Opinion: Workplace wellbeing 101

What's the key to a sustainable, engaging wellbeing program? Georgie Drury suggests a personalised approach that utilises the latest technology, is critical to success.

I’m in the wellbeing business. My company, Springday, partners with organisations who deliver workplace wellbeing programs and every day I talk to companies about integrating HR, technology and health to improve the wellbeing of their employees. And though wellbeing programs are gaining traction in Australia, I find many people are still confused about them. So here’s the first of four articles on workplace wellbeing programs: what they are, why they’re a good idea, and what you need to know to introduce them to your organisation.

Workplace wellbeing programs are company-organised or company-supported activities designed to improve employee wellbeing before, not after, people get sick. In this way, workplace wellbeing turns old-fashioned HR on its head.

Wellbeing and engagement
The key words are ‘wellbeing’ and ‘engagement’ and the first thing to know is that wellbeing goes beyond physical health. Wellbeing is when an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. At Springday we talk about the five pillars of wellbeing: physical, social, emotional, financial and career and successful wellbeing programs help employees find a balance between these five pillars.

Second, workplace wellbeing programs actually work. Documented benefits include increased presenteeism, reduced employee-driven healthcare costs, improved office morale, productivity and, of course, profits. Indeed, these benefits are so compelling that in America, where wellbeing programs are pretty much the norm, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is launching a US$8m program to promote health in the workplace.

But most of all, wellbeing programs increase employee engagement. Research shows that employees with high wellbeing are more attached to their organisations, more productive and psychologically healthier. So not only do workplace wellbeing programs improve the bottom line, they’re also a powerful force for social good.

OK, so that’s the theory. The question then is how can we make these programs work in practice? How do we prevent employees from treating them cynically, or having them become just another HR fad?

And if we do engage our employees, how can we sustain that engagement? The most engaged employees can face burnout. Not supporting continuing employee engagement is like buying a beautiful car and never servicing it or even putting petrol in its tank.

To really engage employees, wellbeing programs need to be innovative and personalised. The most efficient and user-friendly way to do this is through technology, such as Springday’s wellbeing platform. Here, cutting-edge programs offer ‘gamified’ apps which employees can easily access on their smartphones, and which integrate with popular wearable technology (think Fitbits and Garmins). ‘Gamified’ apps refer to those apps that use gaming mechanics to help users achieve their goals, compete with others and receive recognition. Using data from wearables, individuals can track their progress, earn points and set goals, and managers can quantify the wellbeing of their workforce, to inform more effective HR initiatives.

Plus, these wellbeing apps offer on-brand design, targeted communications, company-specific challenges, fresh monthly content, and streamlined event management. Compared to generic HR initiatives, technology makes wellbeing programs more engaging for users, and more efficient from an HR angle.

Introducing workplace wellbeing
In my experience, companies who succeed in workplace wellbeing do the following things:

  • They lead by example.
  • They make sure wellbeing programs align to company culture, at all levels.
  • They understand wellbeing is holistic. Wellbeing encompasses physical, emotional, social, financial, and career health.
  • They communicate well. They tell employees what they do, including spelling out links between company strategy and employee wellbeing.
  • They embrace technology.
  • They innovate, either from within or by partnering with experts in the field.

I’ll expand on these points in the following three articles: Introducing a workplace wellbeing culture, Being a wellbeing innovator and Wellbeing and gamification.

About the author 
Georgie Drury is the CEO and founder of Springday
Georgie Drury’s background spans education, management consulting and technological innovation, particularly applied to consumer needs.

Georgie applied her experience to create Springday, a company which integrates cutting edge technology, human resources and wellbeing. Springday develops, sources and collates wellness programs, material and expertise. Companies nationwide access these resources and improve employee wellbeing and engagement via Springday’s powerful, infinitely flexible, cloud-based platform.

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