Stress awareness with others

Now many weeks into lockdown, most of us are adapting well to the new way of working and being social in more creative ways. It is without doubt that for everyone it has been a struggle at times and although the lockdown parameters will be loosening over the next month, it is still a very challenging time for staff, managers, colleagues, parents, families and children.

COVID-19 is a truly global experience with so many countries clearly affected and having to adapt as best they can. Each household has its own unique set of challenges with individuals self-isolating on their own, single parents working and trying their best to manage alone, large families having both parents working and juggling childcare with the disappearance of supports like school or day care and having to try and work and educate at the same time. There are also many people isolating by themselves and at times challenged by the loneliness and repetitiveness of each day.

The stress and strain on everyone is real and is being felt in all households throughout the country. So, it is extremely important to be mindful when connecting with colleagues and staff working from home, to be conscious and alert to some of what is happening for them emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

After the first two weeks of lockdown in the UK, a working from home survey produced these results:
– 60% exercising less
– 60% more fatigued
– 64% acknowledge that worry is affecting sleep
– 41% health concerns for family

Now after 4-6 weeks in, survey stats are showing that:

  • 44% of people currently working from home find they are working longer hours and finding it hard to switch off from work
  • 51% of employees find that they are interrupted during their working day by family members and that multiple roles placed on parents is very challenging  
  • 79% of employees surveyed are missing their usual working environments
  • 89% say missing the socialising with work colleagues ranked as the main reason for this

Spotting employees who are struggling or stressed

*10 Signs an employee may be suffering from stress and anxiety during COVID-19

1. Late to meetings, taking more time off work than usual or general regular lack of communication

2. Greater obvious use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco

3. Increased irritability, poor concentration, reduced productivity

4. Deteriorating personal or work relationships, as experienced directly or indicated by others

5. More ‘emotional’, moody or over-reactive to what others say

6. Acting differently or unusually, that is out of the norm for them, or not being their usual self

7. Changing of eating or sleep patterns and personal appearance such as visible hygiene indicators – consistently not caring so much about appearance

8. Physical reactions such as sweating, fast paced breathing, very nervous, talking anxiously most of the time

9. Feeling continually low, depressed, and focusing on negatives, preoccupied with Covid 19

10. Overly tired and fatigued

What can you do?

If you are worried or concerned about someone’s health and wellbeing, or have received feedback from others who are concerned, the first thing to do is arrange some time to talk with the person one to one, and in the most private and confidential setting as possible. Let them know that you are connecting with them to talk about how they are finding working from home during this challenging time.

Explore what is happening for them and specific areas they are struggling with.

Check in on their wellbeing by asking about their general daily routine and if they are making time to connect with others regularly and getting out to do some exercise.

If you have some concerns, discuss with the person what your concerns are specifically.

Let them know that you are there to help support them and explore ways of doing this. Ask them how you can best help and if they are struggling to come up with ideas, suggest somethings you can do based on the areas that were discussed. Agree a plan and offer various supports available in your organisation such as EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) and ensure you agree to meet again soon after. Agree regular ongoing support meetings for a while, to see positive change occurring.

*Ref: Hughes, R., (2013) 10 Signs an employee may be suffering from stress and anxiety, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) – adapted from.

Coping with COVID – Appreciating our Humanness

Happy elderly couple having a video call looking involved

This is the 4th in a series of 6 articles on supporting employees during this unusual and difficult time in businesses and in our lives. With the expansion of lockdown and restricted movements, many employees will be realising that this will go on for a while and that the last 4 weeks may become the norm. While most employees will naturally accept the present state of affairs, for many it will be a difficult mindset to adjust to. Some will be feeling anxious, frustrated and worried about the uncertainty the future holds.

It is important therefore to recognise that all Humans react in unique personal ways. We all struggle with and accept big changes in our own time and in our own ways, as we all move along the change curve at different rates and stages.

Many employees over the last few weeks will have enjoyed aspects of working from home, such as getting up later, not having to battle with public transport, more time with family and even getting in a bit of sunbathing. Others will have struggled with the sense of confinement, missing the social aspect of being with colleagues, not able to enjoy their usual coffee routine, their regular exercise groups and lunch catchups. Additional challenges are also appearing for some employees, like having to become a teacher to their children, or single parents isolating alone without their usual support network.

