Wellbeing in the workplace – how to make it successful. New consultant Robbie Holden shares his thoughts on creating an effective wellbeing programme at work
As Dry January / Veganuary comes to an end and those ‘New year, new me’ resolutions are starting to slip, it got me thinking about wellbeing.
Wellbeing or wellness seem to be the latest buzzwords in organisations of all different shapes and sizes, with various schemes from health assessments to lunch-time yoga classes, being offered to employees.
But what actually needs to be put in place to make them successful, and once they are in how do you go about measuring their success?
More than what’s on the scales
Wellbeing isn’t just about losing weight and lowering cholesterol. Depression and stress, in particular, have proved to be major sources of lost productivity. If they are to see real benefits, wellbeing programmes need to focus beyond diet and exercise to factor in employees’ mental health.
Part of the culture
A wellbeing programme will have only limited impact, if the culture of the organisation is not aligned to this way of thinking. For it to work, the culture needs to be one that considers the overall health of its employees, including; career, emotional, financial, physical and social wellbeing.
This is not a quick win and requires support (and demonstration of the desired behaviours) from the top of the organisation if it is going to stand any chance of landing successfully.
Carrots, not sticks
some employers motivate with incentives, other wellness initiatives use the stick and penalise employees for failing to live up to certain health requirements. For example, charging higher health insurance premiums for those employees who smoke or have a higher BMI.
Wellness initiatives that are more focused on penalising noncompliance are generally less successful overall, as employees prefer programmes that work with them, rather than against them.
Make sure people know about it
It may seem obvious, but unless employees are clearly made aware of what the programme entails, how it works, what’s in it for them, and ways to get involved, then they might not engage.
Coupled to this, the communications must be regular, varied, multi-channel, and tailored so that it remains relevant and doesn’t just fade into the background.
The return on investment (ROI) is often limited to tangible benefits, such as a reduction in medical costs or absenteeism. What ROI doesn’t take into account is the wider benefits on morale, talent attraction and retention.
Harvard Business Review recommends using value of investment (VOI), which allow employers to examine broader impacts such as improved employee morale, talent attraction and retention, and enhanced company and customer loyalty.
So, to summarise, there is no doubt that an effective wellbeing programme will benefit both employees and employers. However, what is important, is that wellbeing becomes part of the overall culture of the organisation and not a one-off box ticking exercise.
 ‘5 hallmarks of successful corporate wellness programs’, Fortune, 2015
 ‘Does worker wellbeing affect workplace performance?’, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2014
 ‘How to incentivize employees to participate in company wellness programs’, Smart Business, 2012