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Jeff Archer

The Tonic

Director

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Wellbeing at work gets personal

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When it comes to corporate wellbeing programmes, a discount at the local gym or a regular chair massage might be what springs to mind, but all that is changing. Jeff Archer explains.

The 21st century face of wellness is a smarter one and recent months have seen a shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more targeted examination of how to cater for the needs of individual employees. Businesses have begun to embrace the benefits of offering their employees what they actually want in a wellness programme, from one-to-one coaching to healthy cooking advice, football leagues and relaxation sessions.

"The greatest return on investment doesn't come from offering broad incentives but from targeting specific ideas at the right people."

But why are some businesses happy to create more work for themselves, rather than simply accepting the easier option of arranging health club discounts or occupational health appointments? Take a look at the current climate and the answer's there.

More than ever before, there's a level of pressure being applied to employees by organisations either trying to stay afloat or attempting to buck the recession trend and thrive. The more competitive global markets become, the greater the expectation on the employees to consistently deliver. This burden inevitably takes its toll and productivity, performance and morale all suffer. Employees can be left exhausted, distracted and feeling de-motivated.

Staying positive

This is where a carefully-targeted wellness programme can rise to the challenge and help employees to focus, alleviate stress, relax and sleep better, feel healthier and thrive under pressure with a positive attitude. This ensures motivated staff and consistently strong results for a business, when compared with generic wellness programmes with limited appeal and relevance to employees that can be poorly attended, and are of little use at a time like this.

The introduction of more exciting and engaging interventions, that capture the imagination of employees, have strong take-up and enthusiastic participation, is far more valuable and gains better results both physically and fiscally.

The greatest return on investment doesn't come from offering broad incentives but from targeting specific ideas at the right people. So organisations need to offer staff access to initiatives that help them work on a wellbeing plan of their own that will fit into their lifestyle.

Recent years have seen the introduction of individual coaching to organisations. Initially, this was the preserve of top tier executives but the success of such programmes and their far-reaching benefits have encouraged their expansion. This is great for staff at all levels and there's also an added bonus for HR professionals charged with developing the ultimate wellbeing package for their organisation.

Rather than spending lots of money on widespread but untargeted initiatives, investing in some one-to-one sessions is a very efficient way to discover what staff need and, in turn, how to invest the rest of your benefits of wellbeing budget so that it has the greatest impact.

Individual appointments make everyone feel special, so straight away you have an initiative that will get good take-up while also being the way to research exactly what you need to be spending your time and effort on for the future.

Armed with knowledge

Clearly, mass-market initiatives are no longer satisfactory in isolation but by arming employees with the knowledge of how to manage their own wellbeing routine in the future, the benefits for the company become obvious. At the same time businesses need to offer easy access to resources – either within or around working hours – that will help staff put their plan into action such as fitness training sessions, yoga or pilates classes, healthy eating advice, relaxation sessions and ongoing coaching.

Making the wellness offering more attractive is a win-win for businesses that not only satisfies and incentivises their employees but also creates a buzz around what the business is doing in this area, which improves staff engagement and loyalty. By offering new incentives that appeal to a broader range of employees beyond those who would have joined a gym anyway, businesses create more dedicated staff – a vital asset when it comes to improving the bottom line.

"Targeting staff one by one may not be the cheapest way of shaping up your business but it is one of the most impactful."

Targeting staff one by one may not be the cheapest way of shaping up your business but it is one of the most impactful, and the positive results go way beyond each individual. Opt for the more traditional approaches and you may just end up with lots of unused gym memberships which won't help to reduce absenteeism rates or help employees cope with the challenges their job can throw at them.

These incentives add up to little more than false benefits; positive, motivated staff on the other hand can energise a department, if not a whole office, and that can in turn increase productivity.

There are certain factors to keep in mind when embarking on a more personalised wellness programme for your organisation.

