Is it time to rethink your workplace wellness strategy?

 

Workplace wellbeing is being adopted by more and more organisations each year.  With the significant rise in stress and mental health related illness, initiatives to support both the physical and mental health of employees is long overdue. However, many organisations risk their wellbeing strategy falling short when it comes to truly embedding wellbeing into the DNA of their organisation.

Most organisations, especially when starting their wellbeing journey, introduce health promotion programmes such as physical fitness or nutrition guidance. However, these often rely on employees to do the right thing for themselves. A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US found that the claims about the significant return on investment from corporate wellness strategies are somewhat tenuous. As reported in the British Psychological Society Research Digest [1], corporate wellness programmes that focus on healthy behaviours will generally only improve health outcomes for those employees who are likely to be doing well without the workplace intervention.

Data Driven Decision-Making

For a workplace wellbeing programme to really make a difference, you need to take a more strategic approach. In the words of Brigadier General Dr Rhonda Cornum, it’s all about data-driven decision-making. Brig-Gen Cornum was the mastermind behind the world’s first mass organisational resilience programme for the US military – the Comprensive Soldier Fitness Programme [2]. This programme has provided resilience training to millions of US military personnel and every individual undergoes a baseline evaluation of their current psychological state. In this way, the military can not only measure the impact of its programme, but also target those groups who are more at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Applying a data driven approach

Most of us don’t have the vast resources of the US Military at our disposal, but there are some simple and cost-effective things you can do in your workplace. The starting point of a data driven approach to workplace wellbeing involves evaluating the unique issues facing your business and its people. What do your workforce metrics tell you about your employees? Are there particular areas of the organisation with absenteeism or presenteeism concerns? Do you know why people are accessing your employee assistance programme? Are you seeing an increase in stress or mental health-related absences? Are your employee engagement scores lower in some teams than others? Do you know whether your workplace wellbeing programmes are producing the results that you want? And last, but by no means least, what are you wanting to achieve from a wellbeing programme in the first place?

Be strategic to maximise your investment

A growing amount of research demonstrates, scientifically, what works to build the wellbeing and resilience of individuals, including in a work environment. Using the data that you already collect on your workforce will help you to focus on what initiatives are most likely to be most effective. Taking a scatter gun approach and hoping that it’s going to improve the mental health, productivity or engagement of employees is too simplistic. But worse than that, it is unlikely to produce the results you were aiming for. A better approach is to be more strategic and use your existing data to identify the unique wellbeing issues that are impacting on your people. With this information at your disposal, you can then find interventions that have been rigorously tested, through applied research, to work [3]. Then, 6 to 12 months later, review your more recent data to determine if your interventions have had an impact on the wellbeing of your workforce.

This approach may be a bit trial and error to start with. But it will go much further in realising positive outcomes for your workforce by helping you to understand the key wellbeing issues and implementing targeted interventions. Adopting a wellbeing lens takes time, careful strategy and patience. Using a data-driven approach will help you apply your limited resources in the right way. And by measuring the impact of your wellbeing programme, you can quantify the benefits for your people, which will help you demonstrate your return on investment.

[1] https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/08/23/first-randomised-controlled-trial-of-an-employee-wellness-programme-suggests-they-are-a-waste-of-money/

[2] http://csf2.army.mil/

[3]https://whatworkswellbeing.org/evidence-comparison-tool/

Is it time to rethink your workplace wellness strategy?

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