Top tips for using workplace-led interventions to improve employee wellbeing

Using workplace-led interventions to improve employee wellbeing

Need to know:

  • Workplace-led interventions aiming to improve employee wellbeing should be simple and accessible.
  • Environmental changes, such as providing showers or bike storage facilities, can help encourage healthier staff behaviour.
  • Employers should involve employees in the implementation and maintenance of wellbeing initiatives, for example by using internal champions.

Employee wellbeing is a common topic across all types of organisations, with employers stating that it is their duty of care to help staff reduce stress (75%), achieve a sensible work-life balance (80%) and visit healthcare professionals in a timely manner (67%), according to research by Employee Benefits and Health Shield, published in September 2018.

To provide this kind of support, it is necessary to get buy-in from the employees themselves, says Ceri Morris, director at mental health first aid organisation Be Empowered UK. “It is important to encourage employees to become actively engaged in their own [health] and wellbeing and participate in strategies that can promote both their mental and physical wellbeing.”

Where better to start the process of engaging employees with their own wellness than in the workplace itself? Done correctly, workplace-led interventions can be key to an employer’s overall wellbeing strategy.

Creating a healthy workspace

Organisations should first look at workplace design, says Jan Vickery, corporate proactive health business lead at Axa PPP Healthcare. This could include implementing accessible walkways, making stairs well lit and centralising printers and drinks dispensers, so employees are encouraged to get up and move away from their desks.

“Breakout areas with higher desks where people can talk, as well as stand-up meetings where people can walk and talk are also a great idea, especially in summer,” Vickery explains. “[Employers] need to drive the mindset from the top down that being away from the screen is a good thing and [employees should] not feel apologetic or guilty. Find creative ways of cutting down time sitting at a desk. These are all easily implemented interventions.”

Providing showers and changing facilities to reduce potential barriers to physical activity before work and during breaks is a subtle way of encouraging employees to look after their wellbeing. Employers could also offer storage facilities for bikes, in addition to bringing exercise into the workplace through yoga and Pilates classes.

Other simple measures include having indoor plants around the office to improve air quality, while providing fruit or other healthy snacks can encourage staff to make healthier eating choices.

Encouraging inclusivity

Workplace-led interventions that encourage employees to team up and work together can be a helpful way of promoting health and wellbeing, particularly if these avoid focusing solely on competitive initiatives. In addition, programmes should aim to be as inclusive as possible, to ensure maximum take-up.

Vickery says: “We introduced a running and walking club a couple of years ago. Instead of one club for everyone we had different levels for everyone. It should always appeal to different levels rather than a broad brush.”

Taking ownership

Setting personal challenges can be equally effective. Self-assessments, for example, can be used to help highlight focal points. This could include giving up smoking, becoming more physically active or needing in-work training and development to enhance job satisfaction and create a better work-life balance.

Allowing employees to get involved in the creation of workplace interventions also has benefits. Whether it is enlisting the help of internal mental health champions or utilising an employees’ unique skills to assist other colleagues, wellbeing interventions should not just be the responsibility of HR and team leaders, adds Andy Magill, head vitality coach at Vitality UK.

“If someone is active, they can be part of the fitness team, or if someone is interested in nutrition, they are the healthy eating champion,” Magill explains. “Organisations are time poor and need to utilise employees who have these interests. Using the wider team to encourage [employees] to use the interventions on offer has an overall positive impact.”

Keeping it simple

The key to success is realising that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and that keeping workplace-led interventions simple will keep employees more engaged.

“It’s not about a big bang; it’s about introducing things in a timely manner that are relevant,” Magill says. “[Employees might be] looking for support with really simple things, like more flexibility to exercise or work in different areas. Providing free fruit is one of the most effective interventions in improving employees’ healthy eating habits without them even realising it.”