Best of both: Balancing macro and micro for better employee wellbeing

Supporting employee wellbeing doesn't always have to mean grand gestures, says Oliver Mennell. In our fourth Good Leaders interview with prominent wellbeing champions, he outlines the small steps making a big difference for workplace wellbeing at NEOM. 

NEOM is a fast-growing UK-headquartered wellbeing brand selling natural products which improve sleep, manage mood changes and reduce stress. But it is not just NEOM’s customers that benefit from its focus on wellbeing. The business is growing quickly, with a fast-growing customer base in the US. NEOM prides itself on creating a working environment in which every member of staff is able to thrive.

Companies like NEOM are leading the way by focusing on wellbeing as an enabler of productivity. Our data shows that 80% of managers and HR professionals believe senior staff now take the issue of wellbeing seriously, yet there is little definition or ownership of wellbeing and insufficient training. Almost a third (27%) believe employee wellbeing initiatives have no effect on financial performance.

We sat down with Oliver Mennell, Co-Founder and CEO of NEOM who challenges this view. He firmly believes wellbeing is the single biggest contributing factor to productivity.

Do you think there is a disconnect between the boardroom, HR and front-line staff regarding wellbeing?

"Wellbeing is important wherever you are in the workplace – whether that is in the boardroom or on the front line. Because of this, I don’t see it so much as a “disconnect” but I do think that sometimes well-intentioned plans don’t fully land or reach their potential. The tendency can be to favour “token” actions – such as the ping-pong table and the cold drinks fridge – rather than taking into account the need to focus on individual wellbeing plans and promoting the small steps that will really make a difference to overall wellbeing.

"Really understanding your team is key to knowing what is needed to make a difference. We are now starting to develop tailored wellbeing plans for individuals to work out what might cause triggers and impact negatively on an individual’s wellbeing, as well as taking more macro business-wide actions. Good communication, regular HR check-ins and monitoring the “pulse” of the team are key. These are all small steps and there is plenty more for us to do, but I felt it was important to start the process of improving our workplace wellbeing.

"The growing world of part-time work is also challenging from a wellbeing perspective. We know from our own research that the biggest gaps in wellbeing satisfaction can often exist in those that are working part-time. Often these are parents or people who may need to work part-time for health reasons, and we need to be aware of their needs. We fully embrace part-time working, but businesses need to be clear that outputs and expectations are reflective of those part-time hours, otherwise employees can feel they are compromising both at work and at home."

What stops organisations implementing a successful employee wellbeing programme?

"There’s often a fundamental misunderstanding that high employee wellbeing and strong performance cannot co-exist. We believe the two are inextricably linked, and you can’t have a workforce performing at their absolute best until both you and they are prioritising their wellbeing. Take sleep as an example – we know that poor sleep is the biggest contributor to underperformance at work - you are less likely to value the input of those around you, you are prone to making poor decisions, and put less effort into forming and building relationships.

"For business leaders, I think that taking time to ensure all colleagues have good sleep routines is key. This doesn’t just start right before bed; this is about encouraging quality downtime in the evening and ensuring a clear demarcation between work and home life – something that has become more challenging since COVID.

"There’s also a belief that a wellbeing programme needs to be made up of big, costly gestures such as foreign breaks and lavish gifts. Actually, it’s the small steps that can make a big difference – the flexibility to take wellbeing days when you just can’t face your desk, volunteering time, a box of snacks, and showing appreciation with a thank you card."

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

"Improving the wellbeing of our colleagues – as with our customers – will continue to be a priority, and the question for us now is how we continue this in a hybrid world of work. A big thing we missed over the pandemic was spending time together as a team and winding down outside of work, which brings colleagues together and helps us all feel more connected.

"We are looking forward to being able to get together more often, and we already have team wellbeing days planned, as well as volunteering days, social events, keeping up with our regular wellbeing products drops and giving our staff the flexibility to get outside and work out during the day."

Do you think wellbeing impacts company productivity?

"I’m a firm believer that wellbeing is the single biggest contributing factor to productivity. If we are stressed, tired, or in need of a boost, we simply aren’t at our best - we are less likely to find innovative ideas, go out of our way to support our colleagues, and we may be liable to make more mistakes.

"We’ve found that providing “wellbeing zones” for colleagues can work to boost wellbeing in the workplace, as well as making sure staff have the flexibility to get outdoors during the day. Taking these steps doesn’t just boost colleague wellbeing. It makes them better at their roles, more productive and ultimately helps them to feel more confident, valued and fulfilled so it becomes a virtuous circle."


Oliver shared his 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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