How strategic is your wellbeing? Months of research have confirmed that many organisations are delivering activities like Mental Health Awareness and First Aid training, without linking them to agreed wellbeing outcomes, or integrating them into a wider strategy. And that’s a shame, because although it’s better than doing nothing, with a little extra structure the gains can be so much greater.
This article explores the biggest warning sign that wellbeing’s not strategic, and what to do about it.
With the UK-wide working days lost to stress anxiety and depression up by 23% in a single year (HSE Labour Force Survey), supporting our people’s wellbeing matters now more than ever.
Whatever route you take, you’ll be investing time and / or money. Your strategy helps maximise the return on that investment, without which the whole thing’s likely to run into difficulties later on.
One clear sign that wellbeing’s not strategic is yoyo-ing. This could be across the organisation, with levels of activity and attention going up and down. You have an awareness event, and it gets loads of attention, wellbeing’s right on everyone’s radar, then in between events it pretty much disappears.
It could be individual - this yo-yo effect is very typical when someone’s trying to manage stress. The stress starts to build up, it gets uncomfortable, and the person starts to do something to address it. That might be prioritising more effectively, talking things through with someone supportive, or taking time out to practice mindfulness.
If it works, the stress reduces, they start to feel better, whatever they were doing to feel better tails off, and the stress builds right back up again. Except that now it’s a little worse, because now they feel like they’ve failed.
A solid wellbeing strategy, with the right tactics delivered in the right way, helps to smooth out both those types of yo-yoing.
The 4-Step Strategy framework is powerful. It may take a little longer than adopting off-the-shelf or box-ticking ‘solutions’ (and it is only a little longer), but the returns can be significant. Because the upfront investment of a little time and quality thinking helps to avoid a much more significant resource drain further down the line, of managing unforeseen obstacles and priority conflicts, delivering solutions which don’t work, and the damage to morale and credibility of false starts.
So what are the steps?
Is where you lay your foundations for success, by developing a shared understanding how wellbeing affects productivity, quality, reputation, customer service…... You agree your wellbeing aims, draft your business case, and carry out your baseline audit to help you set the priorities.
Is about choosing the best-fit activities for what you want to achieve, and planning your delivery for maximum impact
Is about how you do those activities, and how you track their effects, so you pinpoint what’s working to build on it, and you find what needs tweaking to deliver those desired outcomes.
Is where wellbeing becomes fully part of the culture, part of the every day behaviours and interactions. You’re celebrating successes, and maybe applying for awards. You’re repeating your audit to see how well you’ve done against the priorities which you set, and updating them for the next phase of activities. So that you can run the whole cycle again, getting better every time.
I created the Wellbeing Strategy Routemap based on nearly 20 years’ experience of leading transformational programmes and organisational culture change; including a programme which more than doubled site productivity, and delivering £1.9M waste reduction in under 5 months (from a £500 budget)…. It was messy and complicated, there were lots of competing priorities, and it required engagement and behaviour changes to make it stick. Probably similar to the challenges of creating your wellbeing culture.
The Routemap and Guides are packed with things I wish I’d known sooner, to help you avoid the common pitfalls, and target your limited resources for maximum impact. To cut through the complexity, and take out some of the legwork of making mental wellbeing work.
To find out more, you're welcome to get in touch