Whilst Theresa May has pledged to end the stigma of mental health in the workplace by launching a series of health and wellbeing initiatives for employers, businesses should take care not to implement hastily designed health and wellness schemes at the wrong time.
Because although January may be the month for new year resolutions, fresh starts in career and personal life and kick-starting the latest healthy living scheme, it isn’t necessarily the best time for implementing corporate health and wellbeing initiatives.
From a psychological perspective, these schemes – however well-meaning – are likely to peter out a few months later, simply because they’ve been branded as part of a new year initiative, rather than being part of an ongoing, well-designed scheme which reflects the health needs of the workforce.
“Employees can see through one-off initiatives, viewing them as ‘token gestures’ and scepticism because they don’t fit with anything else going on in the business,” says Louise Flowers, Director of Customer Delivery at Healthcare RM. “Random, scattergun approaches just don’t work. Implementing a hastily put together scheme won’t suddenly improve the physical and psychological wellbeing of staff.”
Not giving staff greater choice on specific health and wellbeing areas relevant to the individual is another common error that businesses make. Schemes which give staff the opportunity to choose the benefits relevant to them and their lifestyle inevitably result in much higher engagement levels and will give higher ROI.
Moreover, linking health and wellbeing schemes to business strategy is another essential. “So often a team or individual will be tasked with ‘doing something’ around health with little or no budget,” Flowers continues. “Even if a company has a health and wellbeing strategy, rarely will it link with the overarching business strategy. Developing and implementing these schemes in isolation is a waste of time and money.”
Instead, Flowers recommends three key pointers when designing a health and wellness scheme:
- Identify health demographics of the workforce to help inform which health risks to focus on
- Design a long-term programme which aligns with business strategy and brand culture
- Provide employees with a choice of health and wellbeing programmes to engage with
Flowers adds: “Devising and implementing a health and wellbeing programme that focuses on employee health risks is a difficult thing to get right - it takes commitment, an understanding of the issues and a budget. And in order to demonstrate success there has to be measurable outcomes for both the business and employees who make improvements to their health and wellbeing. Companies should take the time and effort to plan accordingly to ensure a relevant and sustainable programme.”