Does your organisation need an employee wellbeing manager?
Natasha Broomfield-Reid, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Specialist at law firm Mills & Reeve, discusses the role that a wellbeing manager can play, and why it is more crucial now than ever before.
The importance of employee wellbeing and its benefits to both companies and employees is increasingly recognised by business leaders. In the legal sector, it is rising up the agenda: research has found that 60% of firms had a wellbeing strategy in place in 2019, compared to 43% in 2017.
But although having a strategy in place is a critical first step, organisations also need to ensure that their HR teams have the resource, time and expertise needed to deliver on this strategy.
Often, responsibility for employee wellbeing is simply added to the ever-expanding remit of the HR team, but the success of an initiative depends on the amount of time a company is able to dedicate to it. This is where the role of the wellbeing manager comes in. Having someone to lead the development and implementation of a wellbeing strategy not only benefits a company’s workforce, but their clients and even the community.
At a time of great flux, wellbeing managers have been tackling the challenge of translating wellness endeavors into the remote working world, ensuring that employee wellbeing does not slip down the agenda in a climate when it’s needed most.
It has been the job of the wellness manager to make sure employees can reach out even when they’re not in the office.
Developing a socially conscious culture
Central to employee wellbeing is building a compassionate company culture. This includes finding ways for the organisation to engage with wider issues and causes. As well as making a positive impact on the community, engaging in social activities outside of the office can also increase employees’ sense of belonging, giving them the opportunity to bond with colleagues and, in doing so, expand their support network.
Research carried out by the National Centre of Volunteering showed that 77% of people agreed that volunteering had improved their mental health and wellbeing, and over half (53%) reported that it had improved their physical health.
Having a visible impact on your community is an extremely self-validating experience and can provide the sense of purpose and direction, which is often lost when people are struggling with poor mental health. Taking part in charity challenges also has multiple benefits for employees’ physical health, lowering stress levels and improving health.
At a time when volunteering in-person is difficult, think about ways that your charity endeavours can be translated into the remote-working world. At Mills & Reeve, we have set up our first ever virtual charity challenge, raising money for domestic abuse charity SafeLives.
Divided into two teams, our staff earn kilometres by running, cycling or walking. The kilometres covered by individual team members are added together, and the first team to cover the equivalent distance of going round each of our six offices is the winner.
Colleagues have also been uploading “life in lockdown” photos, with the best photos awarded additional kilometres in the competition. Not only are we raising money for an important cause, but colleagues are connecting with each other in a different way, having more conversations about non-work topics, and participating in something positive, collaborative and competitive. And we’re all getting fitter, too!
Encouraging a healthy work-life balance
To make employee wellbeing a priority, initiatives should be aligned with a company’s business strategy. REBA’s Employee Wellbeing research 2019 showed that 62% of boardrooms are worried about employees’ mental health, and at an organisational level, their biggest concern is high-pressure work environments. These issues are intertwined, revealing that dedicating time to employee wellbeing can have benefits for the business as a whole.
Company-wide wellness training courses such as mental health resilience and awareness equip employees to look after their own mental health, and also recognise when a co-worker may need help. Training a group of employees as mental health first aiders provides workers with multiple pillars of support.
With COVID-19 triggering a large-scale trial of remote working, it has been even more important for employees to engage in the behaviours that will help them to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
In-person activities such as mindfulness sessions and coffee socials have had to be taken online and mental health first aiders have had to adapt to supporting their colleagues either online or by phone. It has been the job of the wellness manager to make sure employees can reach out even when they’re not in the office.
A well-considered approach to wellbeing
As some companies begin to transition back to the office, it is vital that leaders stay focused on providing support to their employees and ensuring that staff wellbeing remains at the heart of ‘back-to-office’ strategies.
Having a dedicated wellbeing manager to monitor the results of initiatives, and ensure that they stay relevant and effective, will allow both employees and companies to reap the benefits: happier and more engaged staff, improved productivity, a healthy recruitment pipeline and better retention.
During difficult times, it is particularly vital that wellbeing is well-considered and adequately resourced.