How can employers put resilience at the centre of their health and wellbeing strategy?


Need to know:

  • Resilience fits in to the prevention and education stage of a wellbeing strategy, helping employees stem the drivers of ill health.
  • Many health and wellbeing benefits can be included as part of a resilience strategy, such as sports and social clubs, on-site gyms, or yoga and mindfulness sessions.
  • Having genuine senior leadership support can help drive a successful resilience approach, to ensure this is embedded within organisational culture.

Defined as the ability to deal with, or adapt to, change and challenges, resilience is already a key element of many successful wellbeing strategies; this will only become more of a focal point in the future. The Benefits and trends survey, published by Aon in January 2019, for example, found that more than 80% of employers are planning to improve education and awareness on health-related issues.

So, resilience falls squarely in the education and prevention stage of a health and wellbeing strategy, but how can employers ensure that they are giving employees the right tools?

Corporate wellbeing

Prevention is better than a cure; if the drivers of ill health can be stopped, then employees should not get to the stage of needing expensive treatment, says Mark Witte, head of health and risk consulting at Aon.

“That’s exactly, in either an emotional or physical context, where [resilience] initiatives fall in a corporate wellbeing strategy” he adds.

Resilience can be built in a number of ways. Jayne Storey, chief people officer at Benenden Health says: “It is not a personality trait, it is something we can all develop and take ownership of ourselves.”

As an employer, Benenden Health takes a holistic approach to resilience, having introduced leadership programmes, mental health first aiders and various physical health initiatives, such as step and cycle challenges. The organisation also runs sessions around topics like sleep and mental health.

“We talk all the time about how fast everything is changing around us, it is about that ability to respond to change,” Storey explains. “We have gone through a process of understanding how people respond to that change curve and how managers can equip themselves to identify if people are struggling.”

Communication and awareness

Rather than introducing brand new schemes altogether, sometimes all that is needed to refocus on resilience is taking the time to think about what helpful benefits are already on offer. Then, an employer can rebrand or regroup these programmes in a way that emphasises proactive wellness.

Many employers, for example, already have health and wellbeing benefits, like gym memberships, walking groups, sports teams, or yoga and mindfulness sessions, all of which can help build physical and emotional resilience.

“[Employers] need to understand what is available and out there, but then [they have] got to start thinking, ‘how do we piece this together, how do we get this into a message where we are trying to help employees manage their health?’ and do it in an impactful and engaging way,” says Witte.

Organisational culture

A culture that nurtures resilience from the top down is imperative, says Jeremy Thomas, a mental health inspirational speaker.

“The most important thing that makes the difference is where [an organisation] has a director who stands up and is counted,” he explains. “Most people don’t want to talk about their mental health, or they are afraid to, because they think it might go against them. There’s no point having enthusiastic people in the lower management capacity; [employers] need to have it from the top working down, then the bottom moving up.”

Previously, health and wellbeing strategies have been focused on being reactive. With a general move towards a more holistic view of reward and the employee experience, as well as the increasing expectation of a proactive, wellbeing-focused approach, particularly among those just entering the workforce, that focus needs to shift.

Rather than just being a ‘nice to have’ to attract the next generation, however, this is also an important business strategy.

Storey concludes: “This investment, whether it is time or resources, [has] a positive impact on the workforce, which in turn [creates] the energy, the productivity, the motivation for people to be at their best.”

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