Recently, while enjoying the simple pleasures of good company and a conversation on food, a friend mentions, ‘My company delivers Dropchef hampers’. Given the work I do, receiving unsolicited insight into an organisation’s well-being initiatives always interests me, but his cynicism was palpable, which interested me more. In the work I do, I see a wide range of wellbeing offerings, some quite amazing, however their impact is limited if there is a disconnect between the ‘why’ and the business culture.
Over the last number of years, corporate wellbeing has transitioned from being an optional nice extra employers provide to being an integral part of a company’s business strategy. However, the increasing challenge is ensuring your wellbeing strategy addresses employees’ needs, aligns with your organisation’s values, and is integrated into the business processes.
So how can an organisation ensure that its wellbeing strategy is authentic regarding both mental and physical wellbeing and not seen as a light touch to mask fundamental difficulties the organisation is experiencing?
Ensure your wellbeing strategy culturally fits
To be effective and sustainable, align your wellbeing strategy with the organisational culture. Obtain staff input on how they perceive the culture and determine if the behaviours and attitudes of both managers and employees align with the organisation’s values. This seems to be an obvious exercise, but so often, I work with clients who have sophisticated wellbeing initiatives in place but are poorly ranked in understanding and applying its organisation’s values. Employee focus groups provides a great source of information on how staff feels and an insight on where there is a misalignment between values and behavioural norms in the organisation.
Creating a Psychologically Safe Space
Another factor determining the success of a wellbeing strategy is creating a psychologically safe space for all. So often, meetings take place, and dominant personalities take over, with many employees feeling their input is irrelevant. No matter who you are in the organisation your opinion counts. Creating an environment where employees feel listened to and consider themselves part of the decision-making process is vital for organisational well-being. Creating a psychologically safe space for employees takes time and requires openness and skilled communicators. Consistency in leadership across the organisation creates opportunities for authentic two-way communication between leaders and employees.
Have you conducted an organisational wellness check?
Before implementing a well-being strategy, it is necessary to have a reference point and an understanding of your organisation’s wellbeing profile. Creating a wellbeing strategy in an organisation that has a poor health profile is just a sticking plaster trying to mask a deep cut and will have little impact. In fact, such an approach is time-consuming and deepens cynicism, as was reflected by my friend.
Assessing your organisation’s wellbeing profile enables a more targeted approach to your wellbeing strategy. There are many tools available to do this but key areas to review are the following.
Job satisfaction relates to how people within an organisation feel about the job they do in terms of their tasks and functions; it is a sense of fulfillment and enjoyment from the work they do. When employees are satisfied, turnover rates are low, and irrespective of pay or grade, employees who report high job satisfaction tend to achieve higher productivity. Do employees value their work? Do they see it as part of the bigger picture? Overall, is job satisfaction in your organisation high or low?
Commitment to the organisation relates to the connection employees have with their employer. The level of commitment correlates positively to employees’ engagement and satisfaction. When commitment is strong, employees buy into the organisation’s culture and mission. Employees with commitment to an organisations, tend not to watch the clock, they have a strong sense of why they do what they do, and a clear purpose for their job and the organisation they work for. They are happy to go the extra mile to achieve their goals.
Level of Demands
The level of demand relates to workloads and challenges employees have to deal with to get the job done. Reviewing job descriptions, reporting lines, and how communication is managed provides insight into how workloads are managed within the organisation.
It is essential that all team leads are skilled in managing workloads. Demand has been identified as a key trigger driving workplace stress. All too often, a firefighting reactive approach is adopted to dealing with workloads, where overly tight schedules, continuous unplanned events, and overall workload mismanagement are considered the norm in the workplace. This is a key reason driving my friend’s cynicism about the food box delivery. Common feedback I receive in focus groups when assessing organisational wellbeing is that employees experience time scarcity, with limited opportunities to participate in wellbeing activities organised by their company.
Ensure team leads are trained in managing and delegating workloads, which results in maximum efficiency and productivity while ensuring employees are not continuously exposed to excess work demands.
Roles and Responsibilities
Well-defined roles and responsibilities help in managing the demands of the job. Ambiguous language around roles and responsibilities causes frustration and adds inefficiencies to the workflow. The practice of having standard operating procedures (SOP) for all tasks is an excellent tool that facilitates an understanding of jobs, timelines, reporting lines, and roles across the organisation. Involve employees in developing SOPs and communicate each role to ensure all stakeholders have an understanding of the role and the impact of their work on workflows within the organisation. Organising business unit promotional events at all staff meetings is a great way to educate staff on how the business works, and the impact of different roles in the workflows.
Like the adage ‘Location, Location, Location’, when buying a property, I have repeatedly witnessed that having an excellent communication process in place correlates to good organisational wellbeing. Communication is a complex process. It is about getting the right message through the right channels to the right people at the right time. Organisations are complex entities made up of individuals in different roles and often geographically dispersed both on and offsite with different beliefs, values and needs. Poor communication causes several issues, including uncertainty and mistrust.
It is essential that several systems are in place to communicate with employees clearly and regularly, even when it’s bad news. Providing open and honest communication builds trust. Having several channels ensures maximum targeting of messages. Encourage employees to ask questions and engage in decision-making discussions. Examples of communication forums include regular manager and employee check-in meetings, town halls, and company newsletters.
Review the work-life balance that currently exists in your organisation. Communications requiring staff to take their breaks away from their workspace, discouraging the practice of carrying forward holidays, and etiquette on sending emails outside working hours are examples of practices that reaffirm the organisation’s commitment to work-life balance. Over the last 18 months, working from home has challenged the traditional 9 to 5 structured days. Examine how your organisation manages remote working and instills a healthy work-life balance.
In summary, launching wellbeing initiatives without giving your organisation a health check will be a fruitless time-consuming exercise. Taking the time and involving employees in checking the fundamentals will ensure a wellbeing strategy that is impactful in building a resilient and engaged workforce.
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