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Workplace wellness: a manager's guide

By Angela Knox | May 6, 2021


Post-pandemic, the need and demand for workplace wellness programmes are going to skyrocket.

Offering individualised access to physical and mental health support will be the ideal antidote to a period of huge uncertainty and upheaval.

Especially as many staff are experiencing a heightened awareness of health issues.

Some may be returning to regular work patterns after periods of inactivity and over-eating too!

This is a managers guide to whats involved, and how technology-based workplace wellness programmes work.

The reasons wellness programmes are a sound investment

The advantages of investing in the health and moodof employees have been widely discussed. However, it is worth reminding ourselves of just some of the benefits of introducing workplace wellness programmes.

It's the best way to reduce absenteeism, keeping staff healthier but also more motivated to come to work (or work from home) and contribute as part of a unified team.

Productivity deficits due to staff illness cost the UK economy around £91 billion a year.

On the other hand, one major employer reported that their workplace wellness programme cut sick days by 28%.

Consistently nurturing and encouraging fitness and good mental health will also boost staff satisfaction.

Employees will have more energy, focus and commitment because of the physical and mental support they receive, and your caring and appropriate measures that will improve their lifestyle.

There is evidence to suggest this leads to better staff retention, recruitment, and building that all-important ‘employer brand’.

Plus, you may also find staff are more willing to discuss and address health issues with you as they are benefitting from a culture of openness and support.

What sort of things should you set up?

The first thing managers need to keep in mind is that consistency is vital.

This is not a quick fix or something you can achieve with an annual Better Healthweek at work. Supporting physical and mental wellbeing should be ongoing.

Also, you need to find workplace wellness activities that are suitable for all ages, abilities and needs.

Not everyone wants to do lunchtime yoga or listen to smoking cessation presentations in the staff canteen!

Fortunately, this is where technology comes into its own.

A perfect example is the Keep Fit Eat Fit platform. Based on a user-friendly dashboard, your team can be engaged quickly and supported to find their own groove.

The platform includes a shared social media wall which can help unite staff around common goals and to support each other. 

Any resource that is simple to set up and use, and includes a rich depth of content, preferably with some gamification, will help to increase engagement from employees - one of the big challenges of all wellbeing programmes.

How can you motivate employees?

Its all very well putting into place a series of options, but how do you engage staff in workplace wellbeing projects, particularly shy or stubborn folk?

Getting over this obstacle can start from making your programme of activities diverse – with something for everyone – and also presenting the package in an individual way.

Staff must feel encouraged rather than mandated to take part; and that there is no judgement, just support.

Here's a quotation that shows a live example of this from Becky Thoseby, Head of Workplace Wellbeing MoJ

At the Ministry of Justice we take a person centred approach to wellbeing, which essentially means we treat each employee as an individual with their own unique package of needs.  At the heart of this approach is the line manager relationship, so we encourage line managers to have regular wellbeing conversations with their team members, ideally as part of normal business.  We provide a framework to ensure these conversations are action focused, with responsibility being shared between the jobholder and the line manager.

Participation in any wellbeing programme has to be optional, however making it as easy and appealing as possible is the key to success. 

Some kind of reward system is also a good idea, and gamification injects another level of encouragement to maximise individual usage and also benefit.  

If you can provide practical help for all the primary elements of wellbeing - physical, mental and financial - you will enable your employees to derive maximum benefit from the synergy of all working together.

By aiming to have everything you need in one straightforward but effective package, you won’t need to shop around for different staff support activities - hugely convenient for managers, and a big thumbs up for user engagement.

Another often cited reservation for sign-up to a programme is that of privacy - as many apps will collect data for not always obvious purposes. 

If you can maintain confidentiality of user data you will be favoured by your employees, as they will be safe in the knowledge that no-one is spying on their behaviour and their personal details will always be safe.

And also, keep in mind as a manager that one of the best ways to secure engagement in wellness activities in the workplace is to lead by example!

Don't forget supervisors and managers

There is a natural tendency to put a lot of emphasis in helping employees to feel (and work) better, possibly overlooking the special wellness needs of higher grade staff.

There are some excellent ways to manage stress and revitalise teams under pressure.

Taking time out to use mindfulness and meditation sessions could help you to develop all-important relaxation techniques.

When combined with fitness activities, healthy eating and plenty of sleep, you can release endorphins that help you to feel more energised and ready for anything.

Perhaps the biggest paybackfor you though, is knowing that by introducing a full spectrum wellbeing programme to your team, you have shown authentic emotional intelligence and leadership, by fostering a healthier workplace for all.

Angela Knox

Angela Knox

I am a co-founder and director of Keep Fit Eat Fit Wellbeing Ltd and have come from a business and marketing background over many years, with a particular interest in everything to do with health, fitness and overall wellbeing. Having worked in offices for decades, I know the pitfalls of too much sitting at a desk, the challenges of fitting the gym around other commitments, and all the issues addressed within our website. The personal experiences of me and my partner Mark were the original inspiration for the concept of this website. Enjoy!