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Wellbeing? … Whatever!

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

Corporate wellbeing and unconscious bias are inexorably linked right from the start. Ask someone what a ‘Company Wellbeing Programme’ is, and the answer is commonly that it’s a fluffy nice-to-do, something that keeps people happy if you’ve got the time and money to spare, (maybe to do with yoga at lunchtime?). Historically there’s a widespread lack of understanding that the mental wellbeing of your people is business-critical as it will impact heavily on performance levels, and ultimately, the bottom line. But as the mental health implications of the pandemic increase and performance and attendance suffer, we are also seeing Wellbeing rising up the business agenda - fast.

Mental wellbeing can be defined as the perception and evaluation of our life. It’s about achieving a balance of pleasure and happiness vs. a feeling that your life is meaningful and you are achieving your full potential. Research by Westfield Health, shows the value of wellbeing to the workplace is immense:

· If wellbeing strategies reach their full potential, the increased productivity could add £61bn to the English economy by 2025

· In organisations with a wellbeing programme in place, 43% of HR managers rated employee productivity as ‘very good’, compared to just 18% in organisations without one

So why is the wellbeing of staff so often an after-thought – even with mental health high on the media agenda? Why is mental wellbeing not a key component of delivering the business plan? One of the reasons is because it is intangible. There’s a saying - ‘we value what is measurable because we can’t measure what is valuable’. And that’s exactly the issue here - the success of a wellbeing at work programme is dependent on two main components:

1) Content and delivery

2) Company culture

The focus is all-too-often on the tactics not the strategy because you can measure the attendance and frequency of the events. But ultimately, it’s the company culture that has to foster an environment of inclusivity necessary to positively influence the mental wellbeing of its people – and ‘company culture’ is not something to be measured easily.

Worse still, organisations may stick a tokenistic calendar of workshops into the diary and then report that its ‘not worked’ when their workforce is not instantly happy, fulfilled or magically motivated.

If ignored, wellbeing can take a critical business toll. In June 2021, Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of dating app Bumble, gave the entire company a week off to cope with burnout. It’s admirable leadership to take such a bold stance, but reaching this crisis-point also shows a lack of effective ongoing support, and the extent of the impact this accidental neglect can take on both individuals and the bottom line.

So, what can we do to counteract a wellbeing crisis?

What positive steps can be put in place to help nurture wellbeing and increase productivity? The answer is to focus on building a culture of inclusivity, where different experiences and perspectives are seen as an asset not a threat, and where difficult conversations can take place without fear of judgement or recrimination.

Just like any other business challenge it is essential to start with a clearly defined strategy, anchored firmly in the business plan and linked to specific company goals. Tactically, the aim is to reconnect with the behaviours and activities that influence that healthy, happy balance we all need to thrive. For example: continued self-development and growth; creating good-quality social connections; and encouraging a growth mindset so you believe you can overcome hurdles. (This is where the yoga comes in and is why it won’t be effective in isolation).

Return on Investment:

Team performance increases by 50% when everyone feels included. The benefits of an inclusive company culture include: increased team citizenship, greater collaboration and innovation, higher performing teams and competitive advantage. This is the value and the power of an organisation comprising of people who enjoy high levels of personal wellbeing and a sense of belonging.

A healthy, happy workplace is not something that happens overnight, especially with our current hurdles and challenges, but it is achievable. The mental wellbeing of your people is business-critical and with the right strategy it can deliver a significant boost to the bottom line, so it’s less a case of ‘nice to do’ and more a case of ‘must do well’.

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