Jill Miller: Do wellbeing perks really work?

A carefully thought-out wellbeing strategy with benefits that truly address employee needs can have a significant impact, particularly as the economic climate takes its toll on people.

Many employers are looking at which wellbeing initiatives are of most use to staff at present. For example, many are now offering employees access to financial advice. How often do you review the suitability of the benefits you offer to employees?

With budgets still frozen or being cut, it is encouraging that wellbeing is still a priority for many, and not just seen as a nice-to-have in the good times. Half the organisations surveyed for our Absence management survey, conducted with Simplyhealth and published in October 2012, predicted their wellbeing spend will stay the same in 2013, and 20% said it will increase.

To retain budget, it is essential to be able to demonstrate impact, but still less than a quarter of organisations evaluate the impact of their wellbeing perks. Interestingly, the research found that evaluations of wellbeing spend generally concluded it is worthwhile. Organisations that evaluate their wellbeing spend are more likely to have increased their spend this year, and more likely to have predicted it will increase next year.

The benefi ts of wellbeing initiatives will be realised only if staff know what is available and how to access it. Clear, consistent, continuous communication is essential. Making wellbeing a part of an organisation’s culture will encourage staff to use the support and join in activities.

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Complemented with an effective absence management policy, an authentic focus on wellbeing can have positive effects for employee health. Organisations are also realising benefits in staff engagement, recruitment and retention.

Jill Miller is research adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)