4 Stages to Designing and Embedding Wellbeing and Resilience Programmes
What if it was possible for your workforce to be stronger and more confident about handling change and uncertainty every day at work?
Are you responsible for growing wellbeing and resilience in your organisation?
This guide provides some information for Human Resources teams or anybody who is responsible for developing programmes in wellbeing and resilience (W&R) at work. It provides tips for four stages including:
But first some background
New figures from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE, UK) have revealed that 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress in 2017/18 – a huge increase compared with previous years and including around 595,000 workers who reported as suffering from stress, depression or anxiety.
A Wellness in the Workplace Survey in New Zealand (2017) found that NZ$1.5 billion a year was being lost to absence and stress and the significant rise in work related mental health issues over the last 12 months is globally perceived as one of the biggest threats to both human functioning and business performance.
If we’re going to make any sort of positive impact on this data, we need to DO something – all of us. This isn’t simply a management issue to fix, an HR problem to solve, or a personal challenge to overcome.
Deciding how to start and where to go can be like planning a journey without a map (or even a destination) so many organisations are defaulting to short term fixes or multiple solutions that can be overwhelming to manage.
Employer-led W&R is essential; we have a duty of care to provide our employees with a workplace that helps rather than harms them. We also need to help our employees to understand how they can be more responsible for their own W&R; fostering a duty of self-care by aiding their understanding of the different factors influencing their W&R at work.
I wrote Resilience at Work; practical tools for career success (Routledge, 2018) as a result of my experiences during the Canterbury earthquakes where I supported businesses that chose to use this event to grow stronger. Part of my role was to learn from the academics studying our city, along with exploring the latest global science about wellbeing at work. This information was used to design resilience into the workplaces where I operated.
With input from Resilient Organisations, the Mental Health Foundation and other global wellbeing experts, I developed a Four-Foundation Resilience Framework. I wanted to inspire a wider view of wellbeing that goes beyond the traditional Physical Wellbeing focus; one that incorporates four key components – Self-Care, Connecting, Learning, and Emotional Honesty.
For HR teams, this means checking that W&R solutions in your workplace cover all Four Foundations, rather than just a traditional focus on ‘Food and Fitness with a Sprinkling of Yoga’.
For employees, this means exploring and understanding how the Four Foundations influence personal W&R both at work and outside work, and then being able to make choices that better refocus energy to self-manage resilience more effectively.
I want to encourage businesses to consider a broader and deeper approach to influencing wellbeing and resilience at work. This means designing W&R programmes that are longer term, more holistic and personalised – with empowerment shared across both employers and employees.
The ideas presented here are a snapshot of some of the ideas in my book and are intended to take you through a four-stage approach to considering W&R programme design and delivery.
What do we already do? What does our data tell us about W&R in our workplace?
Understand how you already support W&R, identify the main drivers for your programme, find W&R champions and ensure that your W&R programme has longevity - so it sticks around and isn’t just seen as a fad or HR-led initiative that lasts a season.
You may even find that you already ‘do’ W&R well but need to communicate it better or measure it more effectively. This may be done by your HR team, a ‘Wellbeing Workforce’ from around the business, or anyone with an interest.
LOOK FOR EVIDENCE (WHAT MEASURES COULD YOU HOOK INTO?)
Business Vision and Values: Consider what you are already committed to and how W&R could contribute or align to this, eg could it contribute to your Health & Safety vision?
Wellbeing data: Explore what your data suggests about your existing wellbeing, eg teams with high absence, low engagement scores, accident reports, holidays (who’s not taking them), sign-in logs (who’s consistently signing in and out late), who’s consistently under delivering or missing deadlines, EAP data, turnover.
Existing resources: Summarise what you already do to support W&R and consider how effective it is, eg staff surveys, social media comments about working for you, resource library content, wellbeing trends. Check your current W&R spend and what your ROI currently looks like. Analyse existing data, eg attendance records and feedback from training or wellbeing events.
Addressing risk: Identify the key W&R issues affecting your workplace. Ensure that actions to mitigate major risks are prioritised, eg stress assessments for employees with higher than typical absence.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Who will be your W&R champions at the most senior levels?
- Who owns the development of a business plan – costs, resources etc?
- Who will manage the overall W&R programme – the team that will design, drive and be responsible for success?