So where are we finding ourselves and what can psychologically help?

For me personally, at the weekend I had a zoom call with a group of friends I met while living abroad. We all zoomed in from different corners of the world – Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. It was wonderful to see them all again but what was really fascinating, was how we were all adapting to the same experience. We were all isolating in our houses, with our families, unable to wander far, working from home as best we can, using similar technology, struggling with similar issues and even talking about the same shows we are watching on TV – sharing further viewing recommendations.

These zoom calls have really deepened my appreciation of this being a truly global and specifically Human event and it is bringing our Humanness to the fore in some very lovely ways. In psychology there is a practice called ‘reframing’ which is a mental skill that is applied often in sports psychology but is also a good strategy to practice in everyday life, especially given the present situation.

Reframing is looking at and thinking about a situation by applying a different ‘psychological’ lens. Literally framing it up differently, putting on a different set of metaphorical spectacles and seeing some of the not so obvious aspects of a situation as positive and beneficial.

To do this, ask yourself:

  • What aspect of this present situation is an improvement?
  • What do I actually like about some of my routine that has changed?
  • What might I like to continue doing more of?
  • How am I learning about myself and my abilities in adapting to this situation?

Some quick reflections might be:

  • Liking more time with family, which is helping with relationships
  • The lack of commuting is a welcomed relief for me and for the planet
  • I am getting to know my neighbours more and creating a better connection with my community
  • I am thinking more about how others are getting on and reaching out more often to intentionally connect
  • I am reconnecting with some old friends and some old pastimes that I love but didn’t have time for

While employees are struggling with uncertainty and the need to adapt each week to new and unfolding information, it is important for managers and leaders to help foster some of the positives that each employee is experiencing amidst the many challenges.

To be Human is to be relational and some of our present experience is opening the door to deepening relationships in a very human way – connecting and sharing genuine and real daily experiences. Employers can take this opportunity to share stories, allowing some vulnerability and foster a culture of checking in on each other and of course sharing the positives inherent in reframing aspects of our shared situation. 

Consideration, Compassion, Connection and Commitment

Although a lot has been written about the mental health and wellbeing of employees and staff during these last unusual weeks, not an awful lot has been written about the major multitasking that all staff are now facing into. Due to the social isolation strategy most nations have adopted, there are many, many parents now working two jobs from home, with most of their normal supports no longer available.

Employees have not only had to adapt to a new working environment, they now must juggle these multiple roles and structures at once. With World Health Day this week, it is a very good time to pause and reflect on how well employees are managing and adapting to this shift in expectations and to show support and celebrate their resilience.

It is also very impressive how many company cultures have shone through by showing understanding and appreciation of the new challenges their people are facing. One influential organisation very early on communicated a simple message to their work force to help them prioritise their time and energy and it was ‘family first’.

As the weeks are blending into each other and a new norm is settling in and staff are making the best of the situation, it is helpful to look at some ongoing healthy approaches to adopt and keep in mind when connecting with staff remotely.

Consideration:

It is important when connecting with staff that a moment is taken to be mindful of what they are being asked to do each day and the time they now have to give to their other roles at home such as child minder, educator and home maker. It is good to ask them now and again how they are finding the juggling of demands and how you as their manager or colleague can help.

Compassion:

With a lot of energy and attention being diverted, it is important to show compassion for the situation teams now finds themselves in and it is likely that over time performance will drop as energy begins to wane due to the multiple demands. This will be most apparent for parents of multiple young children needing care, attention and structured time to learn and be engaged with.

Connection:

For all team members connection is vitally important at this time, not just to cover off business but to be social and have an outlet. This is vital for staff who are not with family and are isolating alone. For these staff it is very important to consider how in a short space of time they have lost a lot of daily personal connecting and energy from others.

Commitment:

There will be ongoing competing demands for employees’ time and energy now and over the next number of months. Staff may not be able to show the level of time commitment that they normally would be able to provide. In the long run, as per the aforementioned company message ‘family first’, managers who are showing consideration and compassion will ensure greater commitment from their employees when normal routines return, and we are back in the workplace once again.

Mental Skills for Mental Health – Goal Setting

This is the second in the series of posts focused on the continuing mental impact of the COVID-19 virus, which all businesses are now reacting to. One of the most challenging impacts has been how employees can best continue in their roles with the effect of social distancing and remote working. This blog and the next 4 in this series will focus on the mental health and wellbeing of staff and managers, as they navigate the impact of this temporary new way of working.

