10 tips from Vitality: How to support staff through challenging times

10 years old. Gold balloons number 10th anniversary, happy birthday congratulations. 3d rendering.
While it’s absolutely crucial to have a purpose – “to find our why”, you also need to understand “the how” when it comes to implementing a total workforce wellbeing solution.
From sharing stories to keeping staff wellbeing at the top of the business agenda, here, Vitality’s Adam Saville shares 10 key insights gained from conversations with HR specialists and workplace wellbeing professionals.

1. Sharing stories helps to communicate our ‘why’

At a recent Vitality at Work away day, event host Jill Pritchard presented her own story, how she went from a 13-year career developing cancer drug pathways in the NHS to leading the launch of Vitality’s uninsured workplace wellbeing behaviour change programme, Vitality at Work. “A focus on prevention rather than cure would be a better way to help the NHS,” she realised.

2. They can also help change the world…

Vitality Performance Champion, Samantha Murray, meanwhile, shared how she discovered that storytelling – in her case, her pursuit of Olympic success at London 2012 in the Pentathlon event – was a way to convince an unhealthy and overworked law firm to change their perspective on wellness and finding a better work-life balance.

3. It takes 66 days to form a habit

“Change is hard,” added Samantha. “People are not born ready to make a positive lifestyle change, it is a conscious effort.” Referring to the Vitality Programme, with its incentives and rewards, she held up Stanley – the famous Vitality dachshund – as an example. He learns good habits and is rewarded for them. “We’re exactly the same,” she added. “We love positive feedback and building healthy habits is based on rewards and recognition.”

4. Organisations have a responsibility to keep people healthy

The UK is Europe’s most obese country with the highest suicide rate. Over two thirds (67%) of men are overweight and obese in this country. Organisations have a crucial role to play when it comes to supporting the health and wellbeing of staff, through offering services such as employee assistance programmes (EAP), counselling and talking therapies, as well as encouraging physical activity and preventative lifestyle choices, Samantha explained.

5. Work has the ability to be a “force for good”

With the winter months approaching, employees will increasingly look to their employers for support. A point reinforced by Professor Dame Carol Black, who highlighted that it’s socio-economic conditions that help determine the health of our population. “Without a certain level of mental and physical health we cannot work,” she said. “Enabling people to be well and healthy is important and good work has the ability to change our health and be a force for good.”

6. Covid made workplace wellbeing a priority and it needs to stay that way

The pandemic may have put the spotlight on staff wellbeing. Keeping it on it – while attention turns to navigating the cost-of-living crisis – could prove to be a challenge, with some attendees sharing that they are seeing signs it is starting to slip off the agenda. However, as Dame Carol put it: “We’ve been through Brexit, followed by a pandemic during which every one of us has at some point questioned our own existence. With the UK facing a recession, workplace wellbeing has to be seen within this new context. Businesses are more than ever expected to deliver workplaces that are good for us.”

7. There are three main basics needed for a total workforce solution

According to Dame Carol Black, three key ingredients make up an effective workplace wellbeing strategy. They are:

  • Good leadership and engagement from the Board, preferably one that has a Wellbeing Champion on it.
  • People-centric line managers. “Staff ultimately want to work with autonomy, be trusted and listened too,” she said.
  • Data is also really important. “If you can measure it, it can be shared and then you can evidence return on investment (ROI) and make a solid business case.”

8. Engagement is key to unlocking staff productivity

“You can’t drive performance without staff wellbeing,” explained Dame Carol. This makes communicating the value of benefits to employees all the more important. Otherwise, they simply won’t use them. A common obstacle faced by HR experts in the room, however, is getting messaging right so that it connects individuals on a human level, while also appealing to a broad section of the workforce. “Employees are increasingly looking for a more personalised approach – one that speaks directly to them,” said Dame Carol. This is where offering choice through a range of benefits all in one place can really make a difference.

9. Data is knowledge and knowledge is power

In order to really understand an organisation and its people, gathering data is crucial. This management information can also be used build a clear picture of the wellbeing of the workforce, which can also help steer the business towards the right interventions and shape its strategy. It can also be used to build a case for an employee health initiative and demonstrate return on investment (ROI) to senior stakeholders. In the words of Dame Carol: “If you can’t measure the size of a problem, how can you even begin to solve it?”

10. Now is the time to put the ‘S’ into ESG strategies

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards are playing an increasingly important role in Board conversations at present, and it’s clear from conversations at Champneys that an important driver going forward will be greater focus on putting the ‘S’ – the social – into ESG strategies. With businesses today expected to do more than just turn over a profit – and actually do good – more eyes will be on how employers are supporting staff right now, especially as we go deeper into economic uncertainty. That’s why we believe that a total workforce solution offering savings and benefits, as well as helps gets the most out of its people can be the answer. After all, a healthier organisation is good for everyone involved, including its individuals, the business and society as a whole.

Employee health, wellbeing and engagement has never been more important. Find out more about how Vitality at Work helps employees understand their health and reward them for getting healthy, while also providing support for mental wellbeing and musculoskeletal issues here.

To get deeper insight into the employee health and wellbeing of your organisation, why not take part in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace? Find out more.

A version of this article originally appeared on Vitality Adviser Insights Hub.

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