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    9 steps to wellbeing on a budget in 2020

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    Taking steps to wellbeing doesn’t have to cost time or money.

    steps to wellbeing

    Yet a 2019 study found that 82% of small businesses have no wellbeing strategy,(1) despite 65% of people saying they believed their health and wellbeing had improved where one was in place. (2)

    Where employers did invest in employees’ physical and mental health, it also resulted in better employee morale and engagement (52%) and lower sickness absence (33%) (3) – a boost for all businesses, whatever their size.

    Of course, if you’re unsure where to begin, developing and implementing such a strategy can seem like a daunting task.

    So, we’ve put together some suggestions to help employers provide a robust wellbeing strategy – starting today.

    The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey 2019 states that absence rates are at an all-time low, at 5.9 days a year per employee.

    It's important to know exactly what's going on in your business, so you should ask yourself:

    - Are we in line with the CIPD's absence rates?

    - Are we better? Worse?

    - What are the main causes of absence?

    - Are there specific areas of our business that struggle with sickness absence more than others?

    While you may think you know the answers, the only way to know for sure is to dig into your data to see how you stack up.

    Take a look at absence data across your workforce, taking into account remote, manual, lone and sedentary workers.

    According to the CIPD report, the top three causes of long-term absence are mental ill-health (59%), stress (54%) and musculoskeletal injuries (54?).

    Are your employees taking sick leave due to mental health-related issues?

    It's worth comparing with previous years to see whether this number has risen.

    Being well is important.

    And the measure of a successful wellbeing programme is whether it reduces sickness absence, and increases employee engagement and productivity.

    But if you don't know the issues facing your staff, it's difficult to focus on the right support.

    Or measure any intervention plans you intend to put in place.

    CIPD's report suggests: 'three-quarters of organisations report positive outcomes from their health and wellbeing activity – but this year they report an increased number of achievements.

    Better morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture and lower sickness absence remain the most common benefits.'

    Look at the demographics of your business too – it can really help knowing how your workforce is made up.

    For example, gender, age and whether your employees have a disability can all affect an individual’s responsibilities, needs and wellbeing.

    Steps to wellbeing – actions:

    · Know your numbers and know your people

    · View your absence data for the past year

    · Note the main causes of absence (stress, mental health, etc.)

    · Note which areas of your businesses have the most sickness absence

    Don’t think for a minute that you know what’s best for your staff.

    You might believe that they’d love gym passes (if you have the budget for them).

    But they may actually prefer something on-site, like a yoga class once a week or a quiet room.

    And as we said earlier, it’s important to understand your company’s demographic.

    A younger workforce might be more likely to value app-based wellbeing programmes and wearable tech.

    Older employees might prefer say, a free health check or nutrition advice.

    A simple way of understanding staff requirements and wish lists is to create a series of easy multiple-choice questions.

    These can be sent to all your employees via a free website survey, like SurveyMonkey.

    Remember that your aim is to find out what could truly help them, within your budget.

    Bear this in mind when you prepare your questions.

    For example, the CIPD cites both the problem of employees coming to work even when ill (presenteesim).

    Or for whatever reason, taking holiday or designated time off instead of sick leave (leaveism).

    Ensuring your survey has free text boxes allowing verbatim comments and that it’s also anonymised will help you receive candid feedback.

    And think about the key areas of wellbeing when preparing your survey – lifestyle, finances, physical and emotional.

    From the results, you’ll be able to discover what your employees value and what to set aside.

    Pick three areas to focus on as a start, rather than trying to deliver on every requirement.

    Steps to wellbeing - actions:

    · Prepare and send a wellbeing survey to all staff

    · Ensure you include lifestyle physical, emotional and financial questions

    · From the results, select three areas to focus on

    Wellbeing can be a tricky concept to bring to a company for a number of reasons.

    Launching a wellbeing strategy could be viewed as 'the right thing to do'. Or because 'everyone else is doing it'.

    If you don’t believe in it, however, why should your people?

    Equally, driving something through without your employees’ insight or engagement is also likely to get their backs up.

    Besides, enforcing wellbeing – which is pretty much a contradiction – negates the positives.

    And there’s the chance that without proper communication, employees may believe it’s a nonsense or too ‘touchy feely’.

    They may even reject the idea.

    So how can companies get buy-in from their staff?

    The answer is to make them part of it from the off.

    Organising a committee is a great way to start

    There will be a number of employees who view wellbeing as important. You’ll also get feedback and insights straight from the proverbial ‘horse’s mouth’.

    Remember to get approval from your senior leadership team.

    And if there’s someone within that team who you know already champions wellbeing either personally or professionally, why not ask them to sponsor the committee to give it more traction?

    The committee and your senior sponsor will also be your advocates for wellbeing initiatives.

    As such, they’re more likely to be able to demonstrate the importance of initiating a company wellbeing strategy than a directive handed down from on high by senior management.

    The committee can also report on how wellbeing initiatives are being received by staff and how best to tweak them.

