10 Top Wellbeing at Work Ideas From Leading Organisations

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Congratulations on making it through another challenging and unpredictable work year. With the threat of another lockdown looming, we wanted to take a moment to focus on the positive by exploring some of the great wellbeing at work ideas we’ve seen implemented this year.

We’ve had the privilege of working with a huge variety of different businesses this year and observed a variety of inspirational approaches to improving wellbeing under very difficult circumstances. We’ve noticed time and again that most effective ideas tend to fall under two broad categories:

Supporting staff to create healthy boundaries in and around the working day
Strengthening the sense of human connection within the organisation

Are you ready to be a wellbeing genius in 2022?

In this blog, we’ll be sharing the top 5 wellbeing at work ideas we’ve seen in action this year for both of these categories. We hope this provides some useful fuel for your wellbeing at work creativity and innovation going into 2022!

A) Supporting staff to create healthy boundaries in and around the working day

1. Give your staff a personal allowance for wellbeing activities and equipment

What it looks like in action

Each individual has a £200 annual wellbeing allowance that they can spend on something to improve their wellbeing e.g. fitness/yoga equipment, mindfulness app subscription, etc.

In order to receive the allowance, staff apply for it, explaining what they will buy and how it will benefit their wellbeing. This then gets signed off by their manager and staff get reimbursed after submitting a receipt.

Why it works

Wellbeing at work isn’t one-size-fits all and especially when it comes to ways people like to relax. Giving staff the autonomy to develop or discover interests empowers them to support their own wellbeing rather than the organisation trying to tell them what to do. This also tends to be a great workaround where take-up of organised group wellbeing activities is low.

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2. Give your staff an allowance to improve their working environment

What it looks like in action

Each employee receives a £100 grant they can spend to enhance their workspace e.g. purchasing a room divider if they work in the bedroom, buying a comfortable chair, etc. Again, the purchase is signed off by their manager in advance and staff get reimbursed after submitting a receipt.

Why it works

We spend hundreds of hours in our workspaces each year so small changes can generate a significant impact when the benefits are added up over time. Changes that reduce the dispiriting ‘Groundhog day’ feeling of living in your office or eliminate ergonomic issues and physical discomfort, help to boost not just wellbeing but also concentration and productivity. Small investments like this that recapture even a very small amount of productive time each week can pay for themselves rapidly and yield a significant positive ROI.

3. Agree and implement an evening ‘switch off’ time for team communications

What it looks like in action

In your next team meeting, agree a time when communications for the evening will stop. No instant messages, e-mails or calls after this time. If you feel yourself being tempted – put the device down! It’s important to allow some lead-time and communicate when the new rule will come into force. This lets people plan ahead about how they’ll adapt and get ready for the change.

In international organisations working across many time zones, restricting hours on when messages are sent can be less effective. Instead focus on a time when devices will be switched off and messages will not be checked until the following morning.

Why it works

Late night emails can often result in anxiety, particularly among junior staff. It may also encourage staff to work during time when they should be relaxing and recharging. Disruption to rest time and sleep will hurt productivity in the long run and risk burn-out. Furthermore, research has shown that restricting work hours is not detrimental and may even be beneficial to staff productivity.

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Level-up your switching off skills for a wellbeing boost

4. Create protected ‘Focus Time’ where team members are not expected to attend meetings or respond to messages

What it looks like in action

Some of our clients have been designating ‘Teams-free Time’ between 12PM-2PM every day. No meetings, calls or slack messages are permitted during this time. Staff are not expected to respond during this time and encouraged to work on a task requiring deep focus, take their lunch break and go outside. One organisation even has an entire ‘Focus Friday’ where no meetings and calls are scheduled for the day.

Why it works

We are in an attention crisis. The more distractions we have, the more likely we are to self-interrupt when trying to focus, eroding our productive capacity. Supporting people to hone the brain’s ‘attention muscles’ helps people to feel less overwhelmed and scattered, boosting their wellbeing and their productive output.

5. Kick off meetings with a wellbeing check-in

What it looks like in action

Every meeting starts with a short discussion of how people’s weekend went and a wellbeing or self-care goal they have for the week. At the next meeting, the team sees if they achieved their goals and also discusses what has gone well recently.

Why it works

Creating opportunities for teams to connect on a deeper level helps to boost wellbeing and helps people to work better together. During periods of uncertainty, creating mini routines can help people feel a sense of stability. It also helps to encourage a habit of prioritising wellbeing and reflecting on the positive, even when times are tough and self-care can feel like a struggle.

