Dollars and sense: Why wellbeing 'buy-in' means more than just budget

Effective employee wellbeing needs the investment of people, not just money, says Gill Wetherill in the third of our Good Leaders interviews with leading wellbeing champions. Here, she discusses the importance of strategy and measurement to avoid the pitfalls of token initiatives.


We know that happy staff are more productive. Our data shows that 50% of managers and HR professionals believe that wellbeing is more important than productivity. Furthermore, 75% regard wellbeing as playing a crucial part in staff retention and 91% believe wellbeing programmes can attract and keep talent.

But in too many companies, employee wellbeing is not a boardroom priority and many wellbeing programmes are simply not fit for purpose. A lack of strategy, training, data-led insight and measurement is holding UK business leaders back from reaping the full benefits of employee wellbeing.

So how can companies ensure employee wellbeing is a business priority with buy in from the senior management team?

To find out, we spoke to Gill Wetherill, Head of People at Progeny, which offers independent financial planning, investment management, tax services, property, HR and legal counsel.

What stops businesses from implementing a successful employee wellbeing programme? 

"Employee wellbeing programmes vary hugely and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. They can range from a collection of small initiatives to integrated corporate schemes. The programme will typically depend on the size and financial resources of an organisation, but regardless of scale and budget, it will only offer benefits if care is taken to plan, assess and monitor the programme over time. Employee feedback is the most obvious source of measurement. However details of uptake and usage are also important indicators, in addition to looking at sickness absence data and overall morale in the organisation.

"It’s also critical to get buy-in from the senior management team, not only to allocate a budget for the programme but also to demonstrate the organisation’s genuine commitment to employee wellbeing. Organisations need to make wellbeing a priority and embed it in their culture in order for their employee programme to be successful, otherwise it is likely to slip into arranging token wellbeing initiatives that will not make any demonstrable difference."

Are you planning on changing any approaches to wellbeing when the pandemic eases?

"Happy and healthy people are more productive people, who do a great job for clients, which contributes massively to our success as a business.

"Employee wellbeing should always be a priority for businesses and not just within the context of a global pandemic. Approaches to wellbeing should also never be static, as it is always a journey that encompasses the latest rules and regulations, current events and challenges and cultural shifts, to ensure that your approach is relevant and fit for purpose."

What’s your approach to providing mental health support at work?

"As part of our commitment to better mental health at work, we are signatories of the Mindful Employer Charter and fully embrace the Charter’s six values, which include providing non-judgemental and proactive support to staff experiencing mental ill-health, as well as supporting line managers in managing mental health in the workplace.

"We have dedicated Wellbeing Champions, who help lead our company-wide commitment internally and in October 2021, we held our first-ever week-long wellbeing festival, Thrive! Aimed at supporting team members’ physical, mental, social, emotional and financial wellbeing, the week offered a range of both face-to-face and virtual activities, sessions and resources. Feedback gathered following the festival showed 85% said it had positively impacted their wellbeing and 98% would like to see a similar event hosted again at our organisation.

"There is an increasing recognition that employers need to look after the whole person, and we are passionate about being recognised as an employer of choice from both a professional and wellbeing perspective."

Do you think wellbeing impacts company productivity?

"Definitely. As well as being the right thing to do from a moral perspective, taking care of your team’s mental health makes great sense from a business perspective. According to 2020 research from Deloitte, for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence and staff turnover.

"Historically, wellbeing programmes have been considered a nice-to-have, or the preserve of large corporate employers. However, the positive correlation between employee engagement and business performance cannot be ignored, whatever the size and profile of the business. The average worker will spend roughly one-third of their life at work, so it makes perfect sense that they want to feel valued, fulfilled and supported.

"A recent survey published on World Menopause Day revealed the shocking statistic that almost a quarter of women are leaving their jobs because of the menopause.

"Making our workplace a menopause-friendly environment is therefore one of our top priorities and we have started our journey by launching our Menopause Support Policy, which aims to recognise the impact of the menopause at work and outlines the support available, both internally and externally. We’ve also run a series of awareness-raising sessions on the menopause with specialist third parties, Talking Menopause and Concilio Health, helping to educate our team members on the huge range of symptoms, support available and the importance of recognising the menopause as a long-term health condition. All of this helps support our commitment to normalising these discussions in the workplace.

"From a business perspective, it’s a really important issue as firms simply cannot afford to risk losing this amount of productivity, skill and experience from their workforce and menopause therefore needs to move firmly on to all of our business agendas."

 

Gill shared her insights on wellbeing after reading our IPSOS report ‘Why Employee Wellbeing Isn’t Working. And What You Need to Do About It’. Read the report and learn how to transform employee wellbeing in your organisation.

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