Don’t waste money on wellbeing: A guide to boosting employee engagement in workplace wellness
Chris Pinner reveals why wellbeing matters and the 7 steps you'll need to engage employees at every level.
Reading time: 4 minutes
Vitality’s 2019 workplace wellbeing report revealed that only one in seven employees participate in wellbeing initiatives provided by employers.
Your perfect wellbeing strategy is pointless if employees don’t attend. Why is getting good engagement in workplace wellbeing sessions so hard?
Imagine the scenario. You’ve recognised the importance of wellbeing. HR have organised a fabulous wellbeing event for every employee. You’ve announced your vision of delivering ‘something for everyone’ and you are ready to show 100% of your team that you care.
When it comes to the day, the wellbeing week, or the annual wellbeing programme, attendance is low. You get 10% engagement, if you are lucky.
We’ve all been there. The problem is not just the time and money spent, but the loss of potential benefits for your workplace.
It’s time to get serious about boosting engagement in workplace wellbeing.
What are the potential barriers to good attendance?
If you have struggled to get the engagement you want, chances are these hurdles may have contributed:
- Senior leadership are not bought in to wellbeing.
- Managers feel they don’t have time to attend.
- HR/People Operations don’t attend sessions.
- Fear that colleagues/managers will perceive it as work avoidance.
- Lack of awareness of wellbeing events.
- Forgetfulness, event wasn’t added to schedule.
So how do you achieve maximum turnout to your wellbeing activities?
The good news is, wellbeing in your workplace doesn’t have to cost a packet. Here’s a closer look at both the theory and practice of what works.
What are the foundations of employee engagement in wellbeing?
Stakeholders and employees are more likely to engage if they are fully aware of the wider wellbeing strategy and its aims, and if they know it is not just a box-ticking exercise.
Only one in seven employees participate in wellbeing initiatives provided by employers
According to the CIPD, these are your must-haves:
- Ensure senior leaders understand the impact of workplace wellbeing.
- Those senior leaders need to champion wellbeing by attending.
- Train managers to manage people well. They need to support employee wellbeing alongside supporting them to do well in their careers.
- Provide easy access to external wellbeing providers such as occupational health, health and fitness providers, and mental health support.
- Investigate underlying reasons for absence, presenteeism and leaveism. Respond appropriately with sustainable solutions.
- Carry out a thorough audit to assess work-related stress and causes of poor health.
- Tailor a range of practices to suit the needs of your employees and of the organisation.
For further reading, Deloitte’s Workplace Health and Mental Wellbeing document is an in depth guide to help employers overcome the barriers to workplace wellbeing.
The report makes it clear that employers and employees have responsibilities to make workplace wellbeing effective. It highlights how the role of employers is referenced in mental health policies “more explicitly and with increasing frequency” than ever before.
It goes on to describe how employees must “become actively engaged in their own health and wellbeing and participate in strategies that promote both mental and physical wellbeing”.
Getting engagement from the get-go
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and neither should there be. Human variation means that the needs of your employees and your workplace are unique. Wellbeing activities must work for your employees, you only find that out by asking them.
Employees will engage with wellbeing activities they helped to create. Ask a wide range of pertinent questions using a range of techniques. Hold focus groups and invite everyone in the organisation to have their say. Offer exciting but manageable choices.
- Multiple choice – How frequently would you like to see wellbeing sessions? Monthly, weekly, daily?
- Open questions – What would help you to feel happier at work? What does ‘wellbeing’ mean to you?
How to really boost engagement in wellbeing sessions
You have set the foundations, you have engaged your team from the start, you now need to promote the sessions you have booked in. Here is a HEALTHY guide to help you make it happen:
Keep a human touch. Nothing makes you feel more wanted than a personal invite. Speak face-to-face with employees at every level, encourage them to enjoy this great opportunity. Give regular and sustained reminders: a month before, a week before, the day before and an hour before.
Make it easy to attend. Make it super-simple to engage from the start, invite people to join with a calendar invite. Ensure there are no clashes with big meetings. Plan communication as part of your strategy so everyone knows it is happening.
Produce promotional content to communicate key details clearly. Let everyone know that the sessions are “FREE TO ATTEND” and if possible, promote with FREE food to entice people in. The reality is that it works.
Leverage everything you can. Promote across all channels (company newsletter, Slack, posters, e-boards, email, intranet, company meetings) and brand your marketing. If you have a marketing department then get some help.
Send reminders from two weeks out to build buzz, seven days before to ensure it’s in diaries and one day ahead to nudge people to attend. Lastly, 10 minutes before, do a walk-around.
Ask wellbeing ambassadors to spread the word and get people along on the day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you are ‘doing wellbeing’ properly and for the right reasons, then make as much noise about it as possible. Publicise it everywhere, internally and externally.
So, in summary …
Getting maximum engagement in workplace wellbeing may take time and effort to get right, but the results are worth it. Happier and more engaged employees with a shared vision are more productive, work well together and are far less likely to leave.
About the author
Chris Pinner is the founder of Innerfit.
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