Anything that forces employers’ hands to take employee wellbeing seriously should be welcomed in principle. However, the devil is in the detail, and unless there are some clear parameters about what this entails, the whole initiative will be a waste of time.
The phrase ‘wellbeing policies’ is very woolly and means different things to different people. What do we even mean by employee wellbeing?
I would argue that wellbeing is not confined to the medicalised model, but embraces a wide variety of factors that affect people’s enjoyment of day-to-day life.
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So-called ‘policies’ should cover organisational programmes that seek to prevent ill-health as well as those concerned with rehabilitation.
So, for example, what is an employer doing to help staff maintain a good work-life balance in addition to employee assistance programmes, occupational health services and private health plans? On top of these are sponsored health promotions, such as lifestyle workshops and healthy canteen options.
But just listing these activities is fairly meaningless. To form a judgement, the list needs to be costed and basic statistics, such as spend per person, published. As well as this, I’d like to see some sort of evaluation detailed. This can be as simple as take-up figures or perhaps there are staff survey questions about wellbeing that might indicate how effective wellbeing policies have been. A senior sponsor should also be named.
And it goes without saying that all these details should be audited. I’ve seen far too many cases of employers that shamelessly gild the lily about what they are doing and the results they get. Any public reporting on wellbeing needs to be validated so we have a modicum of confidence in the lines we are being fed.
Dr Bridget Juniper is director of Work and Wellbeing