28 Jul The secret to successful health and well-being initiatives
One of the more significant trends in our industry recently has been a growing yet tentative discussion about the health part of ‘health and safety’.
People frequently use the phrase “health and safety” when what they’re actually talking about is safety alone, not the well-being of their staff. In fact, out of the thousands of conversations I’ve had over the last 15 years of my time in this industry, I can think of only a recent handful that touch directly on the health aspect.
You could argue that getting safety right has a knock-on effect on an individual’s health and well-being. Yet wouldn’t it be more effective to think proactively about how well-being directly affects staff from a work perspective? I often have conversations with companies about significant absence rates or how ongoing stress-related issues affect a large number of the workforce – a trend that only got worse after the financial crash.
Why more companies don’t focus on health and well-being is hard to grasp, especially given the massive benefits of doing so. Maybe it’s the fact that sorting out physical safety systems and procedures is easier than dealing with the nebulous range of human health and well-being issues? Because health is such an individual (and often private) issue, perhaps it gets too complicated to interfere with at a corporate level?
What leading companies do to improve staff well-being
I’ve seen an explosion of different health and well-being initiatives – from activity trackers linked to smart-phones, through to corporate counselling and drop-in doctors. As well as ones you might expect like guidance on eating healthily, stress assessments and organised exercise programmes.
There’s a huge variety of different services under the health and well-being umbrella. All of these are often linked to a central team or Intranet service where people can sign-up to various activities when they decide to take them up. But the problem is that they only become effective if people use them, and they will only use them if they see them as beneficial or important enough to sign up to.
How to encourage sign-up to well-being initiatives
One major organisation I spoke to the other day had only signed up 5% of the total working population, despite a major push and a wide range of services. So you’re not alone if you face similar apparent lack of interest.
There is a simple answer to this problem though – leadership.
Just as safety depends so much on the strength of leadership in a business, so does health and well-being. In fact a CIPD report back in 1996 confirmed that:
“the most important factor in employee well-being is the relationships employees have with their immediate manager.”
So unfortunately, it won’t matter which health and well-being services you offer if your managers aren’t willing or able to engage effectively with their team about issues and opportunities.
Focus on empowering leaders to engage with staff first. Then you’ll unlock everyone’s ability to take responsibility for their own health and well-being.