Creating a Wellbeing Progamme - part 2 of Wellbeing at work.
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
If you have already read A Culture of Wellbeing - Part 1 of Wellbeing at work, then here in part two is all about what I have learnt, through trial and error, over the past 3 years of what practical activities go into a great wellbeing programme. You may find that your company are already doing many activities to support employees wellbeing but they have just not been promoted as part of a wellbeing programme. Please also consider that these observations relate to an office environment prior to Covid-19, so a wellbeing programme will have to adapt to continue to support employees in the new normal.
Two parts to a wellbeing programme.
There are two strands to a good wellbeing programme –
A) Planning to be well - this covers preventative activities that give employees the tools and education to keep their health and wellbeing in tip-top condition.
B) When things don’t go as planned and employees become unwell – this covers what support is available to employees whose health and wellbeing is suffering.
A) Planning to be well and preventative activities.
There are four main categories to this, they are: financial wellbeing, nutritional wellbeing, physical health, and mental health & resilience. It is important to build each of these into a wellbeing programme because they all interlink and influence each other; for example, financial stress could lead to an individual’s mental health deteriorating which could in turn result in developing poor dietary habits.
This is an area which can so easily be forgotten from a wellbeing programme, however, financial worries can cause a huge amount of stress and anxiety so much so that it is one of the most common topics that people speak about when they call the Samaritans Suicide Helpline.
Example activities: financial education seminars, understanding the psychological relationship we have with money, pension workshops (often your pension provider may provide this for free) or financial advice drop-in sessions and sharing news articles, blogs and podcasts.
I’ve found nutritional workshops to be really popular, particularly if they are really practical and employees come away having learnt something new, such as how their bodies process food or a better method of preparing a certain food.
Example activities: workshops / seminars / webinars on “Food to power your brain” and “Understanding your gut”. If you have an in-house canteen, can they make simple substitutes, such as switching to wholegrain pasta or even support the programme by running cooking classes? If you have a workplace social media such as Yammer, why not encourage employees to share their favourite recipes.
There is plenty you can do in this area and chances are your company is already doing lots of activities but they may be organised by lots of different areas in the business so, if you can, create a micro hub or page to pull them all together and position them as part of supporting your employees’ wellbeing.
Example activities: eye care vouchers, flu vaccines, discounts on gym membership, healthcare insurance, on site physical health checks (these are very popular and the employee will generally get a personalised report on their physical health), and regular yoga or pilates classes in the office - can you clear out your board room to make space for this?
If you don’t need to be in front of a laptop, can you encourage walking meetings?
Set up challenges, such as a Strava challenge or create a home-made version, by logging the number of minutes of exercise individuals undertake in a month in a shared spreadsheet and have a department leader board.
The Plank Challenge is another easily accessible activity. Our finance team has run this a few times a year starting small with a 10 second plank, then building up to a 2-minute plank.
There are loads of bigger charity events that your company can get involved in to encourage physical wellbeing and will also act as a CRS activity too.
Consider a women’s and men’s health workshop / webinar. We ran a Menopause workshop which was really popular for women of all ages and covered many different elements (nutrition, mental health and physical movement) which all contributed to having a happy menopause.
Mental Health & Resilience:
This is a huge area and there is so much you can do to support employee’s mental health & resilience.
Example activities: workshops /webinars on digital detoxing, coping with change, mental health awareness and how to build resilience, all of which will help individuals understand what is happening in the brain and offer some practical tips to improve mental health.
There are corporate options with most well-known mindfulness apps. If mindfulness is a popular option, why not setting a time in the diary when as a team or department you can come together to practise. It doesn’t have to be a long time; start with 15 mins on a Friday morning.
There are lots of free resources (articles, podcasts, videos) online that you can share with your organisation. Start conversations about them to make these topics the norm.
Encourage line managers to ask in one to one meetings, “How are you?” and actually listen to the answer. If possible, build wellbeing into any compulsory line management training because employees’ mental wellbeing can be hugely undermined by thoughtless, unsupportive comments from a manager. Alternatively, employees whose managers show an interest in how they are feeling will feel more supported by their company, create stronger relationships, and will bring their true self to work. Mental Health First Aid England and Mind, have created fantastic line manager guides about mental health at work which are well worth checking out.
