Chris Mathieson: Should employers offer extra days off to support employees’ wellbeing?

Sipping champagne and enjoying afternoon tea with friends, luxuriating with spa treatments, hitting the golf course, climbing Munros. These are just some of the ways employees are spending their new wellbeing day as part of the Feeling Great at Grampian initiative.

Grampian already offers a generous leave and benefits package, but ultimately our role as housing professionals is to offer excellent customer service to our tenants.

Despite extensive work promoting mental health in the past, it was really the enduring Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic that sharpened our focus as we realised many of our staff struggled with resilience and wellbeing.

Grampian’s wellbeing days encourage us to be more open about these issues, creating a culture where ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. We believe our wellbeing days contribute to removing the stigma and discrimination around invisible health issues compared to visible ones. Wellbeing isn’t a sticking plaster for mental health, possibly more like an effervescent vitamin that is more preventative if used appropriately and quite pleasant to take.

The key to resilience is the need for moments to pause, reflect and recalibrate. Grampian’s wellbeing days present an opportunity to unwind, to process, to turn our attention elsewhere, and ultimately to do something which brings enjoyment and inner calm.

Our wellbeing initiative is part of our ambitious wider people and culture strategy. We didn’t need to do this, but we wanted to. We understood staff could carry out these activities in their own time. However, mental health will affect 25-30% of your staff. Wherever you work and at whichever point you look at it, the past 18 months have exacerbated the issue.

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If wellbeing days can prevent situations from escalating, offer opportunities to hit pause, encourage openness and kindness then what’s not to like? Ultimately everyone wins, employee wellbeing and resilience, customer experience and perception along with Grampian’s culture and reputation.

Chris Mathieson is compliance, engagement and support lead at Grampian Housing Association