Stress is the leading cause of workplace absence in the UK. In response, ‘wellbeing’ is on the agenda for the majority of people teams (only 8% of organisations say they’re not doing anything to improve employee health and wellbeing). But in reality, many of these programmes focus on physical health and support for those with mental illness, rather than true psychological wellbeing for all people (CIPD, 2016).
For many people professionals, wellbeing is a new area of responsibility, and an addition to an already-heavy workload of existing HR processes and priorities. It is high on the organisational agenda, but often perceived sceptically by people across the organisation, who are focused on the day-to-day tasks of the business, and unconvinced of the value of the activities on offer.
There is frequently a lack of clarity around what ‘wellbeing’ means and what the expectations and outcomes are for programmes – it simply becomes another thing for HR to do, reinforcing their role as the ‘parents’ of the organisation. Programmes repeatedly fall to more junior members of the team, who have a lack of influence and find it difficult to get people on board.
The result is a high workload and confusion around where to start, which can lead to programmes never getting off the ground. Even those that do are less successful than they should be, or unhelpfully lead to a culture of entitlement, where people feel it’s down to the organisation – and the people team in particular – to look after them. There’s a lack of real engagement and a mentality that it’s down to someone else – again, often the people team – to ‘fix’ things.
So, what options do we have if we really want to improve 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.
Initiated by a simple conversation mat tool (see this article for more details), it focuses on a series of six wellbeing workshops. At just an hour long, these are easy to fit into the working day – often over a breakfast or lunch – and built around interactive activities to empower individuals to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. These can be run in-person or virtually through online learning – either by the Bailey & French team or by internal champions, who we can upskill through a train the trainer session. Using an innovative preventative approach, they’re interactive and fun – using conversation and reflection to encourage active peer-to-peer learning and exploration – and making wellbeing easy for everyone to understand and apply on both an individual and organisational level.