By Craig Bulow.
I recently read an interesting piece from Suki Thompson in the Sunday Times. She wrote: “Successful businesses are fundamentally shifting from a time when process, tech and growth/EBIT at any cost were king, to, a culture with purpose, resilience and wellbeing at its heart, where people have become the drivers of sustainable growth and commercial outcomes.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-wellbeing-needs-balance-sheet-suki-thompson/
How can entrepreneurs put wellbeing at the heart of their startups or growth businesses, and drive that policy forward? One important way is to establish a clear employee wellbeing policy. A wellbeing policy can help to improve a company’s culture, environment and long-term productivity by improving the wellbeing of the staff.
Let’s look at the steps to follow to achieve this.
Find your wellbeing team
Wellbeing working group:
Encourage volunteers to join a working group to design, publicise and monitor wellbeing activities.
Encourage employees with enthusiasm, or a particular skill or sporting talent, to volunteer to organise and deliver parts of the wellbeing programme and sell the ideas to other staff. Drawing champions from different parts of the organisation is likely to maximise participation.
Appoint a wellbeing coordinator from the group of wellbeing champions. The wellbeing coordinator is often the individual who has the initial idea and drive for a particular programme. He or she would be responsible for driving the wellbeing strategy and would chair the wellbeing working group.
Your brand and vision
As an entrepreneur you’ll have worked hard on your brand and vision and your wellbeing policy should fit in with them. Set out what you, as a company, are prepared to offer your employees that shows you are looking after their wellbeing.
It might be healthy office snacks, a lunchtime massage, onsite yoga class, corporate gym membership, collaboration spaces where individuals can share ideas and discuss face-to-face encouraging connection, a mindfulness training day, an inspirational quote on the intranet each day, arranging a group talk from a wellbeing or mental health professional for the senior team, or founders to act as agents for change.
Take a collaborative approach
Wellbeing is unlikely to improve if employees feel that wellbeing activities are condescending, or if they are suspicious about the entrepreneur’s motives for launching wellbeing activities. So, ensure you take a collaborative approach when developing the wellbeing programme.
Get people involved from the start in the development of policies. This could be as members of a policy-development working group, or through email questionnaires, or brainstorming sessions.
Consider your demographic
When designing a policy think about the people in your startup or growth business – there is no ‘one size fits all’ policy that will work everywhere.
For example, some jobs require a lot of manual labour and heavy lifting and virtually no office work, whereas others are almost entirely desk based. Some businesses have a much younger workforce while others tend to attract older employees. So look at your staff demographic and design a policy that meets their needs and addresses their challenges.
What to include
There is a distinct difference in a Wellbeing Policy to an Occupational Health Policy.
A Wellbeing Policy aims to set out calls to actions for initiatives, activities and events that have a wellbeing focus to engage individuals (only 15% of the world workforce is engaged) enhance connections and communication (73% of individuals in an open plan office fail to speak to one another), improve our mental health (£Billions are being lost each year through absenteeism and presenteeism)
Gather all the ideas and suggestions from your wellbeing team and use them to develop the wellbeing policy document. The aim is a clear, concise document, so you’ll need to filter through the suggestions and, as a group, work out what stays in and what is left out.
At this stage you may need external help – someone who understands workplace wellbeing and can help navigate the way through all the ideas and ensure that a coherent policy is created that is balanced, caters to all the people in the organisation, and is achievable.
Every Wellbeing Policy should include:
- A short introduction about why caring for wellbeing in the workplace is important and why the business is championing this
- Clear advice on the three key elements to a healthy sustained lifestyle are Sleep, Diet and Exercise – so ensure these are covered in the policy document
Describe clearly what the company offers to help care for employee wellbeing. For example, do you have free gym membership, or a person who comes in once a week to give chair massages, or a quiet space for relaxation? Are you committing to offering a number of Away Days per year to help with employee wellbeing? Effective Away Days are about connecting people face-to-face, encouraging communication on a shared interest, out of the office, in a new environment.
When developing a Wellbeing Policy that includes Away Days, the fun starts in the office; everyone gets together and suggest events that appeal to them. How your business selects, creates excitement and builds up to the Away Day can, in itself, be used as a motivator, creating suspense, anticipation and something to look forward to.
Show how you are going to create a fun, creative, collaborative and social atmosphere at work. We already know that 73% of people in an open planned office fail to speak to one another, this is such a toxic environment having a negative effect on morale, wellbeing and productivity.
It is really important to create a fun environment and it can be as simple as just talking to one another to begin with.
Conversation starters include: internal competitions, trophy for the week, a positive quote for the day, treats on a Friday, a coffee / tea chat, healthy snacks in the office, layout of desks that encourage connections i.e. no dividers, arranging your next away day is!
It’s always good to get an independent set of eyes to look over the document and offer advice on any changes or missing elements and to ensure you are within the law.
Distribute the wellbeing policy to ALL staff. But don’t stop there. The organisation should use the full range of in-house communication media to keep wellbeing messages alive, including employee newsletters, payslips, its intranet and video screens in common areas. Personalised communication can encourage employees to participate in creating the plan and then getting involved in the wellbeing activities that are offered.
Hold an annual review
Once a year gather your wellbeing team together and take a look at the policy. Did it work over the last 12 months? Who took advantage of the opportunities on offer? Did it cater to all staff needs? Were some people left out? What could be improved? How could you expand it over the next 12 months?
Although wellbeing is very difficult to measure and some benefits are intangible, an effectively delivered wellbeing policy can improve many areas of the business, so keep a log of the improvements; some will be measurable, some anecdotal. But success is a motivator for everyone – so find the successes and celebrate them.
We know that looking after the wellbeing of your team will help to engage and motivate them, which in turn will increase productivity. In addition, it will help them feel appreciated – and when a person is appreciated, they always do more than is expected of them.
Reporting on wellbeing
Include information about your Wellbeing Policy in your public-reporting, e.g. your annual reports and accounts and also in your promotional documents. This demonstrates to employees, potential employees, investors and other stakeholders that you are observing good practice and that this is having a positive effect on the organisation.
Customers are also looking for companies with genuine corporate social responsibility. A policy that shows you put wellbeing at the heart of the business can help attract customers too.
The Wellbeing policy can be an addition to the employment contract. If it is good enough, it can be used to attract and retain the best talent in your business – saving on expensive recruitment costs. More and more candidates are looking at the working environment, company culture, and actions around employee initiatives. It would be prudent not to ignore the shift in what attracts candidates today.
By putting wellbeing at the heart of their businesses right from the start entrepreneurs can reap the benefits. It will help attract the key people you need to start your business and keep them with you, healthy and happy as you grow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Craig Bulow is the founder of Corporate Away Days, a corporate wellbeing events company delivering engaging, inspiring and exciting events focussed on Wellbeing and Reward activities. Corporate Away Days also creates, designs and builds corporate wellbeing policies and provides leading experts for interactive workshops, seminars and talks on improving mental health and overall wellbeing.