What links Christmas, penguins and wellbeing?
According to HR Grapevine, John Lewis’s Monty the Penguin advert is a good example of the benefits of considering another’s wellbeing.
Ok, so we’re talking here about addressing the loneliness of a CGI penguin, and it is a feel-good Christmas ad, but it’s interesting to think about this concept of ‘wellbeing’ in the work-place, and whether it’s yet being taken seriously by employers.
It’s easy to think of wellbeing at work as employee engagement but there’s growing evidence (e.g. from the NEF) of the need for a broader approach that addresses an individual’s sense of purpose, value and motivation, as well as their emotional and physical health, self-confidence and sense of security. All of these factors will determine how someone feels about their working lives and, it’s argued, how they’ll perform. Only by taking this holistic view can a company get that improved performance – and bottom line – traditionally promised by ‘engagement’.
You might think that large organisations have the advantage over SMEs in meeting people’s wellbeing needs; they’re probably more likely to have a formalised strategy, more HR resource and more staff benefits (gym memberships, bike to work schemes etc). Wellbeing is probably addressed in a more ad-hoc way in many SMEs, maybe not even that consciously, so simply increasingly awareness can bring greater benefit. Interestingly it appears that large corporates can learn from smaller companies, who tend to do better in well-being surveys. It can pay to ‘think small’.
How could you break such a broad topic down into something realistic and achievable? Thinking about smaller companies in particular, and using the NEF’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, here are some simple examples:
- Connect: Smaller companies in particular may feel that their staff can speak out as and when they need, but it’s important to give them the mechanism, the opportunity, encouragement and, crucially, a response. Nothing beats face to face communication, so in Afiniti we all meet up quarterly on a ‘Company Comes First Day’, but in the meantime we’re spread far and wide and use other ways, such as our Yammer feed, to stay connected.
- Be active: This can be by encouraging daily activity or adding a fun, competitive element. Afiniti entered a team in this year’s JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge – a 5.6km run around Battersea Park – and we all felt very pleased with ourselves for completing it! As a further incentive, Afiniti doubled the amount we raised for our charity of the year, Dreamflight.
- Take notice: Individually, we benefit from taking the time to reflect on experiences and outcomes, to appreciate what’s important to us, how to use our strengths and avoid stress or negative feelings in future. When communicating, we need to take notice of our audience’s make-up and needs, and tailor our style and message accordingly. Managers and, more broadly, organisations also need to give staff the attention they need and take note of any warning signs.
- Keep learning: Continual development improves confidence and reassures people that they are progressing and developing. Informal learning like knowledge sharing between colleagues and formal training in leadership, management and other new skills, all helps people feel motivated and valued.
- Give: It could be that you’re giving your time by volunteering or fundraising, or shaping improvements to a project or the company. Or this could be about giving praise to someone for doing a great job; most of us thrive on recognition after all. All of these actions lead to involvement in a company or community and a sense of purpose.
I’m sure we could all do more in our work lives to encourage, and benefit from, greater wellbeing. It would be great to hear from you about what’s worked for your organisation.
Well-Being at Work (New Economics Foundation): http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/well-being-at-work