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Practical Tips for Effectively Implementing Wellness Initiatives – Featuring Four Key Employers

Practical Tips for Effectively Implementing Wellness Initiatives – Featuring Four Key Employers
In our latest whitepaper, ‘What is Workplace Wellbeing? The New Zealand Perspective’, we took a look at how wellbeing initiatives are being implemented across New Zealand workplaces. Our goal was to find out how organisations define wellbeing, what kind of impact these initiatives have, and how organisations are, or are planning to, support them. As part of our research, we spoke to representatives from a number of prominent organisations, all of whom are at different stages of their wellness journey. These included:

- Molly Workman, Talent and Culture Manager for Lotto New Zealand
- Jen Cowell, Health & Wellness Advisor for Landcorp
- Phillippa Powell, HR Advisor & Wellbeing Lead for Chorus
- Sarah Mannion, Head of People and Culture

We asked them what they found were the key elements for their wellbeing strategies, how they went about implementing them, and the lessons that have taken away from their experiences.

For the People, by the People

One of the key obstacles we discovered for organisations in implementing wellbeing initiatives was generating buy-in from within the organisation; both from leadership to give them the green light and from employees in terms of participating in the programme. Organisations are made up of a wide variety of people, and it’s natural that some are going to be more engaged than others.

“The key is to make it a programme that’s designed by the people for the people, so that every piece of feedback that comes through is read, analysed and taken on board,” said Phillippa Powell. “You need to listen to what your people are saying and adapt and tailor the programme to what suits them. You really need to understand the demand before just plucking something out of the air.”

This is also something we saw reflected in our survey, with a significant dissonance between what employees want from a wellbeing programme and what employers are currently providing. In many cases, just half of employers were providing what employees were looking for. A prime example was 44% of employees seeking access to stress management programmes at work, whereas just 22% of employers were providing this.

By ensuring that your own people are central to the planning and implementation of your wellbeing initiative, you can help to avoid these kinds of situations. Landcorp’s Jen Cowell says that giving your people input is a great way to increase engagement and even trial new ideas.

“We’ve got a health and safety forum where we often discuss wellness, and the members get to express their ideas as representatives of their farms or their regions; we fly them into Wellington from wherever they’re based so we can hear it straight from the coal face,” said Cowell. “So they have input into saying what would help them and what they want. We use them as a sounding board and say ‘right, well let’s trial this’ and use their farm for it to see how well it’s received. If it’s really good, we’ll put it throughout the business; if not, it didn’t hit the mark.”

Share the Load

Another key struggle our research uncovered around wellbeing is the confusion of who should be involved with it. Opinion is split between whether wellbeing should be directed by HR functions or whether those at the very top of the organisation should be leading the initiative. However, this isn’t the only place where responsibility can be an issue. Wellbeing in the workplace is an incredibly wide-reaching field, requiring a vast range of knowledge to put into action – everything from HR strategy when forming the ideas to digital skills in implementing them.

Because of this, one of the key themes that emerged from our conversations was that sharing the workload is crucial to success. Head of People and Culture, Sarah Mannion, says that having representatives from each area of the business act as “Wellbeing Champions” is a great way to distribute workload in terms of leading culture, as well as getting a variety of perspectives from across the business.

“Our wellbeing champions are the ones coming up with ideas and initiatives, and when you have a good process around selection, and get people who actually contribute and play their part, it really works well,” said Mannion. “Sometimes it takes that extra discretionary effort. Because if it is something you’re trying to organise, often it might be outside of work or you’ll have to put something together that night, because you might not get the time during the day. So, it’s finding the people who are passionate to do it.”

Strategy is Key

Wellbeing initiatives are all well and good in isolation, but unless they’re aligned to a wider organisational strategy, they are significantly less likely to succeed. Sarah Mannion’s take is that wellbeing requires alignment with organisational strategy to give it purpose. “There’s no point just setting a wellbeing strategy up, you need to know why you’re doing it,” said Mannion. “Link your wellbeing strategy to the risk factors your organisation faces, and link to what you want to do around culture and engagement as part of your organisational strategy.”

Molly Workman, Talent and Culture Manager for Lotto New Zealand, sees it much the same way; “Our approach is that if you get sick we’ll look after you, and the wellbeing space – the space I’m more passionate about – is how can we make sure you don’t get sick. That’s something we know works well for our culture.”

It’s also important to think carefully about the wellbeing strategy itself. While naturally you shouldn’t include things that are out of line with your company’s culture or values, it’s also important to consider things as simple as doing the right activities at the right times. “We did a step challenge in June, when the weather was horrendous,” said Powell, “but it actually was really well received, because the feedback was that it helped motivate people in the worst time of the year, instead of just sitting on the couch.”

It’s also a good idea to time your activities with specific events in general, like Mental Health Awareness Week, Steptember, Asthma Week. Plan for these ahead of time by creating an annual calendar of significant events or initiatives that might be taking place nationally or globally, and from here you can tie the ones that are relevant to your business in to your wellbeing strategy. Not only does this mean that your initiatives are relevant on a wider level whilst still being aligned with your overall strategy, but it also ensures that your wellbeing programme is varied and remains interesting to employees without feeling contrived. This is a key factor in building engagement and credibility amongst the workforce, and making sure that wellbeing is something that is taken seriously inside the organisation.

In Closing

We’d like to thank Molly, Jen, Phillippa, and Sarah, for giving us their guidance and advice and helping us to put this blog together. We hope you’ve taken away some useful, practical help that you can use if you’re looking to implement your own wellbeing programme. If you’re interested in more insights on workplace wellbeing, get in touch with one of our consultants to secure a copy of our latest whitepaper or take a look at one of the helpful resources below as recommended by the experts featured in this article:

- Wellplace
- Health Promotion Agency
- Mental Health Foundation
- Limeade
- Virginpulse
- RobertsonCooper
- SouthernCross
- MindTools

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