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Strategy | 5 min read

Wellbeing, Actually

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Wellbeing, Actually

Start talking about workplace wellbeing and you will soon find yourself lost in a tangle of definitions about what it means. Social, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual - where does it start and where does it end and how much can a workplace influence wellbeing anyway?

Staff wellbeing is a high priority for many leadership teams, for a range of reasons: 

  • for its intrinsic value, as a first principle 

  • because wellbeing is strongly associated with high performance 

  • looking after the team is a great way of keeping a great team and attracting new members 

Start talking about workplace wellbeing and you will soon find yourself lost in a tangle of definitions about what it means. Social, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual - where does it start and where does it end and how much can a workplace influence wellbeing anyway?  

The "go to" strategy for many organisations is an incentivised employee wellbeing programs. What does that data tell us about these?  

The early results from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study - a large scale, randomised, controlled trial which is evaluating the effectiveness of a workplace wellness program - suggest that incentivised programs don't necessarily motivate individuals to behave in a more healthy way.  

A strategy that relies entirely on employee participation in activities misses an important point: what wellbeing means to one person can be quite different for someone else.  I may value discounted gym membership to boost my physical activity whereas my co-worker was never going to the gym anyway, and gets more out of meditation instruction or free fruit.   

Our 'Touchline' method can bring a level sophistication to a wellbeing strategy, that takes account of differences without getting lost in complexity.   

The first step of the method gives you a chance to turn wellbeing into a contextually relevant, and actionable, 'moment' of experience.   

That moment might be worded something like this: an employee enters your workspace energised and ready to do their best work  

The second step of the method maps out the differences between people. In our toolkit we create a writing space where a team can share insights about how feeling 'energised' is experienced from differing perspectives. It doesn't take long, and it leads to a strategy that doesn't just hit those same old cliched buttons.   

Our third step involves scanning the environment for a range of factors that play a promoting or inhibiting role for the experience we defined and the perspectives that we mapped.   

And here's the payoff: genuine impact through a range of strategies anchored to insight over what makes a difference in the real staff experience as it is lived.   

And yes, that might include somewhere a bowl of fruit, or a gym membership!   

Chances are, thought, there's plenty more to play with. In the Touchline toolkit that we are sharing in April, teams can scan a range of areas for strategic intervention, including what we call the three 'Touchlines': physical space, information flows, and shared understandings.  

A team can put together a multimodal plan pretty quickly in what we call a 'sprint' - the rapid actioning of multiple elements around a clearly defined outcome. For wellbeing it could be: access to natural light, more ergonomic furniture, provision of quiet spaces for retreat or focus, a flexible work policy and, yes, a program with opportunities to exercise.  

…or something else entirely. The challenge is to unravel the elements as they apply to your people, in your organisation. 

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This post is part of Amicus Strategy's 2019 series exploring how changes in the environment can be used to shape organisational culture. Click here to express interest in our Touchline toolkit and our event in April.  

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