Why wellbeing is the metric that really matters

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Say ‘wellness’ to somebody and they’ll probably think you’re talking about juice-mad Insta influencers or gym bunnies who live, sweat and die by the hashtag ‘livingmybestlife.’ But the concept of wellness – or wellbeing – has been much maligned as a faddy gimmick, when it actually plays a crucial role in supporting your people.

Best characterized by asking an employee how – as opposed to what – they’re doing, it can be most easily described as a genuine and practical interest in, and consideration for, your staff, and it can reap very rich rewards for companies. A study by Soma Analytics revealed that, amongst other criteria, companies whose end of year reports featured the phrases ‘mental health’ and ‘wellbeing’ three or more times had double the profits of those who didn’t.[1] Yet, convincing a busy C-Suite that wellness matters can be tricky; after all, how do you implement it and, more importantly, how do you measure it? Read on to find out how.

Well-what? And why?

Wellness matters because people who are motivated, cared for and valued are more likely to perform better. And if they perform better, your business performs better; it’s the most basic business maths there is. In fact, get wellness into the heart of your business, and it’s a win-win for everyone, resulting in improved bottom lines, reduced labour turnover, and enhanced motivation[2]. It also goes hand-in-hand with engagement, a subject on which Simon Little, Chief People Officer at Navico is passionate. Describing the plusses of an engaged work-force, such as people making discretionary effort, he makes the salient point that, ‘if everyone does that, you’ve got a very clear competitive advantage over an organization where your employees don’t.’ 

And wellness has also got one of the best ROIs going, with Deloitte’s most recent report into mental health in the workplace revealed that businesses can expect to get £5 back on every £1 spent invested in securing employee wellbeing.[3]

What’s wrong?

If you’re an HR professional, you’ll know that the workforce has a problem. With 42% of employees suffering insomnia, 56% suffering at least one dimension of workplace stress[4], and the rise of presenteeism, an insidious issue which doesn’t affect absence but does affect productivity, engagement and quality, business is under assault from sickness. Add Covid-19 into the brew and the mix gets truly toxic.

As Matthew Knight, founder of freelancers’ support network, Leapers, explains, ‘the narrative of “work/life balance” suggests that work and life are two distinct things whereas work is a huge influence on your life, and what’s happening outside of work is a huge influence on work. So there’s really no mental health at work –  just mental health.’ Couple that with the fact that over 70 million work days are lost each year to sickness, at a cost of £2.6bn to British businesses[5], and it’s clear to see that prioritizing wellbeing isn’t just a tick in the box but a metric that you simply can’t afford to ignore.

How to measure it

Any performance metric must answer the question, ‘did the initiative deliver what was expected?’ so begin by discovering what you want to improve by analyzing the As-Is. KPIs such as the Bradford factor, labour turnover, and referrals to Occupational Health can be combined with interviews and questionnaires to highlight your current situation and provide valuable insight into what you might wish to work on. You can then define the deliverables, and whether it’s increased productivity, improved staff retention, or heightened engagement, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to the innovative and constructive measurables that will help provide insightful, solid information. Here’s our pick of tips and tools; 

1 – Get app happy

Check out Teamphoria to improve a sense of community, OfficeVibe to drive performance, or Impulse, that seeks to understand employees’ emotional response to organizational policies, or help your employees to track their health with Medintu.

2 – Ask the right questions

Clear communication helps foster a feeling transparency within an organization, so talking with your employees is a great way to measure the mood. Whether you consider email surveys which afford anonymity, or regular sit-downs to talk through any concerns, keeping these channels open will help you understand how you’re doing. And remember that mental health remains a sensitive topic, so consider couching questions on this topic in a positive light, for example, how energized they are by their work, or how productive they feel. 

3 – Process, outcome and impact measurements

Trust in a three-tier system to help measure short, medium and long-term results across a series of benchmarks, such as participant engagement, readiness for change, and ROI, and you’ll get a full picture of how the initiative is working for you, enabling you to refine your strategy at any stage. 

How to be well

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to designing and implementing your wellness initiative, whether you choose to deliver in-house initiatives or recruit external specialists. A quick Google reveals a whole host of external providers, such as Elevate Your Health or The Wellness Team, while serious subscribers can sign up to Mind’s initiative, which helps assess and improve your approach to mental health against a national index. 

Initiatives that build openness, such as collaborative work environments can help create a culture in which people feel at the heart of the business, while traditional enticements such as subsidized gym memberships remain popular choices. Opportunities which link employees to the community, such as voluntary work or mentoring, can increase a feeling of purpose and connection, while more imaginative steps, such as starting a choir or letting dogs into the workplace, are growing in popularity. Encouraging exercise within the workplace, such as creating team ‘step count challenges,’ could help forge bonds and get fit at the same time, while training and equipping mental health ‘First Aiders’ to be people’s first port of call can really unleash your company’s potential to show their creativity and compassion for each other. 

But the most important aspect to understand is that by putting people first, particularly when it comes to business change, you are prioritizing their wellness. So whether it’s business as normal or anything but, sincere and long-term wellness initiatives will help keep people engaged, happy and productive. Indeed, if your business is facing a change, consider using a people-centred approach that emphasizes employee wellbeing.

A word of warning

Like anything, wellness can be misused, so it’s important it’s treated with integrity. Citing employee well-being as the reason to move to remote working won’t come off well if you’re actually cutting 70% of the workforce by doing so. Remember, employees value the clarity of a message, however unpalatable, so while wellness can be used to support, it must never be used to try and bury bad news. 

So, what do you think of workplace wellness, are you implementing it and if so, how? We’d love to hear your feedback!

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[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/focus-employee-mental-health-linked-boost-profits/

[2] https://engageforsuccess.org/health-and-wellbeing

[3] https://www.fairplaytalks.com/2020/01/27/employers-get-51-return-on-wellbeing-investment-says-deloitte/

[4] https://www.vitality.co.uk/business/healthiest-workplace/findings/

[5] https://www.leapers.co

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