Workplace wellbeing programmes need to focus on organisational culture instead of ‘perks’, according to new research.
Harvard Medical School studied more than 4,000 employees across 20 different work sites to explore the impact of wellness programmes in their workplace.
The sample employees were given learning modules on healthy eating, exercise and stress reduction over the course of 18 months.
The programme’s results were then compared to data from 33,000 employees across the United States to measure its effectiveness.
Participants reported increased levels of exercise and weight loss, but no notable improvements in 80 other areas such as productivity, employee absence, and quality of sleep.
What needs to change?
The survey shows that workplace initiatives such as providing free fruit, gym membership or yoga classes would only bring limited results.
In order for a wellbeing programme to be truly successful, several areas of workplace culture will need to be aligned towards making it work.
Vision and planning
Managers need to be fully behind the programme, ensuring that any wellbeing initiatives are not just a ‘flash in the pan’.
They should demonstrate a commitment to employee wellbeing in order to create an environment where wellbeing is taken seriously, integrated into everyday work practices, and mirrors organisational values.
Aims and objectives
Before starting any wellbeing programme, an organisation should know what they want to achieve. Ideally, this should include employees’ input though an employee engagement survey.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be established and reviewed so the results of the programme are clear to see on an ongoing basis. These can include:
Sickness absence data and reasons for absence.
Dignity at Work cases
Flexible working requests
Number of employees trained in wellbeing related training
Clear responsibilities need to be defined so that everyone is aware of the role they play in the successful implementation of the wellbeing strategy.
Senior managers are accountable for the organisation’s health, behaviour and performance, should provide resources and a budget, and lead by example.
Middle managers should assess the areas where there is a risk of stress and introduce measures to control them. This can involve developing a more flexible/agile working environment, monitoring workloads, and introducing return-to-work policies to monitor absence.
Employees should embrace training and development opportunities, and report cases of stress and ill health as soon as possible. When asked for input or feedback, they should be willing to contribute.