Feeling unmotivated at work? You have the power to influence corporate culture and wellbeing programmes to improve your workplace experiences.
Wellness programmes are all the rage right now as employers increasingly recognise their duty of care for those who spend so much of their lives in the workplace. Many of the most successful companies have adopted a scheme and they come in many different shapes and sizes.
REI offers their employees two paid days off a year called “Yay Days, championing time spent out in the fresh air. Pinterest offers two counselling sessions to help ease employees back into a new working life post maternity leave. Evernote chooses to host skill and improvement classes through their “Evernote Academy,” offering team-building courses like macaroon baking. Twitter on the other hand champions wellness through on-site acupuncture and improv classes. And Salesforce employees get a total of six paid days off to volunteer each year, plus money to donate to a charity of their choosing.
There are many potential benefits of a wellness programme for both the employee and the employer, but designing a scheme that suits the culture and needs of each organisation can be difficult. Having the ideas and feedback from the workforce as to what wellness activities could be provided could be the key to creating a programme that works well for all.
So, as an employee, what do you want from your workplace wellness programme?
Care for wellbeing
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found from their survey samples that 59.4% of workers think their employers should endeavour to improve the health of their employees. So any kind of wellness plan is a positive step in the right direction. But think bigger than just a lunchtime yoga class, warns Jazz Sandhu, Founder of The Hour, an employee wellbeing company. ‘In our experience, there is a disjoint between employee needs and employer solutions when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace. Firstly, employer initiatives often tend to focus on a weekly class and perhaps a daily fruit basket. Whereas employees are looking for a working environment which positively supports their wellbeing. And a class or fruit simply isn’t going to fix that.’
What do you want from life in general?
There’s tonnes of research out there on what individuals want from their working life, and this is a great place to start when requesting wellness recourses from your workplace. Research recently found that the top factor for employees in their job is good health insurance. Another survey found for millennials, soon to be the largest in our workforce population, other than salary, good work life balance was their top priority.
Consider what you want for workplace culture
A culture that supports you at work is vital for your wellbeing, says Wellness Manager Fiona Berry. ‘People need to be able to show up to work as themselves and be supported in a way that allows them to thrive. This includes mental, physical and environmental wellbeing.’ So what can our employers do in order to achieve this? ‘At a very basic level, is the person comfortable in their environment to do their work?’ asks Berry. ‘Are they given adequate flexibility to fit in movement throughout the day and is this actively encouraged? Does the person have the support network, within their team and from management to get the job done?’. If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you may need to organise a catch up with your HR Manager to discuss some potential changes that could be implemented to improve the working day.
When it comes to evaluating how workplace culture could be improved, a great place to start is by looking at how the current culture is impacting you. What aspects are benefitting, or damaging your health and wellness? For example, does your employer host social or team building events in your local bar resulting in you staying up into the early hours? Are you expected to drink? Do you think you and your colleagues might benefit from bonding without alcohol around? Would you feel more supported in your lifestyle choice to be alcohol-free if team building events were not centred around alcohol?
Alcohol has become ingrained in many workplaces which can be isolating for those choosing to take a break from drinking, but this is a simple thing to change. There are many benefits to alcohol-free team bonding (including the reduced costs for drinks!) so it shouldn’t be hard to convince your employer to try a different approach.
‘I’ve personally experienced peer-pressured or hierarchy-based pressure to drink’, shares Sandhu. ‘What we’ve found is that certain industries have a more prevalent drinking culture. Employers are increasingly concerned as employee wellbeing and of course, performance suffers. The challenge facing employers is in finding the balance in not dictating personal choice but providing the much-needed education around sensible and safe alcohol consumption.’
And there’s research to show that the results of a zero-alcohol culture at work could be enormously beneficial. A 2015 study by Professor Kevin Moore of the Royal Free Hospital London looked into the effects of a four-week break from alcohol on average drinkers, and found 82% experienced improved sleep, 92% were much happier, 93% were more productive, 74% reported reduced anxiety and 73% lost weight. Impressive stuff. And it looks like it might be the future. ‘There are still so many industries where there is a big drinking culture, but these days are numbered and employers know it’ says Berry. ‘Not only because it has a negative impact on health, but also, productivity. Events that are centred on booze are pretty old fashioned. Employers are led by what employees want and those coming into the workforce now (under age 25), just aren’t as interested as people once were. Let them lead the way!’ she explains.
It’s all about give and take
When your employer is creating a wellness programme, it is understandable that they will hope these to result in increased employee retention or a decrease in absenteeism. Individuals taking sick days are inevitable, but more than average could indicate a bigger culture problem whereby individuals do not feel motivated to come to work. By implementing wellness programmes that make you feel happy, supported and motivated to come produce your best work each day, both you, and your employer will benefit.
You can make waves
There are also small changes that you can make to improve workplace culture and your wellbeing throughout the day. For example, do you take time to step away from your desk to have your lunch? Do you take a walk during your breaks? Do you meal prep your food and snacks to ensure you are getting the nutrition you need throughout the day? Have you got a water bottle sat on your desk to encourage you to stay hydrated? These are all things you can easily implement on your next working day to be that bit healthier than the day before, and you may well lead by example and inspire others around you to do the same.
Nervous to speak out?
If you believe your organisation requires some changes to improve workplace wellness and corporate culture, it can be nerve wracking to speak out. But most employers would be grateful for the insight into what it is like for their employees. At the end of the day, they are more likely to see improved productivity from staff who are happy and healthy. If you would prefer to take a less direct approach with your feedback, you could suggest creating an anonymous survey to allow you and your colleagues to offer ideas and suggestions more privately.
Luke O’Brien, a marketing director from London noted that if his company designed a wellness plan, he’d ask for ‘coaching and short lunchtime team meditations, instead of lunches in the pub’, while Julie Farmer from Manchester explained ‘confidence coaching would help my wellbeing in and out of work’. Others favour help in getting to the gym; Jessica Raffiman, an insurance broker from Essex asked for ‘a contribution to a gym membership’, while Ray Hevicon, a fashion buyer from Kent said he’d find huge benefits in ‘flexitime so that I could use the gym – oh, and free fruit!’. Employers can’t read your mind, so giving them some ideas as to what would improve your experiences is important and valuable.
Wellness for all!
Health and wellbeing has become an increasing trend in the workplace for good reason, but there are always ways to improve and adapt to ensure both parties are getting the best from the working day. ‘Companies must listen to what people want and make the changes required.’ says Berry. Consider what you want from your workplace wellness programme, and ask for it!