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Wellbeing at work: why getting personal matters

Senior Employee Experience Strategist Jessica Hardy shares her tips for making sure wellbeing programs reach people when they need them most.

Photograph of Annie Counsell, who has pinned-back curly hair and wears a chunky knit jumper and holds a cup while smiling and looking up

The last few years have been a lot. A Pandemic. Wars. Human rights violations. Recession…  It’s no surprise that many of us are exhausted and feeling the weight of it all. A stiff upper lip has got us through tough times before, but this time around things feel a little different.


A whopping 60% of us report feeling anxious both inside and outside of work, with the ‘yeah great thanks’ facade getting harder to muster. The statistics suggest this is beginning to show in our workplaces, with absenteeism, burnout and stress levels all on the rise.


So, what’s changed?


Well, in short we’re in the midst of the storm. The tail end of the pandemic is still affecting our health, team dynamics and balance sheets. Financially, our food, housing and energy bills are soaring. Emotionally, the result of all of this, and continued uncertainty in the world, is trying even the most optimistic amongst us. 


And yet, if the last two years have taught us one thing – it’s that our health is a non-negotiable priority.


Our care for each other has increased. Our awareness of injustices heightened. Our trust in our employers to do the right thing expected.


It seems the time for honesty about our wellbeing has finally arrived. And with clear links between healthy teams and productive ones firmly drawn – switched-on employers are making the wellbeing of their people a priority.


Wellbeing is personal


The term ‘Wellbeing’ can be vague and homogenous, yet at its essence, our wellbeing is multifaceted, with many variables and intersectionality making experiences incredibly personal. Overlooking this can mean a beige offer that ticks a box and little else.


So how can you make sure your wellbeing programs reach people when they need them most?


1.           Review your communications

If your wellbeing offer is good but take up isn’t, it may be as simple as looking at how you communicate . How is your wellbeing program shared with new starters? How in touch are you with what your people need? Do you share things regularly at key moments throughout the year? Who’s tasked with reminding people what’s available?


Despite an award-winning wellbeing strategy, Samsung found the uptake of its financial benefits was poor. Its response was to embed personalised nudges to highlight the financial benefits available at key trigger points and life events for employees – from moving countries, having a baby, to salary increases.


Complementary content included relevant news articles, training modules and networks.


Having a great wellbeing program that is underused is doing your people and business a disservice – to improve the health of your teams, talk to your IC (or us!) about creative ways to increase take up of what’s on offer.


2.           Align your business and wellbeing strategy

With a clear red thread, your business, people and wellbeing strategy should be aligned. Whilst celebrating every inclusion day can be tempting, shifting the dial on any of these issues is impossible without focused effort. If everything is tackled together it can be overwhelming for employees and budgets alike.


Instead look up the chain. If inclusion and psychological safety are the key themes driving innovation and talent attraction in your business, your wellbeing strategy and supporting comms should follow suit.


Insurance giant Aviva did just that, addressing and busting myths around common workplace taboos - including eating disorders, infertility, pregnancy loss, bipolar disorder and the menopause - with a hugely popular podcast and a wealth of policies to boot. The campaign was shared widely and started some frank conversations around inclusion across the business.


This is a great example of how promoting discussion on the issues that matter most, in fresh formats, can help engage people beyond those affected.



3.           Spot the gaps, challenge the stereotypes

Are there issues that regularly crop up in your engagement survey? Does your data show majority biases to L&D, progression or talent attraction? Identifying attitudes that are holding your employees back can be the first step to addressing them.


At an industry level, research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) revealed one billion people with disabilities were regularly being dismissed for roles. It set about combating the stereotypes and stigma that people with disabilities too often face in the labour market to great effect, including a film (made by RY) and campaign that confronted the issue head on, with real people sharing shocking (and at times amusing) experiences of life at work. Watch this with a cuppa and try not to fall off your chair.


The common thread of both successful wellbeing programs and businesses alike (they tend to go hand in hand), is making ‘wellbeing’ personal.


Taking the time to understand the issues that are keeping your people up at night (and preventing them from doing their best work). Thinking ahead to where and how your offer can help your people in the moment. Normalising issues and stoking real conversations.


The real winners are those harnessing this time of honesty to build more diverse, supportive workplaces that work for everyone, laying the foundations of inclusion. So that next time their people are struggling, ‘yeah great thanks’ won’t have to be the answer.