- Are any of your staff W&R experts, eg they can share their coping strategies or knowledge?
- Where and how will role models share their stories of success, especially at senior level; perceived permission to focus on W&R is critical?
- How will your Communications team create promotional materials? or perhaps use W&R champions if you don’t have a Communications team.
- Does your 12-24-month business plan signal a need for W&R at work? eg are there any planned restructures, new technologies, increased business successes?
- How you will handle giving access to multiple locations, off-site workers, contractors/gig workers/employees, different learning preferences or multiple countries?
- Check that your existing/planned activities occur in all Four Foundations for W&R - Emotional Honesty, Self-Care, Connections and Learning, or if a Foundation is over or under-represented.
- What level of W&R commitment would you like to achieve? eg awareness only vs education vs encouragement for employees to change vs reward for employees for changing.
THREE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
- What is your number one reason for growing resilience at work?
- Where are the high-risk areas that you need to begin your focus?
- How are you going to measure the impact of your W&R programme?
What would we like to achieve? What ideas do our people have to help us get there?
Explain what is driving your W&R programme, why it’s important to the business and what’s in it for employees so they want to learn more and then use what they learn. Ask your team for their ideas to help you; what could help them the most.
LOOK FOR EVIDENCE
Potential benefits to staff - More energy, better decision-making, less conflict, better health, better relationships, more employable, less feeling like they need to be ‘on’ all the time, less likely to burn out, less likely to experience depression, stress and anxiety – and better able to handle it if it happens.
Potential benefits to business - Increased motivation and productivity, reduced cost of absence, lower H&S risks, better retention, better reputation, more positive response to change, better time management, better customer relationships, enhanced job performance, lower healthcare costs, lower absenteeism and turnover, business change handled more confidently, stronger brand.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Consider a launch event run by your W&R champions, explaining what W&R means to the organisation, why it’s important to you and why you think it should be important to employees. Set the scene positively from the start.
- Explore the positive aspects of change in the world of business – how the organisation has already evolved, the positive results of this, the role employees have played in achieving.
- Provide a Resilience Review at the launch – quiz, audit or assessment to help employees consider how a W&R programme might help them. Consider personal and professional resilience benefits.
- Have a plan to overcome expressed fear, eg why do we need to build a W&R programme? What is around the corner that I need to be resilient for?
- Expect some resistance and avoid making activities compulsory if possible.
- Run follow-up focus groups and/or surveys after your launch event to create a platform for your employees to help you build ideas. Ask what’s missing and what could work well. Grow your programme with their input.
- Ask your team how they might build a W&R focus into existing work activities, eg monthly catch-ups, team reviews, weekly updates.
- Run a W&R programme for all employees with a more in-depth programme for your leaders and/or W&R champions to give them confidence to recognise and discuss W&R in their teams.
THREE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
- How will you encourage all your employees to share their ideas for W&R activities that could best support them?
- What will you do to ensure your learning activities appeal to a wide range of people? eg consider working patterns, learning preferences, place of work, etc.
- What do you want your leaders and/or W&R champions to do differently to support W&R at work when your programme launches?
The actual programme of learning
Begin the delivery of your W&R programme. Formal learning events could be complemented by raising the profile of existing activities (eg access to EAP, flexible working practices, discounted gym memberships, etc) that are aligned to supporting your W&R programme. Also ensure that W&R is built into everyday conversations at work – introduce it to conversation guides you already use, eg career discussions, weekly meetings, etc.
LOOK FOR EVIDENCE
Learning event data - Check your attendance records, eg are some better attended than others? What feedback do you get from attendees? What days or topics are most (or least) popular?
Leader and/or W&R champion check-ins – Encourage conversations about what is being learned on the W&R programme and how employees are using what they learn. Check that learning is being applied, and if not, what is still getting in the way?
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Build a 12-month+ view of events/focus, so it’s easier for your employees to plan. Avoid overload during known high workload periods.
- Include a mix of self-driven and organisation-led activities, eg face-to- face learning, discussion groups, online learning, recommended resources for private learning, monthly ‘themes’, competitions, etc.
- Build a library of books or an online resource hub that employees can access in their own time.
- Build wellness checks into existing catch ups – perhaps create scripts to guide these conversations and build confidence in leaders and/or W&R champions.
