22nd Oct 2021

How to build an effective Workplace Wellbeing Strategy: Sue Grogan

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A workplace wellbeing strategy is no longer a ‘perk’ associated with the Googles and Facebooks of the world. Instead, it’s a necessity that all businesses need to have in place, especially if you want to retain, attract, and hire the best possible people to your team.

That’s exactly why we brought in award-winning workplace wellbeing expert Sue Grogan, from Joined-Up Working Associates to tell us all about workplace wellbeing strategies and plans, why they’re important, and how you can start building one for your workplace.

What is a workplace wellbeing strategy and plan all about?

Before we look at what a wellbeing strategy is, I like to start by explaining a little about what it isn’t…

It’s not playing lip service.

It’s not about being pink and fluffy.

It’s not about bowls of fruit in reception or a lunchtime walk (although they are both healthy).

Instead, it’s an in-depth look at your business culture, the way you treat your staff, the expectations you have of them, and those they have of you. These are the foundations of your business, and without a positive culture, your business simply won’t thrive.

It’s a structured approach to making sure you’re providing the best possible environment and working culture, demonstrating you take staff welfare seriously, that they are valued and that you are doing your best to be a great employer.

It’s finding out (by asking, not assuming!) how staff feel about their work, colleagues, environment, and the expectations placed on them. Most people leave their jobs because of other people – usually their manager!

It’s about ensuring the right policies and processes are in place and up to date, and that everyone knows about them and how they should be used.

Why is it important to have a workplace wellbeing strategy?

There’s lots of research and statistics out there that demonstrate a positive experience of work is great for our health and wellbeing. There’s a clear correlation between the numbers showing businesses perform better and are more productive when their workforce is healthy and happy.

I’ll just give you one number to think about – it costs £1500 per employee per year for someone to be off sick (particularly due to stress, anxiety or mental health issues). Grab a calculator and see how much that’s costing your business.

Do I really need to make wellbeing a priority in the workplace?

Think about this – if you’re feeling ill, stressed or overwhelmed – it affects the way you work. Are you able to get on and do a good job or are you snappy, distracted, making silly mistakes and generally can’t wait to get out of the door?

We all have “off days” but when they happen regularly something is clearly amiss, and help is needed.

If you want to save money and keep staff from leaving or going off sick with stress then your business won’t manage without a structured plan in place.

How does wellbeing fit with office design?

Our working environment is one of the most important spaces we occupy, which is why office design plays a huge role in our wellbeing. We can spend most of our working days and life there. If the physical atmosphere is comfortable, attractive, gives us light and greenery, and provides spaces to think, work as a group and relax, then we go there every day with a positive mindset and work to our best ability.

On the other hand, imagine a dark, cold, dingy physical atmosphere with little light, little or no contact with others and nowhere to sit and relax, work in groups, or just have a private conversation. This leaves people feeling frustrated…and when people are frustrated, they don’t function well. (I know, I’ve worked in some of these places!)

What’s more, if someone doesn’t have ergonomically appropriate seating, that could lead to physical health issues for them. Then there’s the potential for a complaint and tribunal, which will be costly in terms of both money and reputation.

If you want to save money, keep your staff, build your reputation, and have a healthy thriving business – it makes good financial and business sense to develop a culture of wellbeing that underpins your whole business.

How to start building a wellbeing strategy

Start by trusting your staff to make their own decisions on the best way to do their job. Micro-management puts pressure on people, they get stressed and don’t work effectively.

Don’t forget – people have minds and lives of their own. Allow them to do their work at a time that’s best for them, as it enables them to be more productive than if you insist on a physical presence during the hours of 9 – 5.

Flexible or hybrid work and technology enables different ways of people getting on with their role in the way that suits them best – with better results. As long as they get the job done and meet their targets and expectations they shouldn’t need to stick to traditional ways.

Changing culture isn’t easy. Barriers may put up, reasons given why it won’t work and the phrase “We’ve always done it this way…” may be used. Keep in mind, if that were true we’d still be using horse and carts!

The truth is people don’t like change. It takes us out of our comfort zone, even if we know we’ll be in a better place. That means the need to engage, involve, consult, and communicate in an open and honest way is essential to developing and making the changes necessary to be more productive as a workforce and a business. If there are differences of opinion (which there will be, and you can never please all the people all the time) then a process of compromising, testing out and amending will all be needed.

Ready to get started?

For more information on creating a workplace wellbeing strategy, you can visit Sue’s website here.

If you’re looking to address your current office design, our workplace consultants are happy to help you create a workspace that is centred around your people. By really getting to know your business and its people, we’re able to create an office space specifically for your team’s needs, culture and goals.

To get started, book a free workplace assessment using the form below.

Or, read more information about people-first workplaces and the WELL Building standard.


Rob Day

Chairman & Founder