Over 90% of organisations offer wellbeing activities of some kind (CIPD, 2016). These frequently take the form of a dedicated ‘Wellbeing Week’, designed to build awareness and engagement with a large proportion of the business over a short – and thus, relatively manageable – period of time. For this week, wellbeing is front of mind – positive messages are all over the intranet, special meals are in the canteen, everyone seems to be exercising at lunchtime, and those who are ‘really into it’ are signing up for the mindfulness tasters. But then what? Often, we go back to our desks and continue with the same behaviours and mindsets as before – nothing really changes.
For people teams, faced with stress as the leading cause of workplace absence in the UK (CIPD, 2016), the current cultural focus on wellbeing is both a blessing and a curse. Leaders endorse initiatives in organisational strategies, but frequently allow them to fall to the bottom of the HR priority list. And there’s a lack of clarity about what they’re expected to achieve, and why, with many programmes focusing simply on physical health and mental illness – meaning that no one really gains the knowledge and skills to manage their own day-to-day psychological wellbeing. Wellbeing becomes ‘an HR thing’, reinforcing the department’s role as the ‘parents’ of the organisation, whose role it is to fix and look after everything.
So, what options do we have if we really want to improve – and sustain – wellbeing within our organisations? Martin Seligman’s PERMA model provides a simple, research-based framework, which we’ve used to create a flexible programme that easily adjusts to fit small single-site organisations, large multi-nationals, and everything in between.
Kick-started by a simple conversation mat tool (see this article for more details), and built around six wellbeing workshops (see this article), this programme doesn’t stop once the sessions are complete. Each person is ‘gifted’ a wellbeing notebook by the organisation, which helps them on their personal journey in the future. It’s packed with activities, reflection questions and practical tasks, designed to keep wellbeing front of mind and help embed the learning from the rest of the programme. The intervention is incorporated into individuals’ day-to-day work and permeates the culture of the organisation, rather than being a once-a-year tick box exercise. And, as almost everyone still uses a paper notebook (even in this age of laptops and tablets), it’s an easy-to-use, handy and enjoyably tactile learning tool.