Does your workplace have a culture of wellbeing?
Workplace wellbeing is far more interesting than it was 5 years ago where the focus revolved around the provision of employee health insurance and perhaps a discounted gym membership if you were lucky – both of which were seldom used across most organisations.
These days, we are increasingly realising the benefit of implementing different strategies towards employee wellbeing with the realisation that healthier employees can bring great improvements to employee retention, efficiency and effectiveness, as well as to the firm’s promotional marketing. From educational workshops, to the provision of running shoes and sponsoring exercise events and equipment, innovations are happening across all types of organisations that signify the incredible value in this space.
But, initiatives are only part of it…
The area that is still lying under the radar of many firms’ wellbeing agendas however, is that of a Wellbeing culture. That is to say, the behaviours and mindset of organisations and their employees towards wellbeing. Despite all the innovations and money being poured into this space, we still see and hear of the idea that workplace wellness initiatives are an “added bonus” to the employee, as opposed to the workplace being absolutely fundamental to the employee’s wellbeing.
As opposed to being seen as a topic to be included within the HR benefits package, the firms who are really making movement in this space are those who have included wellbeing into their overarching strategy and values – an essential step to making wellbeing a core part of their culture.
Why is a culture of wellbeing so important?
Firms can spend a fortune implementing wellbeing initiatives. The provision of trainers to a UAE firm, for instance must have cost tens of thousands of dirhams. However, how many people actually use them? Like any new initiative or programme that requires change, the key to success is getting employee behaviours to change.
5 steps to achieving a “Culture of Wellbeing”
1. Integrate wellbeing into the core values of your organisation: This does not just mean it stays as a strapline to your values, but that there are key behaviours attached to it.
2. Lead with “healthy” behaviours: Engaging leaders and champions on the importance of wellbeing and on what healthy behaviours may be facilitates a culture of wellbeing to naturally filter through the organisation. It is much easier to take on a task if someone in your team (especially your boss) has already done it.
3. Make the behaviours easy: However, leading by example in the wellbeing space can be tricky. Getting to the gym when deadlines loom, or reducing stress when budgets are tight are easy to go amiss. However smaller, subtle wellbeing elements may not require any additional time to your team’s day. Bringing a plant to work can promote wellbeing through adding green to the office  whilst being a talking point to enhance sociability .
4. Prioritise wellbeing through performance: Innovations such as those above can appear to be a “waste of time” to managers and team members, especially during times of pressure when they can be easily deprioritised. However, studies show that prioritising wellbeing over important tasks can not only improve the employee efficiency but can reduce the impact that the stress may play on their health , thereby reducing both time away from work and the use of corporate health insurance. Getting wellbeing on the daily task list of teams by having it as a measured objective on the performance review is a quick win here. HR leads play a huge role in enabling this but once it’s on the performance review, the behaviours will come.
5. Motivate and incentivise: Like any performance measure, financial and status incentives would naturally be present through the knowledge of a promotion or pay rise. However, other incentives for times when pay rises and promotions are not on the cards can help make wellbeing a pull (from the employee) rather than a push (from the Leaders) topic. Incentives such as a thank you from a manager, or a recognition of a wellbeing behaviour from a colleague may be all it needs to incentivise staff. Making the initiatives themselves an incentive is also an option, such as “Bring your Pet to work day” – with the incentive that having pets in the office can be associated with having more fun and down-time in the office.
We appreciate that changing a culture does not happen overnight. However, when your organisation is next reviewing its wellbeing agenda, ensure that the first thing to review is its core values.
 Being in green spaces can improve wellbeing. Pasanen TP Tyrväinen L Korpela KM (2014) The Relationship between Perceived Health and Physical Activity Indoors, Outdoors in Built Environments, and Outdoors in Nature Applied Psychology Health and Well Being 6(3): 324–346
 Sociability increases workplace wellness. Gallup (2008) Workplace Socialising is Productive. A Q&A with Alex Pentland, Ph.D., Toshiba Professor of Media, Arts, and Sciences at MIT Business Journal Last updated: June 2017
 Surya M Jaff D Stilwell B Schubert J (2017) The Importance of Mental Well-Being for Health Professionals During Complex Emergencies: It Is Time We Take It Seriously Global Health Science and Practice 5(2):188–196