By Marta Davenport
7 November 2021
What & why
Wellbeing is one of the core areas of focus for modern HR professionals. The CIPD’s latest survey exploring absence and wellbeing practices in the UK, which has been conducted at the end of 2020 has shown that employee wellbeing becomes more and more important to people professionals and organisations. The CIPD stated: “The coronavirus pandemic has transformed work on an unprecedented scale. Employers and employees have had to deal with a host of challenges, from sickness and loss to furlough and redundancy. Although more employers are committing to their employees’ health and wellbeing (especially their mental health), there’s significant room for improvement.” 
Looking after the wellbeing of your team is one of the biggest investments you should make your business- firstly good wellbeing will improve the physical and mental health of your employees, as a result, they will become happier, more productive and more engaged, which will have an impact on overall business performance. On the other hand, when the wellbeing of employees isn’t deemed a priority, this can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover, people will not be performing well and as a consequence, the organisation’s performance and position on a business market will suffer. Richard Branson commented that a healthy lifestyle (hence wellbeing) is a foundation to high levels of productivity and if organisations look after their own employees, those will take care of a business.
Ok, so we’ve established wellbeing is important for your employees but also for your organisation. How do you do wellbeing then?
Strategic wellbeing in the organisation is something more than #FruitTuesdays or gym membership vouchers. To think about wellbeing on a strategic level, it’s important to understand the organisational context and the people who are part of the organisation. We also need to look at people and their needs from a holistic point of view. According to the positive psychology and Saligman’s PERMA model, there are 5 elements of wellbeing:
P- Positive emotions
R- Positive Relationships
A – Accomplishments
In general, we can refer to four pillars of wellbeing: mental health, physical health, financial wellbeing, social interactions. These should be seen in all 6 areas of your organisation:
ask yourself questions: Are people in your organisation aware of wellbeing, do they have self-awareness and do they understand their own and others’ needs? Do they have a sense of purpose?
ask yourself questions: Is your organisation supporting employees’ health (physical and mental)?
ask yourself questions: How do people build relationships within the organisation? Do we have a culture of respect and trust?
- Working environment
ask yourself questions: Is your workplace supporting good wellbeing and health? Do you have ergonomic work stations and do you follow all health and safety acts, guidance and safe systems of work?.
- Systems and processes
ask yourself questions: How do your internal systems and processes support wellbeing and health of your employees?
- Organisational culture
ask yourself questions: How do you connect organisational values, objectives, strategy with wellbeing initiatives? Do your values and culture support wellbeing of your teams? What about the society outside of your organisation (think CSR)? 
Step by step guide
This step by step guide below is an example of what you could do and how, but remember, everyone is different and each organisation is different, we have different visions, strategies and objectives, we employ different people with different needs and characters. Having said that, it is always important to know these prior to you doing anything further on a strategic level. One size does not fit all but can be a good hint to your own research and further exploring the topic as well as searching for more individual solutions.
Give your employees a voice, listen to what they say and need. This is a plan for the whole organisation and not a small group of decision-makers, so let people be decision-makers and let them tell you what they need. Conducting a short survey can be a solution. I would advise you to not go with a lengthy and heavy content survey which can cause survey fatigue or put people off filling it in the first place. Have formal and informal conversations with people on what they think, how they feel, what ideas do they have. You can for example create wellbeing boxes located in your offices, so people can put some comments or ideas on an anonymous basis. You can also create a wellbeing mailbox dedicated to all wellbeing things. You can nominate wellbeing ambassadors in your organisation. When doing so, remember- the more diversity and variety within the ambassador’s team- the more representative voices you will hear and more relevant to your demographics feedback and ideas you will receive.
Review results of the survey and analyse all information and data which comes from different sources. Establish here your core areas of focus. Here you can also create your wellbeing vision and define what will be your key indicators of success.
Find out who is your core recipient – your wellbeing initiatives audience. There is one big sin of badly executed wellbeing initiatives, when the voice is not given to the employees and when their needs are not met, especially when ideas, decisions and implementation come from someone who is not aware of a general audience and recipients of the initiative.
Know your budget and know how to prepare a business case to present to the senior leadership for approval.
Put action in place- here the sky is a limit in what you can do. Remember, money helps but is not a must to do wellbeing well! If someone will tell you wellbeing cannot be done due to lack of funds- this is sadly only an excuse as you can do wellbeing from scratch with a limited or no budget too.
Ask people for feedback, ask them what do they think about activities, ask what would they like to be done differently- create a culture of feedback and listen (not just hear).
Measure your success against your core success indicators. Did absenteeism drop down, did you manage to maintain a good level of staff retention? Are people indicating they are happier and more engaged? Yes? Well done! No? Don’t get stressed- get back to what you have done, ask people for more feedback and start again- step by step… Remember- you did not fail, you now start from a better position- from a position of experience.
Example actions you could take to provide more than baskets of fruit in your workplace
- Webinars about mental health and physical health- topics can cover: stress, anxiety, mental health first aid. Or some topics related to the awareness months, like prostate cancer in November or breast cancer in October
- Organise some sport challenges and activities for your team. Remember about inclusion. Not all will be in a good health or on a good fitness level to take some of the challenges- find alternatives, be supportive and mindful.
- Organise some courses or webinars around financial wellbeing- how to save, how to live well for less, how to manage debt (to name just few of the ideas)
- Include parenting topics into the webinars (especially for those working from home during pandemic, home schooling and work demands could be a massive trigger on how do they feel and what do they do- show your employees support and the ways how to navigate in hectic work-family life balancing).
- Train line managers in mental health first aid.
- Organise some social events in person and online. Some employees can still have some fears of going out. Be understanding and mindful that everyone is different and has a different story or reasons why they are more careful with getting out again. When organising events in person- consider outdoor spaces to be more inclusive or offer online events as an alternative (maybe hybrid events as the CIPD proven during the ACE, these can be a massive success).
- Organise some activities, where your teams do something for others, for society. This will significantly improve team spirit, overall happiness levels and sense of purpose.
Three key takeaways
- Know your audience
- Ask ask ask
- Wellbeing can be done on little to no budget
 CIPD (2021). Health and wellbeing at work 2021. Available at: https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/health-wellbeing-work-report-2021_tcm18-93541.pdf (Accessed 7 November 2021)
 None, D. (2017). PERMA and its workplace application. Available at: (https://www.positivemindfulleader.com/perma-and-its-workplace-application/ (Accessed 7 November 2021)
 Wellbeing Institute Poland (2020). Wellbeing w praktyce. Available at: https://wellbeinginstitute.com.pl/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Raport_Wellbeing_w_praktyce_WI2020.pdf (Accessed 7 November 2021)
Marta is passionate about wellbeing and positive psychology as well as being an HR professional. In her Student and Centres Engagement Lead role at CIPD Manchester Branch, she is responsible for connecting and building strong collaborative relationships with CIPD students and their learning centres. In her day job, she is hands-on involved in leading her organisation’s wellbeing strategy and programme for the software development organisation, where she works as HR Manager and Business Partner.