Julie Thomas, head of diversity & inclusion at Zurich Insurance Group shares the journey Zurich has had to embed a culture of wellbeing on a global scale 

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What will you be addressing the Wellbeing in the Workplace audience about, and why?

My aim is to help other organizations engage their employees at all levels with their own wellbeing. To do this I’ll be talking about how Zurich has started its own journey towards embedding a culture of wellbeing globally. I’ll be sharing the process we went through an overview of our framework and some of the great initiatives already adopted globally – in particular, those on mental health and community engagement.

 Why is it important for SMEs in particular to hear this?

There is a myth that addressing wellbeing is expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be. Understanding the priorities for your organization by looking at your own data and then addressing them can be simple. It’s about educating your people on the signs of poor wellbeing and giving them ‘nudges’ on a regular basis to get them to take action. This is particularly important for SMEs as they don’t tend to have large workforces so absenteeism or presenteeism can hit hard and fast. Proactively managing peoples’ wellbeing can help to mitigate these challenges.

Hear more from Julie Thomas at Wellbeing in the Workplace, a conference hosted by Reward. Julie is speaking on the 27th of November at 16:20 pm. She will be discussing how to develop a culture of wellbeing and engage a workforce. Find out more about Wellbeing in the Workplace and sign up to attend here: http://events.reward-guide.co.uk/witwLondon/ 


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Why do employers need to address wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing is a rising trend with a number of issues converging to create a tough working environment for people. As employees become more hyper-connected and work and life blend together, people are working longer, taking fewer breaks and moving less. At the same time, rising job insecurity and a turbulent political landscape is causing a rise in anxiety and stress-related illness. It’s not surprising then, that the World Health Organization has declared depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide.

 How can employers manage employee wellbeing?

By shifting the focus to prevention ahead of cure. Providing employees with an understanding of what makes up their wellbeing and regular nudges that enable them to take charge of their own personal health before they get sick, is in my view, the key to success. At Zurich, we’ve developed an annual calendar of wellbeing topics that centre around our four pillars of wellbeing (Think, Connect, Move, and Eat). Every month we highlight a topic that supports a pillar; ask some open-ended questions and point employees in the direction for support or help. Regular, individual interventions, I believe, can help sustain wellbeing.

So why is it important to you to get this message across at Wellbeing in the Workplace?

I believe it is an organization’s responsibility to help build a workplace where people are happy and healthy and want to come to work. We spend more of our ‘awake day’ at the office than at home, so it needs to be about more than the ‘bottom line’. Yes, healthy and engaged employees are more productive, but a happy and inclusive culture where people are ‘well’ and free to be at their best is one that I personally want to work in.