Does wellbeing at work, work?
If done successfully, investment in wellbeing can be used to build a foundation of sustainable support throughout the life-cycle of a company, writes Simon Russell
Despite the pushback this month on the usual ‘new year, new me’ chatter, the turn of a new year is a great time to take a step back, press reset, and create new habits (or break old ones). As we become busier, more connected and less switched off, the lines between our work/life balance continue to blur. This has resulted in issues that were once considered ‘personal’ such as emotional wellbeing now very much appearing in the workplace.
The World Health Organisation is calling stress the health epidemic of the 21st Century. Given that we spend such a large portion of our lives at work, starting there seems to be a good place to tackle it, particularly given that three out of five employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work. From desk massage, to workshops on how to manage stress and subsidised gym memberships, there are a whole host of different options that could either be developed and executed in-house or via a specialist third party such as Work Wellbeing. But these programmes have varying degrees of success and it’s clear that when it comes to corporate wellness, one size certainly does not fit all.
If the leadership team don’t pay any attention to wellbeing programmes, other than signing off the budget, are they actually doomed to fail? Whether it's by not effectively communicating information around the services offered or refusal to participate, both are sending a big flashing signal to employees that says: 'we don't really believe in this'.
Engaging senior management not only in the benefit of a happier, healthier team but actively into the programmes themselves is a great way to increase adoption and therefore positive results of investment into wellness. Employee absence costs the UK over £14 billion each year (CIPD Absence Management Survey 2015). By investing in their people, businesses are not only going to build loyalty and ensure retention, but ensure that the staff they've hired are actually at work, healthy and productive.
Last year at blowUP media we ran an initiative called #blowUPbanslunch where, throughout Q1, our sales team were encouraged to swap the traditional media lunch with clients for something a little bit different. Following overwhelmingly positive feedback about how much enjoyment and satisfaction people got from breaking their usual routine, we’ve relaunched the ban this year, but this time focusing the activities around ‘wellbeing’.
The thought process behind the evolution of the theme largely came from listening to both our team’s feedback, and testimonials from clients who took part last year.
But we also looked around us. Working in media and advertising in London means long hours, even longer commutes and busy schedules. The average London commute stands at 74 minutes, which means the deficit in your downtime soon stacks up. Our team at blowUP are a varied bunch of driven, motivated and talented individuals… and I’m talking about outside of the working week here. We’ve got marathon runners, mountain climbers, keen cyclists and a couple of boxers. As a business, we want to support our staff beyond a salary and a desk to sit at, and if making space for wellbeing-focused activities in the form of client entertainment can do that, then we’re all for it.
The long-standing and glorious media lunch will always have its place. It’s a grand tradition that encourages celebration of work done well and in this ever-digital world, provides a valuable opportunity to meet people offline and learn more about them than their email signature. But just because something’s always been done that way, doesn’t mean we can’t try something different. So that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’re hoping for even greater participation, even more out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to the activities, and a happier, healthier team turning up to work every day.
The alternative lunch bookings have already started coming in and we’re ensuring that we lead from the front, with the whole team being actively involved in both participation and (arguably more importantly) feedback so we can learn and refine moving forward.
Luke Morris, Marketing Director at NABs has endorsed the return of the lunch ban: “Good wellbeing isn’t just important in making us feel happy and healthy – when we’re stressed, sick or unhappy our work also suffers. So, it’s great that organisations like blowUP media are taking the wellbeing of their teams and clients seriously, and allowing them space and time to work on their mind, body and soul, which should create better results for everyone – employer and employee alike!”
We already know that a healthier workforce is a more productive one, 'for every £1 invested in corporate wellbeing there’s a £3 return in improved efficiency and productivity' (CIPD Absence Management Survey 2015). But if the programmes and services offered aren't well thought-through, relevant and appropriate to the participants, and both adopted and encouraged from the top down, they aren’t going to help anyone.
Investment in wellbeing should be long-term, not an afterthought, and if done successfully can be used to build a foundation of sustainable support throughout the lifecycle of the company. People are at the core of every business and for any company to grow and thrive, its people must be able to do the same.
Simon Russell is managing director, blowUP media