As a psychotherapist, leadership and mental skills coach with nearly three decades of experience, I have worked with hundreds of people and businesses facing into challenging and uncertain times. My early training was as an emergency service first responder and trainer, so I understand how a fast onset of unusual and unexpected changes can impact people emotionally and psychologically. In my first blog from this series I wrote about some things to be expected over the coming weeks. In this blog I will be looking at an essential skill for staff to focus on and one which managers and leaders can promote. This is the key skill of planning and goal setting, for personal health and wellbeing.

The mental skill of goal setting is often undervalued as it seems so straight forward and something that we already are good at. It is however a vital first step in driving wellness and ensuring our mental health stays healthy. It is also one of the first things that is challenged and undermined when we feel unwell, as our energy drops, and we begin to feel demotivated and disengaged.

In sports psychology, one of the key plans of action for an athlete is first and foremost to have a plan. Have a plan for when it gets tough, when athletes feel demotivated, when the situation feels overly pressurised and when focus begins to wander. A key element of preparation is to revert to focused goal setting – remembering their training, going back to basics, back to what they know and create a go-to plan that is ‘ready to go’ for when it gets tough. 

Goal setting is a skill we call on all the time, going through our daily routines – making breakfast, sticking to a timetable, working to deadlines. It is a skill we know well, and we mostly do it unconsciously, however what many people are not aware of are what are known as ‘process goals’.

Process goals are particularly good to have for when times are tough, when people are distressed and when there is a lot of uncertainty. Process goals help bring what feels out of control, back into control – starting with ourselves and our control over how we think, how we feel and how we can influence the inherent energy of our body. We use process goals to feel more confident and clear headed. Examples of ways to do this, are grounding and centring which are often referred to as ‘anchoring’ techniques. These techniques anchor the person to something they know works for them; gaining some control over the situation and helping them feel better, quickly. 

At the moment staff and colleagues are feeling various levels of uncertainty, which is a natural reaction and not one to be overly concerned about. Everyone is feeling it and as leaders it is something we should be empathising with. Here we can encourage staff to goal set in order to maintain, where possible, the same working routine, as they would if COVID-19 didn’t exist. This will help normalise what is going on and help foster engagement and daily structure. Encourage the same starting time, finishing time and usual breaks as well as suggesting some extra structured time each day to support others, such as children and partners working from home also. Acknowledging that this is a team effort and we all need to set some goals to help with daily household routines, childcare and exercise.

Regarding work processes, look at any impending deadlines and goal set by negotiating new timelines; realistically integrating the new COVID-19 factors. Encourage staff to goal set some wellbeing strategies, by inviting them to explore what has worked before and reminding them to keep practicing these regularly. Check in with them to see what weekly goals they are setting – work related and wellbeing related, to help ensure they do not take on too much and invite them to create some goals if they are lacking some ion certain areas.

Explain ‘process goal’ setting and how it can be achieved by with various breathing techniques, short meditations or having a go-to set of encouraging and reassuring words or phrases. This is a good strategy for staff to start working on straight away. Talk openly about how at times it will be tough and it will feel scary or frustrating over the coming months; start to plan now for these times with some process goals strategies. Give them some examples of process goals – such as thinking about something they do that helps them feel better in the moment, to calm and sooth themselves. Avoiding negative and worrisome future predicting and instead focusing on constructive here and now planning immediate next steps planning.

Remind them that these are the same mental skills that all top athletes and military personnel practise to perform well and to manage their own wellbeing under major pressure. Reassure them that these techniques work, they are easy to practise, and they achieve results. All of this starts with the simple ability to goal set and to keep on goal setting – each day, especially when it gets tough.

Coping with BIG Changes

Recent international events have brought home to everyone how much of a global village we really are. This can be feel a little scary at times, but thankfully just about all countries are now responding to the challenges that COVID-19 is producing.

The Coronavirus is something that we can all individually tackle with some simple measures such as washing our hands routinely and keeping an adequate distance from one another. However, these and more extreme changes like imposed travel restrictions will impact us psychologically and emotionally over time. In response to these significant challenges, the team at Wrkit will be posting a set of 6 blogs to help you deal with the psychological changes that will occur in the coming weeks and months.

