Reducing the stress of promoting wellbeing

Running workplace wellbeing programs can be a mixed blessing for HR professionals, who inevitably are given the responsibility for running them.

On the one hand, there is no doubt that they can be effective in improving staff morale and performance (which makes other aspects of the HR task easier) and provide a fun alternative to the regular HR activities.

On the other hand, developing a truly effective approach with long-term and quantifiable benefits can be a time consuming and frustrating business that sometimes gets thrown into the “too hard” or “nice but not necessary” basket. It’s a great idea, but …

Here are a few tips on how to get things happening without causing too much stress in the HR department.

Whether a wellbeing program is HR’s idea or management’s, put together a business case for everyone to sign off on. Be clear about what will be involved and realistic about what can and can’t be achieved. Understand what it will cost, and how much management is willing to spend as challenges and opportunities arise.

Remember that improving wellbeing isn’t just about introducing new things. A lot of stress and dissatisfaction occurs around ongoing issues such as workloads, workplace flexibility and working conditions. The core HR functions are important.

Have a strategic approach but not necessarily a strategy; in fact, that can be counterproductive. People don’t like to feel that you are trying to change their behaviour because their own choices have been wrong.

But do introduce a specific program rather than a series of ad hoc activities. Brand it and encourage everyone not just to participate but to take ownership. It’s not just about exercise. Successful wellbeing programs can include anything from a ‘step’ challenge to book clubs to meditation sessions.

Don’t try to do it all yourself. Not only are there plenty of sources of ideas and advices, there are many free government or not-for-profit programs that can be incorporated into yours.

Get an idea of what the issues are in your workplace and tailor the program to fit. This can be as simple as looking at the data you collect in HR around the causes of absenteeism and complaints. And don’t be scared to skew your program (at least initially) towards one specific group of employees.

Make use of wearable technology that makes things fun and lets people see the results of their efforts. Studies have shown this can significantly increase participation.

Most importantly, get things moving quickly and keep them fresh.