Need to know:
- Before creating a wellbeing week, employers should assess the wants and needs of their workforce, to ensure it is as relevant as possible.
- An effective wellness week should aim to build connections and behaviours that last well into the future, rather than just create a flash in the pan.
- Strong communications campaigns, incorporating senior management buy-in and physical promotions, can ensure take-up.
- Hosting a wide range of activities, as well as online resources for off-site staff, can help to create an inclusive wellbeing week.
Hosting a week-long programme of events promoting employee wellness is popular within many organisations. This approach can help gain an instant boost in engagement and take-up, as well as using the momentum of the event to distribute key health and wellbeing information among employees.
However, key planning is needed to not only pull together multiple strands of health and wellness and numerous events within the week, but also to ensure maximum employee engagement and participation across an organisation.
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Seek employee advice
To attract employees to participate in a wellbeing week, an organisation needs first to understand what it is staff want to get out of it, says David Staff, senior health and wellbeing programme manager at Axa PPP Healthcare.
“There is no point arranging a wellbeing week which doesn’t have any take up,” he explains. “Look at the type of employees and what they are interested in. [Employers] have to give employees a reason; if it’s to their benefit, they’re likely to go.”
While simple methods, such as conducting a poll, will give employers a rough indication of what events would be most popular, wellbeing champions or social committees can prove useful in providing insider knowledge, adds Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
“Wellbeing champions often plan events and, alongside HR, are having an ongoing conversation with colleagues,” she explains. “They will help plan events that people are engaged with and avoid those that aren’t appealing.”
Set long-term goals
An employer should question whether it wants to draw more attention to the overarching wellbeing package that it provides, or encourage overall health and fitness in an effort to lessen absenteeism.
“Providing a wellness talk, a massage or a smoothie won’t change behaviours,” says Staff. “Have a goal behind it and set mini goals. It’s all about gaining insight, engaging and supporting.”
To ensure real, lasting effects, employers should not simply aim to create a buzz around this one week, and feel the job is done. Instead, a wellness week should be the springboard to keep people talking and thinking about their health and wellbeing.
Stephanie Newport-Booth, co-founder and chief operating officer at employee fitness provider Go Sweat, says: “These events can create social bonds and healthy habits. It’s good to keep them going forward, creating a happy workforce.”
Having this long-lasting effect and maximising effectiveness can start with something as simple as scheduling.
“Timing is crucial,” Newport-Booth explains. “If [the employer] asks employees, they will [say] exactly what works or won’t. They will specifically say ‘I can’t do something at lunchtime but actually after work or before work is ideal.’ Timings are equally as important as activities.”
Create strong communications
No matter the dazzling array of events on offer, a poor communications campaign can affect a wellbeing week’s success.
Employers need to understand their unique workplace, the communication channels available to them, and how employees respond to each, says Louise Padmore, co-founder at Work Well Being.
“In some organisations, email is the way to go,” she explains. “In others, employees ignore emails because their inboxes are overflowing, so therefore it’s better to have something physical. Employ a wide mix of communication tools.
“Physical posters are a great tactic, and so are postcards on employees’ desks. They cannot avoid something physical. We’ve also done desk drops with healthy snacks and drinks in advance. It provides an opportunity to talk with employees face-to-face and let them know what’s going on.”
To have real clout, organisations should consider enlisting senior management to spread the word.
“Senior management buy-in endorses [an initiative],” explains Suff. “As a general rule, employees need to feel they have permission to go to these things. A wellbeing week really needs to be supported by the whole organisation.”
Ensure it is inclusive
Making sure there is something for everyone will also increase the chances of a successful wellbeing week.
A combination of talks and workshops, happening alongside activities that share skills and experiences, as well as other events that encourage employees to unplug and recharge, will ensure high engagement levels.
It is also important to be aware of employees that are not based in the same location as the main event. This might include staff across different organisational sites, or remote and home workers. In these instances, making resources available over the organisation’s intranet site, or setting up talks via video link, can be an important element of appealing to as broad a range of employees as possible, says Suff.
“Health and wellbeing is a broad spectrum,” she concludes. “Going over and above to be inclusive is key.”