Our first post from our series of 6 is on the topic of Change and the common effects big change can have on our lives and while we know a lot more about how naturally occurring events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and pandemics can impact us, we still go through a common psychological process when confronted by these events.

Having previously lived in Wellington New Zealand for many years and having experienced hundreds of earthquakes, when the big ones hit and movement was restricted it was always very disconcerting and concern about ourselves, our friends, our family and the future quickly set in.

For starters, initially there is usually a shocked response related to what is happening to us and this can become a re-occurring experience as more events unfold, a little like a series of aftershocks. With this shock we can also experience denial and disbelief. This can often present as a lack of interest towards the situation or a downgrading of its importance in our life, kind of a ‘don’t care so much’ reaction. This is very common and a natural early response, which will gradually give way to a fuller understanding of the situation. Feelings of powerlessness and a sense of injustice or unfairness are also common, especially if our regular routines are affected as we gradually work to assimilate and understand what has happened.

A desire for control can play out then, and frustration or worry overtime can build into anger and fear/panic unless we are able to work these emotions through. It is simply our body trying to exert control over what is happening (motivation), not realising that what is happening is much bigger than ourselves, with way too many things out of our control. Our body can then react by making us feel low – sad, upset and down (demotivation), as it tries to slow us down, urging us to think clearly and not just react.  Action rather than just reaction is important, and the good news is that there are lots of actions we can take mentally to help us overcome changes whether they are big, small or even global.

Over the next number of weeks, we will be looking at ‘Mental Skills for Mental health’ and covering psychological techniques such as Goal Setting, Eustress, Reframing, Perspective Thinking, Self-Talk, and of course Resilience. For now, let’s look at some simple ways to help ourselves to process through some of what is going on around us at this early stage.

Each day take some time to write out answers to the below questions:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • How intense are these feelings – from 1 to 50 – (50 being extremely intense)?
  • What can I do to influence these feeling today?
  • How will I factor this into my plan for the day/ week/ month?

Remember that whatever you are feeling is ok, all feelings are ok – it is what we do with them that is important, as some behaviours are not ok! If for example you are angry or afraid the best ways to tackle these feelings is to channel this energy and take back some power. As a first step take this action:

  • Take a moment to breath in and out a number of times
  • Slow your breathing to slow your heartrate
  • Clear your head by focusing on your breathe  
  • Slowly count to 10 in your head as take longer breaths in and out

Plan a helpful healthy physical outlet such as running, cycling, HIIT challenges; be physical in some goal-oriented way to focus your energy.

At home set goals such as spring cleaning, gardening, DIY projects which are all great for some physical output and to have a distracting challenge.

Make a daily action plan. What will you do today that will help you to accomplish your goals? Create some deadlines and achieve some results. Create some small to medium goals to get some wins on the board which will make you feel better and more in control of what is going on and within your influence.

The importance of assertiveness in our overall wellbeing

Following on from the recent world Mental Health Day, Wellbeing & Leadership Manager @ Wrkit, Jason Brennan, explains that it is important to take time out to reflect on our overall mental health and wellness and what might be contributing to ongoing areas of unwellness.

One key area of wellness is healthy communication and the ability to confidently speak out about what is important to us, what is affecting us emotionally and psychologically and what might be contributing to our not being heard. This is the important skill of assertiveness.

Assertiveness is defined as:

  • Someone who is being assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe
  • Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s thoughts, feelings or rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passive in behaviour

Assertiveness is standing up for ourselves and our personal rights by expressing our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a direct, honest and appropriate way. By being assertive we need always to respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people and in so doing we are promoting an I’m OK, You’re OK philosophy – respecting the worth, value and dignity of ourselves and others.

Being able to communicate effectively means

  • Slowing down
  • Figuring out how we feel
  • Exploring why we feel this way
  • Understanding what relates to me and what relates to not me (others or external situation)
  • Think about how to influence the external
  • Create a plan to execute
  • Consider context for contact (where and when to talk)

Part of our plan might be to communicate and explain to others what is happening for us and how they might be contributing to this and to work on a plan to change and improve the situation.