- Make practical changes, eg can your employees be given permission to start work later, or encouraged to take a full lunch break, or finish early so they can tend to their wellbeing needs? Can you dedicate a space at work for absolute silence and undisturbed working in your office space?
- Use W&R markers, eg Mental Health Monday, Wellbeing Wednesday, Work-life Balance Wednesday, Technology-free Tuesday, First Monday of the month, etc.
- Offer counselling or coaching for critical employees (eg high-risk or those with largest sphere of influence who could role model W&R). This will support long term change.
POSSIBLE TOPICS FOR YOUR W&R PROGRAMME
Remember to ensure you include activities from each of the four framework foundations:
Emotional Honesty (emotional wellbeing), eg mental skills training, emotional literacy training, mindset shifting, understanding fixed and growth mindset
Self-Care (physical and spiritual wellbeing), eg walking clubs, encourage break taking, taster sessions for physical or spiritual activity, personal stress plan, health checks, stress assessments (or job reviews for high risk individuals/teams), flexible working (eg consider trials)
Connections (social wellbeing), eg consider organising shared lunches with mixed teams, invite suppliers/previous employees to events, check shared space encourages cross function use, design learning events for a mixed audience, volunteering events to support the community
Learning (intellectual wellbeing), eg grow confidence in asking for feedback (as well as giving and receiving feedback), train networking skills, talk about comfort/stretch/stress zones, include mentoring programmes
THREE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
- How can your employees play a part in sharing the benefits they gain from attending W&R events?
- How can you ensure that the W&R activities you offer can be personalised for your employees?
- What are your employees saying about the W&R programme?
What impact has our W&R programme had on our original goals?
Check that your business data is indicating the hard work and effort you have put into designing and delivering your programme is paying off. Demonstrate to your stakeholders that it was worth it. Embed the learning from your programme and ensure it becomes part of your business as usual.
LOOK FOR EVIDENCE
- Check-ins – Ask questions that evaluate both the usefulness of the learning events and the impact on work. Check what employees are doing differently and the impact this is having on their W&R. Consider using a feedback app, or survey. Remind employees of your original reasons for the W&R programme and ask questions to check it’s achieving what you set out to achieve. Ask how new knowledge about W&R is impacting the team personally, as well as the extent that leaders and/or W&R champions are supporting them. Consider extending check ins to customers or stakeholders.
- Vocabulary – Make sure that W&R language is used everywhere. Encourage a range of emotional vocabulary (especially if you offered emotional literacy training on your W&R programme).
- Approach dissenters – Talk to the people who aren’t attending or sharing positive reviews about your W&R programme. Ask questions about what needs to change for them to engage.
- Identify successes – Which team has changed the most or which region has the highest attendees or biggest successes? Dig deeper to explore why and look for ways to replicate this – and of course share their story.
- Reconsider your ‘why’ evidence - Use engagement scores, retention rates, changes to absence trends, accident rates etc. What has changed since your programme began? Check the success against your desired outcomes – what has under achieved or is excelling? Are there any unintended consequences? (eg sometimes EAP attendance goes up when employees receive permission to discuss pressure at work).
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Share stories of success, especially using existing communication channels. Share your resilience journey internally and externally.
- Build W&R questions into all of your documentation and processes, eg recruitment, induction, talent discussions. Consider a regular W&R review or individual wellbeing plans.
- Find ways to celebrate employees who commit to making changes, so they are encouraged to become more resilient.
- Invite reflection on how changes that your employees are making at work might be influencing home life W&R too.
- Establish a W&R cross-functional team with responsibilities for evaluating the W&R programme annually.
THREE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
- Review the overall programme aims. To what extent have they been met – what needs tweaking, adding or revising?
- Who needs to know about the success of your W&R programme?
- What have been the biggest gains for your business since the launch of your W&R programme?
Resilience at Work: Practical Tools for Career Success was a Finalist for Best International Business Book in the Business Book Awards (London) and is currently a Finalist for the Australian Career Book Awards. It is a coaching resource that can easily be used by leaders to support their teams by accessing the latest research about building wellbeing and resilience in the workplace. It can also be used by HR teams to design resilience programmes or by employees who want to learn the skills of self-managed resilience.
It can be purchased from most online retailers and from many local bookstores or for discounted purchases direct from the publisher.
Authored by Kathryn Jackson - Facilitator and Coach