In the final part of her exploration of wellbeing Oana Arama provides a case study from The Fostering Network.
Wellbeing cannot just stand alone. It needs to be part of the overall organisational strategy. Initiatives should be designed to promote the organisational values and principles, personal growth, good work, financial wellbeing as well as mental and physical health.
The Fostering Network have worked hard to embed an organisational culture where the wellbeing of staff shapes the way we work. Like many other organisations, we quickly reinforced our wellbeing and offered staff different platforms and opportunities to connect with others, including with our chief executive and other members of our senior leadership team.
Staying in touch and strengthening our communications was hugely important. Acknowledging the challenges and offering support to mitigate them were also key pillars of our approach.
In 2018 The Fostering Network launched Striving for Excellence, a staff engagement programme that, amongst other key topics, looks at wellbeing. I believe that all that work has paid off, in the last few months more than ever. It showed us that we can rely on the pillars we built before the storm.
The culture of the organisation is continuously evolving to improve the wellbeing of our staff and, in so doing, it positively supports a healthy work/life balance in various ways. We have a variety of staff benefits that cater to our staff needs and overall wellbeing.
We also know from our staff surveys that our focus on wellbeing is one of the key reasons why we are an employer of choice
For instance, all staff have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, Occupational Health service, a range of flexible working arrangements, enhanced maternity pay, learning and development resources, staff discount vouchers and established staff engagement initiatives, to name a few.
We pride ourselves on being one of the Sunday Times top 100 Best Companies to Work For in the not-for-profit sector, and have been included in this list for the past three years. We also know from our staff surveys that our focus on wellbeing is one of the key reasons why we are an employer of choice.
In March we closed our offices due to the pandemic and quickly put in place a weekly staff meeting led by our chief executive. The meetings were informal and the focus was to give staff the freedom to talk about anything, including their experiences of lockdown, home projects such as DIY initiatives, baking, music and anything else they felt comfortable sharing.
We knew that staff didn’t necessarily want another space to talk more about work, but rather to decompress, together, after another working day from our transformed living rooms. I can’t stress enough how vital this relational interaction is.
We also introduced the ‘Wellbeing e-goody bag’ as one way to encourage staff to look into a mix of exciting new resources on wellbeing and physical and mental health. So far, we have shared resources like mindfulness exercises and tips, the importance of journaling and reflection, tips on daily exercise and so on. We will continue to add resources to the e-goody bag as we move forward.
Technology has become our main way to connect to others and we took advantage of the different communication tools already in place.
Among these resources, we found the wellbeing eLearning course, provided by the Charity Learning Consortium, useful, along with some of Liggy Webb’s bite sized books. Liggy’s little books cover topics like resilience, mental health, positive mindset or burnout, just to mention a few.
Technology can actually be one of the best wellbeing allies in the workplace if used appropriately and effectively. L&D professionals have always had to change the way they deliver learning in order to adjust to changing working environments. The pandemic has accelerated this process, not started it.
Of course physical wellbeing is just as vital as mental health. In order to ensure staff had the necessary tools to do their jobs at home, without jeopardising their overall wellbeing, we made sure the right equipment was sent to them. It’s not an easy task to create an office space overnight but we think we are doing a good job.
It can be hard to track progress when it comes to wellbeing initiatives as it’s difficult to isolate the impact of increased wellbeing initiatives in wider research. There are more tangible areas of work that are easier to measure, such as a training programme on customer service. Statistics could demonstrate the effectiveness of the training by showing a reduction of customer complaints, for example.
When it comes to wellbeing, or a lack of wellbeing, the impact of this will be felt in all parts of the organisation and touches on everything from overall individual performance, sickness absence, motivation and engagement, employee retention and even brand.
Have you ever read a Glassdoor review from an upset employee that says: ‘My employer didn’t book me onto that customer services training so I’m going to leave the place and I advise you to never apply for a job there?’ I haven’t. On the other hand, I’ve read numerous employer reviews that mention lack of work-life balance, lack of support when it comes to mental health, no resources put into wellbeing, stressed and anxious employees and the list can go on. Would you work in such an organisation? I don’t think I would.
The role of L&D professionals in promoting wellbeing is critical but can be complex, you’re not just a facilitator, you almost become the ‘conscience’ of your organisation. You have a pivotal role in ensuring that all staff, volunteers and line managers have the resources, knowledge and skills they need in this area, as well as ensuring that organisations don’t just pay lip service to wellbeing with one off initiatives.
Three tips for supporting workplace wellbeing
- Always look at the big picture when it comes to wellbeing in your organisation – it should be part and parcel of everything that your organisation does.
- Remember the human behind the ‘employee’ label, and put your people at the centre of everything. Keep in touch with your staff. Ask them for feedback. Create focus groups and engage them, ask them what works well and what could be improved. You won’t get everything right on your own! People often know what they want and/or need to learn. Keep reviewing your feedback and employee data to see how well you are doing in this area.
- Remember your own wellbeing while you are trying to support your colleagues. Reflect on where you stand when it comes to your own work/life balance and overall wellbeing and ask for support if you need it.
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.