Some tips to being assertive are –

REFLECTION:

  • Understand how we feel and why we feel this way
  • Manage our emotions with clear thoughts
  • Maintain self-control in how we want to share these insights

EXPRESSION:

  • Express ourselves through this reflective understanding
  • Choose to speak out and be heard considerately and appropriately (avoid blame)
  • Encourage two-way openness
  • Ok to disagree, assertiveness is about self-expression

CONGRUENCY:

  • Listen and respond to others point of view appropriately
  • Admit to mistakes and apologise if appropriate and helpful
  • Treat others as equal – I’m ok, You’re ok
  • Feel good about having activated the skill of assertiveness and understanding

Author: Jason Brennan, Wellbeing & Leadership Manager @ Wrkit

Wellbeing in the Workplace: Cheap, Cheerful & Crucial

There is a falsehood residing in the minds of many senior executives, one that leads them to believe that building a workplace where wellbeing is prominent is both an expensive and time consuming process.

I set out to bust this myth during a recent class session on the Masters in Talent Development & Human Resources with IE School of Human Sciences and Technology, where I teach this very topic. We, as a collective, set about exploring not only the component parts of personal wellbeing but also how those are applicable to organisational wellbeing as well.

The work of the Happy City Initiative in Bristol beautifully established the components of personal wellbeing as:

http://www.happycity.org.uk

Let’s take 2 of those components, Place & Social Relationships, and examine what is currently evident within modern organisations.

PLACE: both the physical and non-physical space that we occupy as part of our working day significantly impact our performance and productivity levels.

Organisations already invest in the physical workspace, as well as, health and safety features. Creating and maintaining a fresh workspace that is both welcoming and safe for their staff is a basic expectation from all.

The non-physical space refers to emotional/cognitive space we occupy as part of our day. Organisations already have embedded decision-making processes and an organisational culture. Time, energy and resources have already been invested in developing these elements but are they now reflective of the changing nature and dynamics of the working environment? Are decision making processes inclusive, dynamic and transparent? Is your culture a positive one with clear values and a purpose?

In other words, as an organisation you are already investing in both the physical and non-physical space the question is are you getting the ROI you should be getting?

SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS: they provide the social fabric of the organisation. The formal and informal approaches and structures present within organisations are critical to the development of strong social bonds and relationships that enhance individual and collective resilience, adaptability and creativity.

Organisations already invest in formal approaches such as: team building workshops; training courses; and CSR days. On the other hand, informal events occur on a daily basis at coffee/lunch time, along with events such as celebrating birthday/Christmas parties.

However, is enough been done? and is the value of both the formal and informal approaches and structures understood by the organisations leadership? Small cost effective steps can be taken to reinforces social relationships such as internal chat platforms, mentorship programs, and employee recognition programs.

CONCLUSION

It is clearly evident that organisations are already investing in the wellbeing of their staff either consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, the very notion that to ensure the continued wellbeing of your staff or indeed to introduce wellbeing in your workplace is expensive is a fallacy. Many of the key ingredients are already there, they just are not being used effectively.

Refining your understanding and focus with regards to wellbeing in the workplace is cheaper than not doing so, a cheerful and happy workplace directly impacts engagement levels and productivity, while building a positive workplace is crucial for recruitment and retention rates.

Guest contributor: Declan Noone, Co-Founder Serrano 99 Management Consulting and Positive & Mindful Leader Magazine

www.positivemindfulleader.com

Combating presenteeism in the workplace

Presenteeism is the phenomenon of employees coming into work when they are sick or injured, instead of staying at home. It has also been termed “sickness presence”, and it is thought that workers in ill-health are likely to be ineffective and unproductive, which can result in increased financial costs and stress-related absenteeism in the long run – it is estimated that presenteeism costs the UK economy up to £15.1 billion annually.

Therefore, addressing presenteeism in the workplace is something that should be taken seriously. There is some preliminary but promising evidence that workplace health promotion may be effective in improving presenteeism. By promoting a healthy workplace, and by being conscious of the factors that may contribute to presenteeism, organisations can target this phenomenon, enhance productivity, and improve overall employee well-being in the workplace.

Organisational policies

Certain organisational policies may play a role in presenteeism. Policies regarding sick leave, sick pay, and attendance may lead to employees feeling like they cannot be absent from work. In particular, a lack of paid sick leave and disciplinary “trigger points” with regards to absent episodes are thought to foster presenteeism. It is important that employers review such policies to ensure that sickness presence is not encouraged over legitimate sick leave.

