How to Build a Wellness Culture from the Top Down?

November 27, 2023 thehrobserver-hrobserver-wellnessculture

After surviving the impact of the pandemic and navigating what has been an incredibly challenging couple of years economically, no one should blame CEOs for now focusing on their bottom line and getting back on track. The corporate world needs to thrive if people are to have decent incomes and job security.

However, alongside the need for productivity and profit, there is a new reality business leaders must face in this post-Covid era – having an effective wellness culture in the workplace is now non-negotiable. 

Employees may be back in the office, but they have a whole new mindset: they now expect – if not demand – that companies show a more progressive attitude to their team’s wellbeing.

This is especially true of Millennials, who make up approximately 50 percent of workers, as well as Gen Z, for who salary is far less of a deciding factor. There has been a definite sea change in what people are looking for from prospective employers. The best talent actively filters for workplaces that offer a great wellness culture. 

Want proof? According to a new study published by Forbes, a massive 80% of surveyed jobhunters said they seriously consider how a position will affect their work-life balance before they send in an application. For leaders looking to attract the top global professionals, that statistic is hard to ignore.

So, have business leaders got the message about creating a healthy place to work? In most cases, it seems there’s still a way to go.

Another recent survey of 2,000 people by recruitment firm Robert Walters found that 60% of employees said they were suffering from workplace stress. When asked how often they felt this way, a third (33%) stated “very often.” Nearly half (46%) said concerns over job stability were their biggest contributor to workplace stress; this was followed by more pressure from management (23%), lack of a pay rise (19%) and taking on a heftier workload this year (13%). More than half (55%) felt their employer was not doing enough to help.

Leading by example

Some companies are at least attempting to get to grips with the issue of employee wellbeing and implementing ‘healthy’ policies and procedures for staff to follow. However, when the management team doesn’t embrace these procedures themselves, staff feel guilty taking time out or putting their wellbeing first – and so the whole effort falls flat. I’ve seen it time and time again.

Another mistake I commonly see is companies not making wellness activities inclusive enough. Not everyone can (or wants) to run a team 10k or go kayaking or climb a mountain. That’s why it’s better to incorporate beginner-based physical activities so that nobody feels intimidated. Of course, the ideal scenario is to offer a range of very different activities, so everyone can shine.

It’s important to focus not just on physical health, but mental health options too. Consider introducing an anonymous voting system so people can say what they’d like to do next month – whether it’s offering meditation classes, a mindfulness retreat, or a beach yoga session. Also make your long-term commitment clear by scheduling dates in advance and giving people enough notice to attend.

For company owners reading this and thinking “why would I go to all this hassle and unnecessary cost?”, the answer is simple. Studies consistently show that a strong wellness culture leads to better morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive workplace, an enhanced company brand, lower sickness absence, reduced work-related stress, better staff retention, improved productivity, and better customer service. 

But for this to happen, change needs to start at the top of the tree. Senior managers need to lead by example – if they look burned out and unhealthy, that negativity soon starts to trickle down. 

In 2023, smart companies are doing what they would do with any other part of the business that needed fixing – they’re bringing in outside experts and wellness coaches to offer different sessions, such as techniques on how to deal with stress, mindfulness, meditation, and even reiki.

What can be done?

On a more practical level, another great morale booster is offering flexibility in working arrangements, whether it’s allowing work from home days, or staggered start times – the tasks will still all get done thanks to the magic of technology. Indeed, offering flexible work is now top of many jobseekers’ search criteria.

Finally, where possible bosses should look at their office set up and try and create a peaceful space where no phones are allowed, giving employees a ‘time out’ area if they are feeling overwhelmed and need to refocus. It’s amazing how even small changes can have a major impact when they are properly integrated into the organisation, backed by a dedicated budget, and fully supported by its leaders.

Beverley Wylie

Founder, Wellness We Need

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