August 19, 2016

How can organisations promote and facilitate the wellbeing of its employees?

Arianna Huffington is very good at riding the zeitgeist. In fact, she is very good at influencing and defining the zeitgeist. As co-founder and current editor-in-chief at the Huffington Post, she has been a gamechanger in terms of media provision.

What has this got to do with HR? Huffington recently announced her departure from the Huffington Post in order to focus her energies on her wellness start up, Thrive Global. It will be very interesting to see what happens in this space over the next few years and whether Huffington will make a big splash in corporate wellness the way she did in the media world.

What will Thrive Global do? Launching in November this year, it will promote corporate and consumer wellbeing and productivity by offering various wellness programmes, such as seminars, online courses, coaching and support to individuals and organisations.

As HR is well aware, wellness is a topic that has moved right up the corporate agenda in recent years. HR, of course, has always been concerned with employee wellness – it’s one of the cornerstones of what HR is all about. But, employers are also talking about it a lot now as well and increasing numbers of organisations are offering wellness programmes.

The responsible business network, Business in the Community (BITC), has been really pushing for a greater commitment to employee wellbeing on the part of employers. This included a campaign to get FTSE companies reporting on employee wellness at board level. Has it succeeded?

According to BTIC’s 2015 FTSE 100 Wellbeing and Engagement report, there has been a rise in the proportion of companies reporting across all five themes (better work, better relationships, better specialist support, better physical and psychological health and working well) to 69% (compared to 63% the previous year). However, BTIC did admit that progress has been disappointingly slow.

How can organisations promote and facilitate the wellbeing of its employees? According to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, a workplace wellness study encompassing the views of both employers and employees, it’s happening in a variety of ways. Last year’s winners showcased what they are doing to improve employee wellbeing. For example, the women’s exercise clothing retailer, Sweaty Betty, runs a number of initiatives, including flexible working hours, an onsite gym and tax breaks on b to take a break from work at lunchtime and get involved in an activity instead, preferably outdoors. It ran Midday Mile Walks at its head office, which proved very popular with a third of the workforce.

Microsoft runs a wellbeing week every six months. One element of that week is highlighting potential health issues. It also has an onsite wellbeing centre that gives free health assessments and has a GP, nurse and complementary therapies.

Of course, it is widely recognised that healthy employees who are in a state of wellness are good for organisational productivity. Health and stress related absences cost businesses a huge amount each year. According to research by the CIPD, sickness absence costs UK organisations roughly £29bn every year.

8 top wellness tips, as highlighted by Britain’s Healthiest Workplace:

1. Value health and wellbeing
2. Talk to staff
3. Provide the right facilities
4. Bring in the top team
5. Offer incentives
6. Look at the big picture
7. Checkpoints
8. Monitor performance