Job design

Job design features may also stimulate presenteeism. Employees in high-demand jobs may wish to maintain high levels of performance and may therefore engage in presenteeism when they are unwell. Job demands include the physical, cognitive, and social features of a role that require sustained physical and psychological effort – it is therefore imperative that the demands of a job are not so high that an employee feels under pressure to meet all of these demands, even when they are unwell.

Ease of replacement is another feature which impacts on presenteeism – if employees feel that sick leave will result in their work piling up, this will also trigger presenteeism. Reasons why other employees may not be able to assist with sick colleagues’ workloads include lean staffing, high specialisation, and a lack of cross-training. Furthermore, employees may be inclined to be present when they are unwell if they feel that it is unfair for colleagues to have to take on more work. All of these features influence whether or not an individual engages in presenteeism, and so management should provide opportunities for cross-training and should encourage communication among all staff regarding what is considered fair and reasonable with regards to the replacement of work.

Presenteeism cultures

Some studies have found that presenteeism cultures may contribute to sickness presence. In certain organisations, employees can experience presenteeism pressures, particularly when there exists “competitive presenteeism” cultures. Such cultures can demand long work hours, the foregoing of recuperation time after business trips, and working while sick. Management should ensure that competitive presenteeism is not encouraged.

Individual risk factors

It is also important to consider the individual factors which may put individuals at greater risk of presenteeism. It is thought that potential risk factors include a poor diet, a lack of exercise, high stress, certain health conditions, and poor relations with peers and management. It is therefore important that employers address these factors, by encouraging healthy food options, activity in the workplace, and open communication with all staff, as well as by educating employees on the importance of looking after their personal health and their workplace relationships.

Measuring presenteeism

Organisations face a challenge when it comes to actually measuring presenteeism, as there is currently no universal agreement on the most appropriate method for measuring the concept. However, several self-report measures have been developed, which may prove useful for organisations. These instruments require employees answering various questions with regards to the degree to which they believe that health issues hinder them in performing the tasks required of their roles. Examples of some of these measures which could be incorporated include the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ), Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI), and the Stanford Presenteeism Scale (SPS).

A positive work environment

It is thought that creating a positive work environment can help to reduce health risks and improve productivity in the workplace. While being aware of the organisational and individual factors which may contribute to presenteeism is important, it is just as vital to encourage a healthy and positive work environment, to defend against sickness presence. Workplace health promotion can have a variety of benefits for employers and employees alike, such as increased satisfaction and productivity, improved morale, reduced costs and turnover, and improved company profile. Some examples of workplace health promotion activities include:

  • Measures to improve the working environment, such as assessments and audits on manual handling, display screens, and stress
  • Organisational policies that encourage a work-life balance and that discourage sickness presence
  • Education for employees on health-related topics such as exercise, healthy eating, alcohol, smoking, stress, heart disease, and cancer
  • Health screenings for employees
  • Providing free or subsidised healthy food options
  • Encouraging employees to engage in physical activity throughout the day, e.g. during their lunch break
  • Providing health insurance and GP visits

Guest Author, Jennifer Fennell, Counseling Psychologist

Sources:

https://www.robertsoncooper.com/blog/entry/five-ways-to-reduce-presenteeism-in-the-workplace

https://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2013/11000/Health_Risk_Factors_Associated_With_Presenteeism.10.aspx

https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-11-395

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/job.630

8 Step Wellbeing Strategy

According to research conducted by Mercer in 2017, 53% of employees want their company to focus more on their health and wellness. For those companies who are stepping up and implementing wellbeing strategies, they are likely to see several business benefits including improved employee retention. Research conducted in conjunction with Ireland’s 2017 National Workplace Wellbeing Day found that six out of ten employees are more likely to stay long term with an employer that shows concern for their wellbeing.

While every organisation is different there are two fundamental drivers which will make or break the success of a wellbeing strategy. The first is board level backing. Whether your organisation is 20 or 20,000 people a wellbeing strategy will need to be backed by top level directors and integrated within an organisation’s overall business strategy. The second, which is overlooked by many organisations, is having a defined owner responsible for delivering the strategy. Often wellbeing is amalgamated within the traditional HR role but is frequently not defined as an aspect of the job specification or contract. Without ownership or accountability, a wellbeing strategy is destined to fail. That’s not to say their needs to be role created to manage workplace wellbeing as depending on the size of an organisation that may not be necessary. But by simply formalising responsibility within an existing role – ideally with someone who is passionate about wellbeing, this will yield greater success.

