Impetus started its wellbeing strategy journey back in 2019, and we’re proud to be a part of the 44% of businesses that have a robust wellbeing strategy in place in 2021. That said, our work isn’t done and we’re still working on it today. And that’s important to us – we know that developing a wellbeing strategy isn’t a ‘once and done’ process. Even after you’ve launched and are delivering your strategy, you need to make sure you set aside time to evaluate and refine what you’re doing to ensure it continues to meet the needs of your colleagues.
With that in mind, here are some steps we’ve already taken and some we continue to take at Impetus:
- Make sure it supports the people it’s supposed to
Every company has a wealth of information about colleagues you can use to develop a first draft of your strategy. Have a look at colleague demographics, if current employee benefits are being used, and any staff feedback you have from staff surveys or similar. If you have wellbeing initiatives already, as we did, check how popular they are through a survey or informal conversations with teams or individuals. Some organisations even look at absence data and the most common reasons given for short and long-term absence to see if a wellbeing strategy can address them.
Next, it’s crucial that you involve your colleagues, understand their needs and make sure everyone is catered for. This will benefit your strategy in two ways; first, you can stress test enthusiasm for your plans and second, you can start to create buy-in for your upcoming strategy. In speaking to other organisations, we heard that a common downfall of wellbeing strategies is when colleagues feel that the strategy is the responsibility of a small team, whose role is to update a document periodically. Our worlds are shaped by our minds, nothing is more important, and so wellbeing isn’t the job of just one or two people, but something that the whole organisation needs to work together on. Getting buy-in from the whole organisation early on will make this easier to achieve.
- Make sure you can deliver it
A pretty obvious consideration, but if you haven’t delivered a wellbeing strategy before it can be difficult to work out just how much you can deliver.
Putting concrete training and guidance in place for staff gave us early confidence that we could deliver a robust strategy. We asked for a spread of colleagues from all levels and teams from across the charity to volunteer to be trained as Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs). We now have 9 MHFAs working within a team of over 30 people. The MHFA training gave responsibility to colleagues from across the organisation and armed us with professional techniques and skills for supporting colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing issues.
Another important step was the work we put into making sure colleagues were comfortable talking about their own wellbeing at work. You’ll never be able to deliver a wellbeing strategy if a significant portion of your colleagues feel too embarrassed to share if they are struggling. We have been working to break through some of the stigma attached to mental health by regularly talking about it in team meetings and 121s, and by intermittently promoting the topic with a flurry of activities at different points throughout the year (e.g. Mental Health Awareness Week). These activities are organised by our Wellbeing Working Group, a voluntary group of colleagues tasked with spreading awareness of our wellbeing initiatives.
- Make sure the strategy is a living, breathing thing
There’s a real danger that your organisation puts a huge amount of work into a wellbeing strategy that only works for your team for one moment in time. Becoming aware of this danger was a real ‘a-ha moment’ for us.
We resolved to be consistent in our values, but adaptable in our offering. For example, one of the values in our wellbeing strategy is ensuring that every single member of staff is catered for, which will never change, but we have changed our tactics for achieving this many times over the past few months.
The need for this became most apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Colleagues’ experiences and needs shifted wildly over the last year and so has our offering. For instance, early in the pandemic our staff survey told us that people felt isolated and missed informal ways of catching up with colleagues. In response we set up initiatives like Randomised Coffee Times, where for 30 mins each week each colleague is assigned another one to catch up with, and fortnightly virtual drinks. However, as winter hit, colleagues began to tire of too much screen time and lack of opportunities to get outside during daylight, so we initiated an hour’s protected meeting-free time between 1-2pm every day. This meant that all colleagues had an opportunity to take a break in the daylight.
Putting together a wellbeing strategy may seem like a daunting task but by working through these three steps, and involving others in the process, you’ll have a strategy that works for everyone.
This article is part of CharityComms’ Wellbeing guide for comms professionals.