    Steps to wellbeing - actions:

    · Request volunteers to form a wellbeing committee

    · Try to include one volunteer from every part of the business

    So far, there’s been zero cost to your business, but you should have established:

    · A wellbeing committee

    · Three areas to focus on, via the employee survey

    · Some key measurables from your data - levels of absence, areas of absence, employee engagement etc.

    With that in mind, who, if any, are you current providers?

    Take a closer look at what they provide you and your staff, including any built-in aspects.

    Sometimes customers aren't fully aware of all the added value services that may be part of their core employee benefits.

    These might include an Employee Assistance Programme, return to work service or workshops.

    And if you have PMI (Private Medical Insurance), check to see what extras they might provide.

    These can include health and wellbeing, health checks, flu vaccines, etc.

    See how these providers can support the areas you want to focus on.

    Steps to wellbeing – actions

    · Review all elements of your existing providers.

    Local community centres can be a good source of classes or services that you could highlight or even introduce to your workplace.

    Stop smoking clinics, yoga teachers, Weight Watchers, Slimming World or running clubs are all local initiatives that can be accessed at a small cost to the employee – or no cost to your business.

    Even where there is a fee, there's still the potential to host classes at your workplace.

    Your employees are likely to be happy to pay for it if you arrange the session, and it’s quick and easy for them to join in.

    Most personal trainers or teachers will gladly welcome ads appearing on the office notice boards or intranet explaining what they do, and inviting people to take part in sessions.

    Steps to wellbeing – actions

    · Link in with the locals!

    As technology advances, it’s never been easier to monitor and aid physical and mental wellbeing.

    There’s now a wide choice of wearable tech and smartphone apps that can help your employees look after themselves.

    Even if your business is not in a position to offer incentives, you can point staff in the direction of apps that match your wellbeing goals,

    Today, apps are available that cover everything from meditation, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, monitoring sleep patterns, and stopping smoking to calorie counting, healthy recipes, and fitness and exercise programmes.

    Check out Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android.

    Of course, apps and even smartphones aren’t for everyone.

    So for something all employees can get behind, think about introducing a step challenge.

    Not only is walking good for physical health, it can also help emotional wellbeing.

    Pedometers can be bought pretty cheaply for those people who are less tech-savvy.

    And even if people don’t fancy taking part, encourage them to step away from their desks, and get out and about.

    Steps to wellbeing – actions

    · Take (literal) steps to a healthier workforce.

    One way to help motivate and engage employees is to encourage a little bit of healthy competition.

    Teams and individuals often get a buzz out of challenging themselves, their colleagues and other teams for fun.

    In some cases, there are bragging rights at stake (until next time).

    Some suggestions include step challenges, fun runs, charity events or sports days.

    Especially the gentler school type sports days, where sack races, three-legged races, egg and spoon can increase the fun factor.

    However, taking top spot isn’t everyone’s ambition, so don’t make it compulsory, but do encourage non-participants to come along to support their teams.

    Don’t forget a smartphone or tablet for those all-important video replays for disputed photo finishes.

    And if you want to up the ante a bit, you can always go for a bit of small (or big, if you prefer) prizegiving afterwards

    Chances are, some people will have overcome a problem to take part, so – with their consent – highlighting some telling performances as beacons of wellbeing can encourage others.

    Steps to wellbeing – actions

    · Get the sack (in the nicest possible way).

    While technology can be a real boon when it comes to wellbeing, there is a yang to the ying.

    Too much technology can bring its own wellbeing problems.

    As tech advances, the line between people’s work and leisure times are disappearing.

    Chances are, the majority of us have taken a look at work emails in the evening or working on that project or presentation as deadlines loom, or even Facetiming or Skyping a colleague in a different time zone.

    While most people will accept the occasional need to work beyond the usual hours, keep an eye out and an ear open for employees who may seem under pressure.

    An unreasonable workload is the biggest cause of workplace stress, according to the CIPD, so ensure that people are supported, deadlines are managed realistically, and that switching off really does mean switching off.

    Steps to wellbeing – actions

    · Pulling the plug when you need to can help people rest, recharge and feel refreshed.

    Finally, remember that any wellbeing initiatives need to align with the business strategy, and be seen to be endorsed and embraced by senior leaders in a top-down approach.

    If not, employees will see through it as a tick-box exercise where it’s ‘do as I say, not do as I do’.

    Senior leaders can feel the stress and suffer from poor health and wellbeing as much as any employee.

    So in reality, they should take little convincing of its worth – especially if you put the work in early on to ‘dig into the data’ as suggested earlier, and get a true picture of your organisation’s absence.

    Facts are difficult to ignore.

    And even if you’re looking pretty good, there are still a whole host of little things you can put in place to improve wellbeing.

    Whether it’s a bigger project like ergonomic assessments to reducing back pain, RSI etc, to free reusable water bottles to encourage hydration or even pointing people to free mental health resources such as Mind, there are benefits to be had for all of us from taking steps to better wellbeing.

    Visit our brand new, interactive and mobile-friendly Wellbeing Calendar for further resources to help with your wellbeing initiatives, including podcasts, webinars, awareness dates and other useful support tools. 

    (1,2) AXA PPP Healthcare, via

    (3) CIPD Health and well-being report April 2019