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Do you need an Employee Wellbeing strategy?

People Management magazine has recently reported that just 44 per cent of UK employers have an overarching wellbeing strategy in place, raising concerns that despite marked investment in health and wellbeing, employer activity in this area lacks strategic focus.

I have to say that I think that it’s an amazing thing that many more businesses are now investing more time and effort into their wellbeing provision and I work with some of these businesses every day. It’s brilliant to see those that want to train up and provide Mental Health First Aiders at work, for example, and then want to embed that role, offering support to the First Aiders, and setting up events and activities that will support both them and the employees. This is just one positive example of how things are moving forward in this critical area of wellbeing support.

It is, however, less common to work with a business that has already got a wellbeing strategy in place, a strategy that gives clarity and purpose to the decision to use Mental Health First Aiders. I actually get quite excited when I work with HR teams (normally) that are forward-thinking and are working on these things! I’m working with four companies at the moment who are all looking to the future and weaving their mental health provision into wider strategy and policy and this is incredibly heartening – they must be part of the 44%!

But there are others that don’t do this, and it’s predictable that offering a stand-alone initiative will die a death. The MHFAiders will not get a chance to practise their skills because the internal communication has not been planned and executed, the employees will not get a chance to have conversations that could make a tangible difference to their morale, ill health and recovery, and the business will not get any return on the investment into the training, perpetuating the cycle that training is costly with no real benefit.

A wellbeing strategy, even if rudimentary and intended to be revised, gives a sense of the direction of travel, it allows for a culture of wellbeing to emerge that is tailored to the business and its people, and it gives clarity to the decisions about the wellbeing initiatives that should be rolled out. A strategy can take into account not just isolated aspects of wellbeing but a range of inter-connected ‘pillars of resilience’ – things such as financial health, belonging, control, relationships, basic needs, accountability and identity. A holistic plan can be so much better for what is actually a holistic issue – wellbeing is the sum of a great many parts and can’t be tackled by individual interventions which impact on just a few individuals.

I think the PM article is useful for pointing out that most businesses still do not engage in wellbeing at a serious enough level……yet. With the impending return to work for business, the real impacts of the last 12 months will become clearer and there might be more motivation to jump on board with taking wellbeing seriously. Don’t be afraid of wellbeing strategies – ask employees for their opinion, do a basic stress risk assessment to identify strengths and gaps, find a sponsor that is motivated and backed by the leadership team to take a strategy forward – it’s possible to do it without too much pain. And the benefits will far outweigh the input in the long term, not just for the business but for the wider community.

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