine all the good work employees are doing in the field.
- Ensure a consistent approach in leadership style. Poor leadership has a profoundly detrimental impact on an organisation’s reputation and negatively affects customers, suppliers, partners, employees, management and shareholders alike. Being a poor example of workplace practices is the worst type of publicity an organisation can foster.
- Embed a duty of care to safeguard and support all staff including the Mental Health First Aiders. Everyone should be made aware of the scope and limitations of their role. Mental Health First Aid works best when there are first-aiders available at all levels and in areas of the business.
- Promote an authentic organisational culture that is grown and nurtured at grassroots level as a culture that starts at the top is unsustainable. By making it part of everyone’s job to check-in on one another (and not leave it to the engagement manager), the duty of care becomes a holistic cultural reality. First aiders can play a role in developing psychological safety at work by highlighting particular stressors or being a representative voice for those they work with.
- Develop a ‘no stigma’ culture by fostering a helpful and respectful attitude and language around mental health. This will encourage people to talk and ask for support when they need it. Mental health training promotes prevention and early intervention to stop people reaching crisis point. Understanding that management are responsible for people’s wellbeing during working hours is a vital and enlightening step change.
- Encourage managers to ask people about what’s going well, what’s not going so well and what could help? Creating opportunities for people to mention things earlier allows issues to be resolved before people start struggling. Looking after people’s emotional wellbeing can be reinforced at meetings with a wellbeing check-in and stress risks can be added to projects and agendas. If this is done in good faith, it will help to build trust. Encourage managers to acknowledge effort and good work, add a dash of humour and arrange some play and relaxation time with their teams.
- Aim to find ‘flow’ as people want to work at their optimum level and not be under or over worked. That requires a high level of engagement while understanding that people are not always at the top of their game and that offering a little help to get through the imperfect days is good practice. Chronic stress can result in life-altering and life-threatening conditions that can affect all areas of a person’s life.
- Have consistency of communication to ensure that staff know what the company offers, what the support routes are and what to expect when using these services. Peers could share their experiences of what the service/s (Mental Health First Aiders or employee assistance programmes etc.) did for them, by outlining what to expect when you make enquiries. Resources and support information should be easily accessible. A cohesive approach across all parts of the business will avoid pockets of poor support and engagement.
- Create a wellbeing strategy to increase employee engagement and increase organisational performance. It has never been more possible to support people’s mental health and wellbeing with all the helpful information online and expert advice from the likes of CIPD, IOSH, The Health and Safety Executive and other business agencies.
- Communicate the wellbeing strategy at recruitment and induction as well as during one-on-ones and other opportunities for staff retention. Asking the question, ‘How well did we do?’ at exit interviews will provide valuable insights.
- Be visual – there are plenty of visual and digital resources that your organisation can use to reinforce mental health and wellbeing initiatives. From notice boards to intranet blogs and newsletters; email signatures; electronic screens, posters and flyers, every message will speak to someone and educate others.
- Invest in mental health and wellbeing – your investment can be reflected it in your annual reports, as an investment cost and as a positive contribution and result in staff wellbeing and attendance, productivity, creativity and innovation. Investing in your most valuable human resources will have great spin-off values and will erode the cynical attitude that Oscar Wilde once described as ‘know[ing] the price of everything and the value of nothing’.
It is thanks to the guest speakers at our Networking Events that we can share their experience and advice. This sharing of information across businesses and industries saves both time and money and contributes to healthier and happier working environments for all of us.
Click here to find out how we can help you implement a workplace wellbeing strategy into your organisation.
Written by MHScot Team Member, Sonia Last
Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in our blogs belong solely to MHScot.