Why you should have an employee wellbeing strategy

High-performing organisations recognise the benefits of a holistic employee wellbeing programme that takes them well beyond their statutory health and safety obligations. By helping their staff commit to improving their physical and emotional health, eating well and being active, firms are reaping the rewards.

Here’s our take on why you need an employee wellbeing strategy, what it could include and how to place your employees’ needs at the heart of your plans.

The business case for employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing programmes have been in spotlight for some time now. In the past, employers tended to take an ad-hoc approach, introducing an employee wellbeing initiative here and there as time and budgets allowed. Yet more organisations are taking a considered approach because they know an effective employee wellbeing strategy can pay dividends:

1. Rapid change means employees need more support – as pressures increase on employees, from the way they work to the skills they need to be able compete, employee performance and engagement is at risk. Employers who focus on wellbeing to address these issues find it pays off: Royal Mail invested £45 million in health and wellbeing and generated a £225 million return from 2004 to 2007.

2. Wellbeing is measurable – from increasing employee engagement, driving productivity and improving brand image to strengthening your employer value proposition and reducing sickness absence or wellbeing risks; there are plenty of ways to demonstrate the return on your investment and get leadership backing.

3. Your competitors are already doing this – almost half of UK organisations have a defined wellbeing strategy in place and 84% of those without a plan intend to introduce one between 2019 and 2021.

What do employee wellbeing programmes focus on?

If those numbers have convinced you to take a fresh look at your organisation’s position, you’ll need to know where to start. According to research from the Reward and Employee Benefits Association, most employee wellbeing strategies address:

1. Physical activity (85%)
2. Health and safety at work (85%)
3. Work-life balance (73%)
4. Nutrition and healthy eating (69%)

However, leading organisations also focus on other topics like mental wellbeing and financial health. In fact, with mental health riding high in the public consciousnessresearch shows that 80% of organisations are planning to introduce employee mental wellbeing initiatives to their overall strategy.

Where to begin?

The sheer scope of employee wellbeing can make it difficult to know where to begin. And it also sounds like it could be very expensive. However, it doesn’t need to be if you follow these steps.

Step 1 – Get the basics right
Before launching an employee wellbeing strategy make sure you’re doing the basics right. Millions of days of holiday go unclaimed every year – are your staff taking at least their statutory minimum holiday allowance? Do you have an effective driving safety policy? What are your health and safety statistics like? Basic good practices like these will ensure your next steps are built on a solid foundation.


Step 2 – Make the most of what you’ve got
If you’re on top of the basics, the next step is to take a look at the employee wellbeing initiatives already in place. By pulling everything together into a coherent offering, you can make the most of what you already have. For example, flexible working policies, above statutory holiday allowances, an employee assistance programme or bike for work scheme all support employees’ wellbeing.


Step 3 – Enhance your offering
Should you decide to enhance your offering, deciding what to include in your employee wellbeing programme is the next step. Research from Willis Towers Watson indicates that employees perceive their company wellbeing strategies to be less effective than HR or managers do. Which is why it’s important to ask your staff which employee wellbeing initiatives would be most impactful for them.

Wondering what to include in your employee survey? Here are some ideas of the kinds of wellbeing initiatives organisations offer as part of their overall strategy.

Supporting Employees’ Physical Health

• On-site fitness classes
• Massages
• Mindfulness sessions
• Healthy eating options in an on-site canteen
• Fresh fruit and healthy snacks in vending machines or break out areas
• On-site flu vaccinations
• Actively enforced health and safety policies
• Health cashplans

Mental Wellbeing

• Employee assistance programmes that include counselling, advice and support
• Resilience training to help employees avoid becoming overwhelmed in the first place
• Developing managers to be aware of the warning signs of poor mental health
• Employee financial wellbeing training to help employees deal with one of life’s major stressors
• Providing ‘good work’ that’s skilled, autonomous, supported, secure, with great work–life balance and adequate income

Developing an employee wellbeing programme for your organisation is the first step to enhancing the health of your employees, your organisation and your profitability. Work with employees to develop your offering and you’ll secure engagement and take up delivering best return on your investment.

To get started, follow our three-step plan:

1. Ensure you’re doing the basics well
2. Pull your current employee wellbeing initiatives together then promote them
3. Go beyond initiatives by providing an employee wellbeing strategy that meets employee needs

Interested in finding out more?