Assuming you have board level backing and an eager owner, now how do you create a high impact wellbeing strategy?

  1. Define a Healthy Workplace – for every organisation the definition of what a healthy workplace is will vary. Defining this for your organisation at the start provides a reference point for future programs or ideas – will implementing X help us achieve Y
  2. Ask Your Workforce – Use a survey to gather feedback before acting. Anecdotal feedback is great but to gain a true insight into employee perception and needs leverage a survey
  3. Outline Measurements – A reoccurring theme surrounding wellbeing strategies is how best to measure them. Do you measure impact or engagement? Engagement is a key metric as it highlights several things including awareness of programs. Impact can be more challenging to measure. Monitoring retention figures and absenteeism over a long period of time can provide some insights but in general impact can be hard to quantify
  4. Set Objectives or Goals – Once you have outlined your measurement metric set targets, whether they are usage numbers, survey scores or certification (such as great place to work). Defining a goal will give your wellbeing driver something to work towards
  5. A Multi-Tiered Approach – human health is not merely physical, it is also emotional and mental. To have the most positive impact a workplace wellbeing strategy needs to address all three areas and account for everyone in an organisation. Healthy eating, getting active, manager and peer feedback, social events, learning, and mental health support should all feature as part of a wellbeing strategy
  6. Plan Long-term – even the most comprehensive wellbeing strategies won’t have an impact in the short-term. Invest in long-term programs and allocate sufficient resources to drive them
  7. Tie it All Together – use every event, challenge or tool to link back to other initiatives. For example, a guest speaker could refer attendees to an upcoming company charity drive or the running club etc. Layering strategies will ensure each program or initiative compliments the next
  8. Communicate New & Old – there are lots of tips out there for launching a new wellbeing program or tool but it’s equally important to keep existing initiatives in people’s sights.

The overarching objective for a healthy workplace strategy should be to cultivate an environment which facilitates positive behaviour change. It is important to take into consideration any unique challenges your workforce or environment might present. Is your workforce of a specific age demographic, are they remote or mobile? Plan for these challenges and strive to meet the needs of those most in-need.

Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager – Wrkit

Sources:

https://www.mercer.com/content/dam/mercer/attachments/global/webcasts/global-talent-trends-2017-europe.pdf

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/work/employers-must-actively-promote-staff-wellbeing-1.3028969

https://blog.wrkit.com/2018/01/18/surveys-understand-and-improve/

https://blog.wrkit.com/2017/06/02/8-actions-to-successfully-launch-a-wellness-tool/

 

How NEAT is your workforce?

As obesity and related disease increases globally, so too do the associated costs incurred by employers and governments. When it comes to exercise and activity the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. For many employees however, it is difficult to meet this recommendation.

Increasingly employer organisations are implementing wellness initiatives designed to help tackle the obesity epidemic which allow employees to incorporate exercise into their working day – reduced gym membership, complimentary exercise classes, corporate exercise challenges etc. There are big business benefits associated with having a fit workforce but what about a NEAT workforce?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than those done with the specific intention of developing or maintain fitness. Movement of some level is a necessity for everyone, however a sedentary lifestyle mean adults of similar sizes can have markedly variable NEAT levels – up to 2,000 calories per day.

Simply moving more and sitting less can boost a person’s health whether they are a couch potato or leading a more active life. There are easy ways to incorporate NEAT activities at work and behaviours which should be encouraged. Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Make company-wide ‘appointments to move’ – Sitting for extended periods of time can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Encourage on the hour ‘walk abouts’.
  2. Invest in company pedometers – a lot of your team might already have these built into their mobile phones but providing company sponsored pedometers means you can set team targets and daily goals.
  3. Use the stairs – use posters and other communication channels to get people choosing the stairs.
  4. Meetings on foot – walking and standing meetings are becoming increasingly common. If there is an option to get people moving in their own meetings encourage that behaviour.
  5. Make sitting a strength – invest in some stability balls, these are great to help build core strength and burn calories.
  6. Offer standing desks – a few standing hot desks dotted throughout the office space will give people the option for a real change of scenery and will help improve their NEAT.

Author: Sara Glynn –Wrkit Marketing Executive