Wellbeing is not just a one-off event pt1

In the first of a two-part article Oana Arama argues that staff wellbeing should be part of the fabric of every organisation.

An estimated 141.4m working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2018, the equivalent to 4.4 days per worker. And that’s an increase from 4.3 days per worker in 2017. I’m not looking forward to the updated figure for 2020. 

Nearly two-fifths of UK organisations (37%) saw an increase in stress-related absence in 2019, with heavy workloads and poor management style as the reasons given, according to a new report from the CIPD and Simplyhealth

Let these numbers sink in. Besides the financial pressure that this puts on individual organisations, think about the tremendous impact these numbers have on society in general. 

We should be aspiring to position employee wellbeing as a continuous thread that runs through every operational decision

As people professionals, HR or L&D, these numbers speak volumes. The people profession has a pivotal role when it comes to shaping a broader and more comprehensive wellbeing agenda. It’s encouraging that more and more organisations are taking a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, by having a standalone wellbeing strategy to support their wider organisational strategy, but more needs to be done.


Valuable research by CIPD shows how important wellbeing is for reducing the number of sickness absences and improving: overall performance, motivation, innovation, employee engagement and brand value. This in turn increases overall customer satisfaction and reduces employee burnout.

Traditionally, the term ‘workplace wellbeing’ has been translated by employers into specific initiatives. But these are unlikely to link to the organisation’s overall organisational strategy. Put simply, we need to set a more aspirational wellbeing agenda for organisations. The impact on individuals, organisations and society will then be significantly greater. 

Health and wellbeing are not just about initiatives. We should be aspiring to position employee wellbeing as a continuous thread that runs through every operational decision, a cultural lens that guides everything we do and how we do it.


Clearly wellbeing has a direct and strong link to an organisation’s health and capacity to thrive in normal conditions, and also quickly adapt and bounce back in unprecedented times. Imagine having employees who are already stretched to their limit having to quickly adapt in incredibly stressful circumstances, and being asked to continue to offer excellent work. Doesn’t that sound unrealistic?

The coronavirus pandemic has created an urgency for employers to focus their attention on the wellbeing of employees. Organisations which already had an embedded approach to wellbeing in place would have been able to quickly step up their support to cater for this unprecedented situation. 

Employee feedback

A few years ago, the mobile telecoms company Three focused their company goal on being ‘the UK’s best-loved brand by our people by 2021’. They developed a wellbeing initiative focusing on three pillars: Energise, Connect, and Balance.

Energise focuses on helping people eat healthily, sleep well and keep moving. Connect is about giving staff time for things that are important to them, such as family or personal causes. Balance supports people with the ups and downs of life. Its initiative paid off. Their Employee Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased from +16 to +24 in three years. 

In the commercial world, Net Promoter Scores evaluate customer responses to one simple question: On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend our brand to a friend or colleague?

In the workplace, when we look at our own internal customers, our colleagues, the question becomes ‘How likely are you to recommend the organisation as a place to work to a friend?’. This Employee NPS is therefore some of the best HR data we could have.

The answers speak volumes.

In a world where there is a talent shortage and increased competition, organisations can’t afford to ignore what their employees feel and think about the organisation. 

Wellbeing for life, not just work

For many of us, a large portion of our day is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend  90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. So surely it’s only natural to think about putting wellbeing – both at work and home – at the core of our people’s agenda.

I include work and home, as regardless of all the efforts a good employer can make to support their employee’s wellbeing, these won’t be really effective if staff don’t pay any attention to their wellbeing outside the workplace too. 

When lockdown was announced, an overwhelming number of people immediately went from working in an office to working in their living rooms and even bedrooms.

It has taken years, and a lot of resources, to build good wellbeing strategies and embed them into organisations, while promoting a healthy work-life balance. But not many of us were prepared for managing the blurred lines between work and personal space so quickly.

In part 2 of this article Oana will look at the importance of culture and technology’s role in wellbeing.


About the author

Oana Arama is founder and CEO of peopleknd. and has worked at The Fostering Network, UNICEF and the United Nations and teaches HR for the CIPD.


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