By George Anderson
George Anderson is a wellbeing coach, presenter and author. He helps people get more out of their lives through making changes to their lifestyle, creating new habits, and changing their mindset to improve their relationship with themselves and others. For further information about George, visit his website: http://bygeorgeanderson.com/professional
Workplace wellbeing has become a corporate buzzword over the past couple of years but it runs the risk of becoming a box ticking exercise.
It’s true that there are links between a fitter and healthier workforce, increased levels of productivity and reduced sickness-related absence. But for it to be a real, meaningful success, the missing link is often a belief that it’s simply the right thing to do.
Many organisations quite rightly value their human resource as their greatest asset. Yet a disproportionately smaller number take the steps that are likely to make a real difference to their lives.
Workplace wellbeing is generally a combination of the big and the small. Large, outsourced programs designed to engage as many people as possible in healthy endeavours, and smaller, more consistent culture-centric strategies.
- Company-wide discounted gym membership versus healthy options in the canteen
- Wellbeing presentations versus more water fountains
- Charity cycle rides versus ergonomic desk assessments
Both sets of strategies are valuable, though depending on the organisation a combination is usually most effective.
Unlike the military or emergency services, mandatory minimum fitness requirements are hard to impose. But positioning personal wellbeing as the smart choice for individual employees requires just two factors to be in place: opportunity and support.
The vast majority of people who struggle with staying in shape lay the blame at the door of time. Not enough time to go to the gym or for a run, plan healthy meals, eat away from the desk, take breaks for walks…
Remove as many of the barriers as possible and you give people the opportunity.
If the healthy options are on the canteen menu, there’s more chance of someone starting to take better care of their diet than if there isn’t.
Install a shower at work and more people might be encouraged to jog or cycle to work.
Provide more bowls of fruit, increase the number of water fountains and gradually add in healthy snacks like bags of nuts to the vending machine.
Provide choice and opportunity and make it easy for people to decide.
Support is where we move away from a box ticking exercise and actually begin to make a difference. Changing culture takes time, and it requires buy in from all levels of the organisation. Saying that you encourage employees to get fit is one thing, introducing a more flexible start or finish time to accommodate gym classes is another.
It’s not necessary to try and convert everybody into a spinach-munching gym bunny, but supporting those who decide to take make consciously healthy choices can accelerate the formation of more positive habits, and the spread throughout the organisation.
When Michael in Accounts is talking to Sheila in Marketing about the weight he has lost and energy he has gained just by making a few small changes to his lifestyle, ‘change’ suddenly becomes a viable proposition.
In summary, organisations can look at wellbeing as an opportunity to demonstrate how much they value their staff. Investing in outsourced programs such as gym memberships, in-house lunchtime classes or wellbeing workshops can be augmented by more consistent messages of a healthy culture such as water fountains and free fruit.
By providing the opportunity to make healthier choices, and the support for those who choose to make them, an organisation stands a chance of making a real difference to the lives of those in its employ, both in and out of work.