  1. Carefully assess the wellbeing needs of your people and your business. Consider what staff actually need and what they would benefit from rather than what would be the quickest or seemingly most economical options. A questionnaire or intranet forum is a great way to collect opinions before committing to anything. Talk to people about what they would find helpful and don't only speak to those who you think would be interested in wellbeing, make sure you speak to those you think may not be so hot on the topic. Those who are interested are easy to get involved but if you can make a difference to some of those who are hesitant in this area, you'll know you've got the right package of initiatives.
  2. Get wellbeing champions in place. A scheme needs to be supported from the very top of the company, especially when it is first launched and it needs vocal advocates to keep promoting the initiatives and encourage take up. With the right programme, word of mouth will take over after a short while but in the early weeks there need to be strategically placed representatives throughout the business to listen out for early feedback and help you refine the optimum range of initiatives at this stage.
  3. Review regularly. A good wellbeing programme will get results quickly but these can only be appreciated if they are measured so keep track of how new initiatives are working and ask employees for ongoing feedback and any new suggestions they may have. This will make staff feel that they have some ownership over the scheme and take up will continue to be consistently high.

A small word of caution. Offering personalised wellness initiatives isn't about trying to win the popularity vote with your employees and turning the office into a health club or coaching retreat. That isn't what employees need.

A tailored wellbeing programme is about encouraging active engagement which in turn supports a healthy culture in the office. Employees will then take responsibility for their own wellbeing and their approach to dealing with everyday challenges.

Customised wellbeing is rapidly becoming essential for any organisation looking to get the best performance out of every single employee. A little bit of one-to-one attention will ensure that all employees turn their best intentions into actions and you'll have a wellness package and an energetic business to envy.

Jeff Archer is director of The Tonic, a corporate health and fitness consultancy

Reader offer: Experience the benefits of individual wellbeing initiatives for yourself

To highlight the effectiveness of individual wellbeing initiatives and the impact they can have on people and business, HRZone.co.uk is offering five readers the opportunity to experience a lifestyle coaching session to help you shape up your health, energy, focus and performance.

Send us your current lifestyle challenges – anything at all related to exercise, eating, managing stress, and balancing work and life – and following a short consultation with an expert coach from The Tonic, you'll receive a personal action plan containing solutions and suggestions designed to get you back on track with your healthy living objectives and restore balance to your life.

Email [email protected] with a brief description of what you'd like to achieve with your wellbeing and what currently gets in your way, by 5pm on Wednesday 22 April 2009. Please also include your preferred contact details in your email. Five lucky winners will then be contacted and will receive their lifestyle coaching session and personal plan by Friday 22 May 2009. Coaching sessions will be conducted over the telephone and personal action plans will be delivered via email.

HRZone.co.uk – Wellbeing Competition – Terms and Conditions

1. Entries must be received by Wednesday 22 April 2009.
2. The winner will be drawn from a list of all those who respond with appropriate information as soon as possible after the closing date and will be notified within 28 days of the draw taking place.
3. By entering the competition, the winner consents to take part in any publicity accompanying or resulting from this promotion, and for his/her name to be used for publicity purposes by HRZone.co.uk or The Tonic.
4. No purchase is necessary. Only one entry per person allowed.
5. The prize draw is open to all residents of the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands excluding employees of The Tonic or Sift Media Ltd (parent company of HRZone.co.uk) and their immediate families, agents or anyone professionally connected with the promotion.
6. The prize is for a consultation with an expert coach from The Tonic, followed by a personal action plan.
7. The prize is non-transferable and non-refundable. No cash alternative.
8. The competition will be promoted on HRZone.co.uk.
9. Open to adults aged 18+.
10. It is a condition of entry that the terms and conditions of the prize draw are accepted as final and that entrants agree to abide by the rules. No correspondence will be entered into.
11. HRZone.co.uk will not accept responsibility for loss of entries through technical fault, transmission delays or incomplete, illegible or other damaged entries. Proof of submission of entry is not automatically proof of receipt.
12. In the event of unforeseen circumstances HRZone.co.uk reserves the right to offer alternative prizes of equal or greater value.
13. English law applies. Promoter: HRZone.co.uk, Sift Media, 100 Victoria Street, Bristol, BS1 6HZ.

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Jeff Archer

Director

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