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Supporting your people through the pandemic and beyond

There has never been a better time to celebrate workplace wellbeing

This year’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day (NWWD) takes place on Friday, April 30th and promises to be bigger and better, with more organisations participating, than ever before.

That’s no surprise, given that the pandemic has turbocharged all our interest in health and wellbeing.

The event is run by Ibec, which pioneered the concept as the first workplace health and wellness event of its kind in Europe when it launched seven years ago.

NWWD offers employers a unique opportunity to showcase all the ways they have been supporting staff over this past, critical year. It also provides them with a source of fresh ideas, borrowing from initiatives that are working for their peers.

It’s why Ibec is calling on all employers to sign up for National Workplace Wellbeing Day, regardless of size or sector, as they support staff through the pandemic and beyond.

Focus on physical, mental and social health

This year’s NWWD focuses on the three pillars that support overall wellness – physical wellbeing, mental health and social connection.

The world of work may have been transformed by the mass shift to working from home, or social distancing at work, but employers still hold a responsibility for the wellbeing of their staff.

NWWD celebrates the variety of supports businesses have already put in place for employees over the past year and helps them find new ways to do more, or better.

It couldn’t come at a better time. Now, more than one year into a pandemic, there is a risk that fatigue around wellbeing-related activities could set in. NWWD is a way to reinvigorate workplace wellness and replenish it with new ideas.

Registering for NWWD also shows the world your commitment to your people.

Get involved

That more than 1000 businesses participated in NWWD last year is a testament to the great work Ireland’s employers are doing on the wellness front.

Ibec’s Wellbeing Barometer 2020 shows there are now, on average, six workplace wellbeing initiatives in Irish businesses, from mental health and work life balance supports to physical activity plans.

“Wellbeing is always important but this year, one year into a global pandemic, it is especially so,” says Sharon Higgins, Ibec’s director of Membership and Sectors.

“It’s why we are asking all businesses to participate on the day, both to show all the good things they are doing and to enable them to learn from – and benchmark against – one another. It’s also a great day of fun and social connection.”

What’s best for your organisation?

National Workplace Wellbeing Day is a great launchpad for organisations looking to promote their wellbeing offering internally. However, a year-long effort when it comes to wellbeing is even more important.

Consistently checking in with employees allows companies to track wellness trends, figure out what is and isn’t working, and find new practices that are a good fit for their particular operation, whether their staff are working from home or socially distanced in the office.

The simplest initiatives can be the most effective, says Higgins. At Ibec, simply ensuring video meetings run for 25 minutes rather than for half an hour for example helps staff manage workloads better.

Ibec has social activities too, such as a virtual choir and online language learning classes.

Some organisations have introduced ‘no meeting Fridays’, while others run exercise programmes, or provide Pilates, yoga or mindfulness classes online.

“We’ll be collating all of them on National Workplace Wellbeing Day, giving companies a chance to show what they are doing, and giving fresh ideas to others as part of the community piece of the event,” says Higgins.

Take your temperature

The event helps participants to ‘temperature check’ their organisation in relation to workplace wellness, including social connection.

“Very many organisations have introduced new onboarding practices, for example, including buddy systems and newbie virtual coffee mornings, to help bring people together,” says Higgins.

Wellbeing is always important but this year, one year into a global pandemic, it is especially so

Practices are evolving too, from one size fits all activities – such as standard ‘couch to 5km’ or daily step challenges - to more bespoke ones which use, for example, internal apps so staff can check in with one another about their progress.

Such apps can provide staff with a range of employee news, and facilitate subgroups centred around shared interests, from photography to parenting.

“NWWD is an opportunity to get out and make some noise for wellbeing, to show what companies are doing. That’s important for all of us because if the employee is engaged, the company is engaged,” says Higgins.

Keep on keeping well

NWWD is just one of the ways Ibec helps organisations to support staff wellbeing.

Others includes its KeepWell Mark, a workplace wellbeing accreditation framework that allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to employee wellness.

In the run up to NWWD KeepWell Mark will publish its index of companies leading in wellbeing, all of which have achieved independently verified high standards in this area, from good leadership or absence management to physical activity, healthy eating and mental health supports.

“We are seeing a huge groundswell in the numbers of people getting involved,” says Kara McGann, Ibec’s head of social policy.

“In the early days of the pandemic it was about how do we support people with practicalities, such as the tools to work remotely and the flexibility they needed to do it. Then the focus was on mental health and managing it.  As the lockdowns continued, the focus shifted to include social wellbeing too,” explains McGann.

“Social connection strengthens us as individuals because we are social creatures. It strengthens the business too in terms of retention and productivity. That casual interaction of the office is gone. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’, now we know it is a ‘must have’, something we have to pay attention to, because, if we don’t, engagement, creativity and innovation all suffer.”

Be bespoke

Many organisations already have wellbeing initiatives in place. Now it’s time to promote tailored initiatives, the kind that lead to greater social cohesion, she advises.

A lot more thought is going into workplace wellbeing programmes now

For example, while companies usually mark events such as new babies, big birthdays and retirements, now many are sending out care packages to their employees, at times like Christmas and Easter too, to boost morale. “It’s a way of saying we may not be together but we are all part of the same team,” says McGann.

It has been a hard year but the lessons learned during it will endure long into the future.

“A lot more thought is going into workplace wellbeing programmes now. If we were to look for a silver lining, it would be that people have really focused on mental health and wellbeing,” says McGann.

“Even people who have never had an issue with their mental health before, who have had no experience of a problem with it, will probably have some experience of it now.”