How to develop a health and wellbeing strategy

Creating a health and wellbeing strategy not only demonstrates care for employees, but it can also result in a healthier, more engaged and more productive workforce. It has been reported that every pound spent on employee wellness results in a saving of £2.50, thanks to reduced sickness absence and improved staff retention.

While many employers are aware of the benefit of promoting health and wellbeing, it is often done on an ad-hoc basis. The problem with this approach is it makes it hard to evaluate efficacy and therefore difficult to convince those in control of the budget to invest, but can also lead to spiralling costs.

The good news is businesses are catching on to the importance of having an actual strategy when it comes to wellbeing. The latest Employee Wellbeing Research by REBA found that the number of companies with a defined wellbeing strategy has grown by around 20% in the last year.  However, shifting from sporadic wellbeing initiatives to an actual strategy can be challenging and it requires a significant amount of planning, thought and investment.

If you’re considering developing an employee health and wellbeing strategy next year, here are some of the first steps you can take to determine what your strategy could look like and how it could be implemented.

  • Get initial management buy-in

First things first, you need to find out whether there is an appetite and budget for it at senior management or board level. Of course, it will benefit staff, but what about the bottom line?

To do this you need to consider what your overall aim so that are you able to measure effectiveness. Consider issues such as absence levels and staff attraction, retention, morale and productivity and

focus on the most pressing relevant issue your business faces. As an example, your aim could be to match the national average absentee levels which currently stands at 4.3 days per worker.

If you can clearly show how a targeted strategy can improve these areas, and thus reduce costs, it will be easier to build a case for investment.

  • Create your strategy

Once you have overall management buy-in you can develop your strategy. Think about what types of initiatives will align with your aim. The REBA report found that Employee Assistance Programmes, on-site medical support and mental health support were the top three wellbeing initiatives that were most effective for the business respondents. However this was at odds with the most popular initiatives with employees which were free fruit, discounted or free gym membership and on-site medical support. Consult with employees to see where they feel the company could do more to support their health and wellbeing needs.

You may want to start with the most effective options for the business and, depending on your budget, flesh out your plan with a few of the ideas that are more popular with employees in order to both achieve the right balance.

As a point of reference, the REBA report found that the median annual spend on wellbeing per employee is between £51 and £75 in businesses with a defined wellbeing strategy.

  • Find the right partners

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to execute your strategy entirely in-house, so you’ll need to find some partners and providers you can work with depending on your strategy. You could consider partnering with one supplier who could provide a range of facilities without having to arrange and manage multiple partners. For example, Benenden’s business health and wellbeing services can help look after employees before, during and after health issues occur.

  • Find your champions

While the strategy will likely be managed by HR and assisted with outside resources, you can also get some of your workforce on-board to help embed the health and wellbeing strategy amongst the workforce, raising awareness and encouraging usage.

It is likely that there are plenty of people in your organisation who value health and wellbeing. Tap into them and see if they’d like to get involved, whether it’s helping establish a work walk/run group or running a meditation workshop. This also has the added benefit of your champions spreading the word amongst staff which may be much more effective than a company email.

Consider using these champions to form a working group that meets regularly to monitor and discuss employee feedback. this will help you to make any incremental changes to your strategy to ensure its effectiveness.

Once you have finalised your strategy it’s important to communicate regularly to ensure employees continue to be aware of your health and wellbeing offering and how to access the support provided.

Create a calendar of communications focussing on different support services each month and share the message via email and posters in common areas. Consider using national awareness days and campaigns to help plan your messages. This will help your communications to be relevant which will help to increase employee engagement.

  • Empower don’t preach

When developing your strategy and communications it’s important to remember that employees need to feel like their workplace values them and their health without being preached to. Health assessments can be a great way to empower employees to better manage their own wellbeing by increasing their awareness and identifying steps they can make to improve their overall health.

  • Monitor efficacy and plan how you will track and report return on investment

Throughout the year make sure you track the key metrics around employee health that will reinforce your business case for the strategy. It’s incredibly important that you can evaluate the impact of your overall strategy and decide what works and what doesn’t. You can then tweak your strategy accordingly and see it improve year on year.

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Developing an effective health and wellbeing strategy is a clear way to make sure you spend your employee benefits budget effectively. It will also demonstrate you value your workforce. As well as helping your staff adopt healthier habits and lifestyles, it could also result in reducing employee absence, lowering staff turnover rates and a boost in productivity for your company.

Will you be launching a health and wellbeing strategy in the near year? Let us know your plans on LinkedIn and Twitter using #wellbeingatwork