Just recognising the importance and value of workplace health and wellbeing is not enough – a comprehensive and effective programme needs to be created and implemented, finds Fiona Lowe, head of HR, Westfield Health

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For any business activity to be a success, having an underlying strategy is essential. It provides an understanding of issues being addressed, a target for what you want to achieve and a plan for how to get there.

Employee health and wellbeing should be no differ­ent. Indeed, according to research by Westfield Health, 80% of employers believe that investing in the health and wellbeing of their staff is good for business. How­ever, 76% of those surveyed don’t actually measure the return on investment from their initiatives.

Not surprisingly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. So how do those with responsibility for employee welfare go about setting up their strategy? There are key stages of development. Here is an outline strategy:

  • Knowing your situation. What are your absence rates like? Is your workforce underperforming because of presenteeism? Are there any specific health issues or common reasons for absence?
  • Do you have a target for absence reduction or increased productivity? What are your overall business vision, objectives and strategy? What are your statutory obligations? What are your specific health and wellbeing objectives?
  • How are you going to get there? What options and what budget are available? How do you achieve buy-in from the senior management? How do you ensure engagement with your employees?

Securing investment

The decision to invest in health and wellbeing isn’t going to be made without research into what business factors (such as absenteeism, productivity and staff turnover) are being addressed, a process for how the impact is going to be measured and a forecast for the outcome of the investment.

A strong business case will also need to show how the stakeholders and decision makers will be affected by and benefit from the initiatives proposed. Develop­ment of this business case shouldn’t be the role of just one person. A combined effort between HR, health and safety, occupational health, employee and union repre­sentatives will result in a more genuine and powerful case to present to the senior management team.

Finding the right supplier

There is a vast array of offerings, and the selection pro­cess can be confusing. However, the choices should be made with the intention of fulfilling the objectives of your strategy. You will also need to evaluate which options will demonstrate best value for money, and have the greatest chance of delivering a return on investment. If budget is tight, it’s still worth remembering that the cheapest options may not offer the best value.

Engaging your staff

There is little point developing a strategy if it is not going to be used. The key to effective engagement is commu­nication. Encourage managers and directors to lead by example and use the benefits themselves, while at the same time supporting their teams to achieve their per­sonal wellbeing objectives. Gather feedback from the users – and be prepared to actively respond. If some­thing isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make a change. And finally, don’t forget to report your successes to those people who agreed to the investment in the first place.

Demonstrating the impact

With a robust strategy in place, clearly defined objec­tives and metrics, appropriate benefits and effective communication, being able to demonstrate the effect the strategy has had should be straightforward. Be prepared to gather feedback through staff surveys, team meet­ings and focus groups. In these sessions encourage staff to share what they do and don’t like, share alterna­tive ideas and help them to become more involved.

Where to start

At Westfield Health, we have created a health and wellbe­ing toolkit to guide you through the process of develop­ing and implementing your own strategy. Visit www. westfieldhealth.com/toolkit to find out more.

This article first appeared in Reward's new research report, Wellbeing in the Workplace 2017. To read the report in full, CLICK HERE

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