Employers must actively promote staff wellbeing
Workplace wellbeing programmes aid the employee, their family – and the firm
The definition of wellbeing in the workplace covers everything from free fruit snacks and healthy food options in the canteen to providing quiet spaces to think or relax.
Organisations that want to retain staff could do worse than splash some cash on wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. Why? Because six out of 10 employees say they are more likely to stay long term with an employer that shows concern for them.
The research, conducted in Ireland to coincide with National Workplace Wellbeing Day (which is backed by Food Drink Ireland and Ibec) also showed that nearly half of the 1,000 employees surveyed would leave a job where an employer doesn’t care about their wellbeing.
The definition of wellbeing in the workplace is broad and covers everything from offering free fruit snacks and healthy food options in the canteen to providing quiet spaces for people to think or relax. Also common are on-site mindfulness and exercise classes.
The World Health Organisation has thrown its weight behind wellbeing initiatives as it believes the workplace is an ideal large-scale setting in which to promote mental and physical health, not least because many workers are also parents with the power to influence the health of the next generation.
US multinational Boston Scientific employs 5,000 people in Ireland, making it one of the State’s largest employers. The company has three sites – Galway, Cork and Clonmel – and the Galway site is the largest with roughly 3,000 employees. Its vice-president for operations, James Lyons, believes employee wellbeing programmes are good for people and for business.
“We view our organisational culture as our competitive advantage in the marketplace and one of the ways we achieve this is through having a working environment that is diverse, inclusive and one where people are valued,” he says. “This requires employee engagement and people become engaged when they feel appreciated and cared for.
“In practical terms, this means offering a long list of opportunities from education to health screening, one-to-one counselling, calorie-controlled meals in the canteen and information events on nutrition fitness and mental health.
“We encourage exercise such as lunchtime walks around our 50-acre site and are very active around ergonomics and ensuring people are comfortable when working. To support this we have a physiotherapist on site.”
Lyons says the company measures its return on wellbeing investment in a number of ways.
“We have very low staff turnover and very good attendance, both of which are positive outcomes. But we also look at it in terms of how it supports our aim of continuous improvement across key areas such as safety, cost, quality and service,” he says. “We want people to bring us their ideas for improvement and innovation. If you create the right environment this happens.
“You also get better problem solving which feeds into our high-performance ethos. People tend to see the business as ‘their’ business and it becomes about ‘we’ or ‘us’ which is a much more contemporary approach to management than the traditional adult-child relationship that has existed for so long.”
Dietician Sarah Keogh of nutrition experts Eat Well has been running corporate wellness programmes for over a decade. She says demand has grown strongly in recent years.
Infertility and irritable bowel
“Employers and employees definitely seem to be more switched on and we get a very good uptake,” she says. “We typically visit twice a year and most of our clients have in excess of 40 employees. We offer programmes such as child nutrition, heart health, sports nutrition and healthy eating. The child nutrition programmes are really well-attended and equally so by men and women. Sports nutrition tends to be predominantly male participants. We also run one-to-one clinics and the biggest topics are infertility and irritable bowel.”
Darren McConnell, a corporate account manager with telecoms provider Magnet Networks, has been just over five years with the company and has participated in a number of its wellbeing initiatives, including health screening and the option to manage his working hours around his young family’s needs.
“The company is very proactive on wellbeing activities and there is usually something different happening each month,” he says. “In general, events are well-attended and, in my particular area, roughly 80 per cent of the sales team participate.
“The fact that the company shows an interest makes a difference. You definitely feel more engaged. We have fixed points such as the mile walk at lunchtimes on Wednesdays and fresh fruit deliveries twice a week and then less frequently events such as the health screening. The screening went down very well with people as it looked at key measurements such as BMI, cholesterol and blood sugar and if anyone had a problem it could be followed up.”
SMALL CHANGES, BIG IMPACT: SARAH KEOGH’S QUICK TIPS TO IMPROVE WELLBEING
Increase fibre. Add a hi-fibre cereal such as porridge or muesli and eat more seeds, beans and lentils.
Balance your meals. Half should be fruit and veg and a quarter each protein and carbohydrates. Follow this rule and it will make a big difference to how you feel and to your weight.
Take exercise. Aim for 10,000 steps a day. Most people are really surprised when they start counting and see how little they’re actually doing.