B) When things don’t go as planned and employees become unwell what support is available?
Mental Health First Aiders
Much like a physical first aider would bandage up an arm and send the employee to the emergency room, a Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) are there to provide support as a first point of call and signpost employees to where they can find professional support. A MHFA is not there to be a counsellor, but they are trained to spot the signs and symptoms of ill mental health and provide initial support.
The biggest impact I’ve witnessed since introducing MHFA into the business is breaking down the stigma of mental ill health allowing more open discussion about the topic. Employees who volunteer for this role will be interested in the topic, so you can also use them as your allies and ambassadors for aspects of the wider wellbeing programme.
Private Health Care Insurance, health care cash plans and paid sick leave.
Many employees think that these things come as standard, but they don’t, not in the UK anyway. They are a benefit that your employer may fund so, if available, promote them as a benefit and market them under the wellbeing umbrella. If you have paid sick leave available, then this can greatly reduce presenteeism where employees feel compelled to go to work even when they are unwell. This could lead to longer recovery time from illness or a more serious relapse. So, by having paid sick leave allows employees to feel OK with taking time off work to fully recover.
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
EAP offers information, advice, and counselling on a confidential hotline on a range of topics. It is a benefit which an employer funds. If you have one, make full use of this and promote this under the Wellbeing programme. It also links in very well with the activities around mental health and Mental Health First Aiders.
Return to work.
If an employee is off due to ill health, how they return to work is important. Much like an on-boarding process, if the employee has a positive return-to-work experience, they are much more likely to feel engaged with the company and not relapse. It is important to follow any medical advice and, if you have the option, then always follow the recommendations in an occupational sickness report.
If your company does not have a return to work process in place, ask the employee what the company / manager can do to support them in their return to work and make reasonable adjustments.
Talk the plan over with HR, the manager and the employee. Keep communication open and have regular check-ins.
No gossiping. The employee may not feel comfortable discussing their illness with other colleagues. So, check how and what they want to be communicated to the rest of the team. It is import that they feel that work is a safe space and that other colleagues are not gossiping about their illness so confidentiality is a must.
Be flexible in the adjustments you make as these may change over time depending on the employee’s needs.
The adjustments that a company makes for an employee returning to work can vary based on the size and scale of the business. Some simple suggestions include:
Not expecting any output for the first few days while they spend time getting up to date.
Deleting / filing all the emails in their inbox that have come in since they have been absent so that they are not overwhelmed on their first day back.
Having a flexible approach to working patterns, such as having a staggered return to work, flexing their start and finish times or agreeing to more regular breaks.
Consider that employees may feel nervous about asking for adjustments, or not even know that this could be an option, so communicate this to line managers and employees so that they can find the best way of returning to work that is appropriate for the employee, line manager and organisation.
The Budget If you have a wellbeing budget then there are loads of inspirational speakers that you can arrange to run events or workshops / webinars; I’ve included a links to some below. However, don’t be deterred by not having a budget. There are loads of free resources out there that you can share with your employees. If you have an internal communications newsletter then see if you can start to include links to blogs, articles, podcasts, videos, recipes, and free online training. You can even make these interactive by asking employees to write an article or blog about their experience and what has helped them on their wellbeing journey. These free resources will all contribute to the wellbeing conversation and often it’s the little things that make a big difference.
Below is a list of brilliant suppliers and contacts that I have used in creating the wellbeing programme at PRS for Music.
FeelGood - brilliant for workshops/ webinars on mental health, resilience, nutrition and can also provide yoga and massage therapists.
Healthy Performance - provide physical health checks and workshops / webinars on a range of topics.
Christian Ferragamo - A brilliant organisation psychologist provides workshops / seminars on resilience, mental health and wellbeing.
Jason Butler – provides workshops on financial wellbeing also has great blogs and podcast.
Jackie Lynch – runs Menopause Nutrition Clinics and menopause workshops - check out her podcast too.
Click here to read A Culture of Wellbeing - Part 1 of Wellbeing at work.
With thanks to Joy Sewell, Head of HR at PRS for Music, for giving her time to share her expert insights on the process of employees returning to work.