Wellbeing support in UK businesses is ‘far from optimal’, and stands to worsen if employers go through with plans to weaken the support they offer post-pandemic and fail to define what ‘wellbeing’ means for them, according to a study.
Only two in five (37%) of HR professionals, middle managers and c-suite executives polled for research by Ipsos and wellbeing and performance company GoodShape said they expected the occupational health services currently in place to remain post-pandemic, while only 44% said the same of mental health services.
This is despite the research finding that such services are “much needed”. Seventy-one per cent of respondents said mental health initiatives are “much needed”, while 64% said the same for occupational health.
“I find those numbers quite astounding, given where we’ve come from throughout the pandemic and knowing what lies ahead,” said GoodShape’s director of operations Amanda Manser at last week’s Health and Wellbeing at Work conference in Birmingham. “Instead of meeting the need for continued support, organisations are instead taking their foot off the gas.”
She said one of the main reasons behind the poor state of employee wellbeing support in the UK is organisations lacking an end goal or failing to define what ‘wellbeing’ means to them.
“Policies and programmes are being implemented without an end goal first being identified. The responsibility around defining wellbeing seems to rest with HR, but even leaders acknowledge that perception of wellbeing can vary across the hierarchy of their organisation,” said Manser.
“Without a definition of wellbeing, all you have is good intentions. It’s impossible to plan and allocate responsibilities.
“A positive finding from our survey is that there’s clearly no lack of good intention, with 82% of HR and management professionals describing their organisation as being engaged in wellbeing. Imagine what could be achieved if those good intentions were channelled towards a clearly defined goal?”
There is also confusion over who “owns” wellbeing support, with HR professionals largely feeling it was their responsibility, but middle managers believed that the board should be responsible.
Manser said the entire leadership team should care about staff wellbeing, not just HR or OH, because it affected all levels.
Manser set out a five-point plan for a successful wellbeing support strategy:
- Define wellbeing – “What it means for your organisation, the unique issues affecting your people, what you want to achieve and what’s currently getting in your way,” said Manser
- Make sure there is shared ownership – “[A wellbeing strategy] needs buy in from across your leadership team as they all stand to benefit,” she said. “People should clearly know their part in the project.”
- Document the impact the programme has – “Make it specific to your organisation. Understand what’s important, what opportunities exist, and what might stand in your way,” said Manser.
- Make sure your people have the skills and knowledge to make it work – “Don’t expect managers to take on tasks that should sit with experienced experts,” she said. “Call in specialist support to stay on track.”
- Make sure you track your successes – “Make it time specific, ensure you have the tools in place to clearly see what’s working well and what needs improvement,” she said.
The survey of 311 HR professionals and 397 middle managers also found that:
- 45% of middle managers and 47% of HR professionals had an occupational health service in place at their organisation
- 15% of middle managers and 23% of HR professionals had a company doctor or nurse service
- 47% of middle managers and 59% of HR professionals had mental health initiatives in place.