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Health & wellbeing strategy: ask yourself these key questions

Published 21st March 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Young woman meditating at desk

Health and wellbeing strategies need to directly address organisational issues if they’re to thrive as long-term projects.

If that’s the outcome you’re looking for, start with these questions to develop a strong, cohesive wellbeing strategy.

What organisational problem are you trying to solve?

Individual happiness and wellbeing are byproducts of a successful wellbeing strategy. Does this sound dispassionate? Maybe, but it’s a necessary condition for long-term budget allocation in organisations.

HR doesn’t get budget for helping individuals become happier. They get budget for solving business problems and enhancing productivity - and it just so happens that an effective way to solve business problems is to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of employees.

This is the beauty of wellbeing as a strategy - it is a holistic look at what makes human beings happy and healthy and, of course, this happiness and healthiness creates better conditions for being successful at work.

So when building the business case and strategy for a wellbeing programme, you must be very clear what business problem you are trying to solve.

It could be attrition, low productivity, lack of motivation or change fatigue - whatever it is, it must be clear that taking action on this problem will lead to movement on key organisational KPIs.

Example: your organisation has an absence problem that, through root cause analysis, you’ve found to be directly related to burnout. Your wellbeing strategy will use interventions such as mindfulness, flexible working, job crafting and time management training to reduce stress, which will reduce burnout and therefore reduce absence.

How can you add value to other departments?

If you can add value to other departments through a wellbeing initiative, you’ll generate more momentum and hopefully results, and therefore get a better return on investment for the budget and political sponsorship put into the initiative.

Positive wellbeing stories are great for employer branding, for example, so hiring managers may benefit. Alternatively, a strong wellbeing training programme could help give L&D the case studies they need to generate closeness with parts of the organisation that have resisted business partnering.

There’s another benefit to involving more of the business and that’s uptake: the more your wellbeing strategy can be seen as a ‘whole organisation’ initiative that is sponsored by the organisation and for the organisation, the more it’ll be seen as a ‘serious’ thing for employees to do.

Example: as established above our wellbeing strategy is designed to tackle absence due to burnout. IT may be able to get budget from the wellbeing strategy to upgrade BYOD infrastructure so people can work from home, while internal comms could help drive forward uptake for the project and improve their internal reputation for increasing adoption rates.

How will you measure the results of your wellbeing programme?

If you’ve gained sponsorship for your wellbeing strategy based on tackling a specific organisational problem, you’ll need to be able to provide evidence as to whether the initiative has worked or not.

This is key to building the type of trust with senior stakeholders that allow you to increase your budget allocation and broaden the length and depth of your wellbeing strategy.

Once you’ve identified suitable metrics for judging the success of the programme, don’t forget it’s always best to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way round. This is especially true if you’re early in the ‘building trust’ stage with senior stakeholders, as alluded to above.

Example: the metric you were concerned most about at the beginning was absence, so any changes to the absence rate will be important, but there is nuance too, for example the number of absences self-reported as being a result of stress. There may be softer metrics too, such as the number of people working flexibly, or an increase in a core metric that reflects daily productivity, such as calls made. Customer satisfaction, which research suggests can be causally impacted by employee engagement, could also be watched as more satisfied staff with a better handle on their stress are likely to provide better customer service.