B) Strengthening the sense of human connection within your organisation

1. Offer meaningful volunteering opportunities within your organisation

What it looks like in action

One client introduced a range of new project groups focused on a number of key issues e.g wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, environment, etc. These groups collectively set goals, allocate roles and responsibilities, and share their progress within the organisation. Designating a leader and a sponsor from senior leadership helped to raise both the profile and impact of the groups.

Why it works

Volunteering provides an opportunity for individuals to connect and contribute to something bigger than their day-to-day work. Depending on your role and your industry, staff may have found themselves struggling to find a sense of meaning and purpose over the course of the pandemic. Giving people the chance to connect to others about a topic they feel passionately about can often help to fulfil that need. This is even more important for individuals who are living alone and are seeking more opportunities for social connection.

2. Normalise discussing wellbeing at work regularly at your organisation

What it looks like in action

Managers are supported with training on how they can discuss wellbeing with their team-members and offer support. Every one-to-one meeting starts with an informal conversation about wellbeing. If an issue comes up, the manager offers a listening ear and supports the employee to identify next steps which might help the issue. The manager then takes any relevant actions and follows up with the team member afterwards.

Why it works

It can be tempting to dive straight into work, but being able to broach personal issues when there is a need is an important aspect of psychological safety. Many people find it difficult to talk to their manager when they have a wellbeing issue for fear of it being perceived as a weakness or inadequacy. Regular wellbeing check-ins are a way to ensure all staff have this opportunity and know that judgement-free support is available. It also creates accountability for both the manager and team member to dedicate time and attention to their wellbeing.

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Aim to make wellbeing a regular part of meetings and one-to-ones

3. Formalise your approach to wellbeing and stress management within your organisation

What it looks like in action

The organisation adopts a written strategy with clear, measurable goals and timelines for improving wellbeing and managing stress. These targets are supported through specific initiatives that are sponsored by senior leadership. There is a communications plan to support these initiatives and maximize opportunities for staff participation. An employee feedback system is in place to gather insight on the effectiveness of the strategy. Finally, the strategy is reviewed and improved on a regular basis based on the latest available data.

Why it works

More and more organisations are waking up to the fact that wellbeing and productivity are so intricately connected that wellbeing needs to be embedded into the fabric of the company strategy. Often wellbeing initiatives fall down because organisations are not thinking holistically and have overlooked some of the key elements laid out above. In these uncertain times, a degree of stress at work is unavoidable, but it’s always possible to lessen the impact and support people to manage their workload, prioritise and communicate effectively.

4. Lead from the top and lead by example

What it looks like in action
Senior leadership taking some time to share stories about the challenges they have faced with their wellbeing during the pandemic. This could be a few minutes at the start of an all-staff meeting, a section in an annual newsletter, or a regular feature in your wellbeing comms plan.

Why it works
Humans have evolved to connect and learn through storytelling. Knowing that someone is going through something similar to you, helps build empathy, compassion and connection. Realising that you’re not alone in your challenges and worries is usually powerful and reassuring. It can also help to humanise some of the more senior members of your team amongst staff that don’t work with them closely.

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When leadership speak openly about their wellbeing it has powerful ripple effects

5. Make sure your wellbeing communications are focused, specific and aligned

What it looks like in action

One company decided to empower people to say no as a way of helping them prioritise and manage workload. They did this through a multi-tiered approach. The importance of saying no and the fact that people were encouraged to do so was consistently reiterated in regular talks by senior leadership across the entire organisation. This was supported by employee workshops for staff on the topics of prioritisation and communication, with particular attention paid to respecting boundaries when people set them.

Why it works
Often organisations say they want their staff to look after themselves, but then staff get penalised if they cannot fulfil the unrealistic work expectations set by leadership. This can often lead to staff members feeling inadequate and like they are ‘failing’. This pressure can harm mental wellbeing and create risk of burnout. By contrast, creating an environment where employees are trusted to know and communicate their limits, helps the organisation to set realistic targets and work at a sustainable pace. This enhances organisational wellbeing, resilience and productivity in the long term.

Final Thoughts

Culture change can often feel overwhelming as there are so many different directions and approaches you might follow. We always suggest trying to keep things simple, so maybe identify just one change you’d like to make this year as a next step. A wise person once said, you don’t need to see the whole staircase in order to take the first step.

If you feel like you need a helping hand, we’re always here to offer support with culture change plans and wellbeing workshops.

Need a Hand?

If you’re searching for a partner to help improve wellbeing and happiness in your workplace, get in touch with a friendly member of our team. We’re here to help you reach your goals.

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Rosa Connor

Co-founder & Director of Programmes, Haptivate

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