Ask people what is critical to ensuring a healthy and safe environment on a construction site and they will quite quickly start talking about hard hats, high visibility clothing and steel toe capped boots.
Whilst personal protective equipment is a component in controlling exposure to occupational risks, there are four other more substantive factors to be considered such as elimination and substitution of hazardous practices. These are steps that can be taken at an organistional rather than individual level.
I think that wellbeing or wellness activities often fall into the same area as hard hats, safety boots and high visibility clothing.
Whilst well intentioned, wellbeing initiatives are often delivered individualistically and in isolation with little thought to how, and whether, they make a difference to the overall health, happiness and overall performance of people in an organisation.
So what can we do? Here are 3 ideas to explore if you want to explore a truly holistic wellbeing approach for your organisation.
1) Define what you mean by wellbeing
It is often assumed that we know what wellbeing means. But this is a big assumption. It can vary considerably from person to person, team to team and organisation to organisation.
I once worked with a company that had teams working in four different standalone functional areas which had the terms “health”, “wellness” or “wellbeing” in their title.
These teams did not have a shared definition of what they meant by health or wellbeing. Their work was distinct and focused in specific areas but it all involved the broader health and happiness of people in the organisation. When asked, the teams had never thought about how their work interacted and had never considered a more holistic approach.
My preferred definition of wellbeing is feeling good and functioning well. It has its roots in academic research and it reflects both positive emotions and positive performance. It is easy to remember and tends to resonate with most people I speak to.
But this may not be the right definition for you, or your organisation.
Why don’t you start by asking people what a good day at work looks like for them and consider the factor and themes that this produces.
2) Think Me, We and Us
If you want to develop wellbeing approaches that permeate across functions, teams and individuals then it is critical to think systematically.
One approach to do this is to consider how wellbeing initiatives will impact on individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole. Or as Aaron Jarden, a leading wellbeing researcher, refers to it: take a me, we and us perspective.
Some questions to consider at each level might be:
- Me – what wellbeing approaches will make the most difference to an individual working within the organisation?
- We – what wellbeing approaches will be most effective in encouraging positive and collaborative working relationships amongst leaders and teams?
- Us – what will make the biggest difference to the organisation as a whole in lifting its collective wellbeing?
3) Evaluate your organisational approach to wellbeing
Whilst it is often tempting to build and launch wellbeing programmes and initiatives based on what “feels” needed, there is value in taking time to evaluate your organisation’s current wellbeing approach and identifying your strengths and the opportunities for development.
Undertaking a wellbeing evaluation or audit might help highlight where you will get the most value for future investment in wellbeing – and you might be surprised where this is.
I recommend that organisations consider the following 6 areas:
- Commitment – The commitment, visibility and profile of wellbeing within your organisation.
- Wellbeing development and literacy – Opportunities for people to explore what wellbeing means to them and their colleagues and the factors and activities which positively influence wellbeing.
- Environment – The extent to which the working space enables and encourages wellbeing.
- Wellbeing support – The quality and number of programmes and initiatives that are designed to provide high quality and specific health guidance and support.
- Enablers – Policies, procedures and practices which underpin, support and promote wellbeing.
- Current wellbeing levels – A regular measurement of the wellbeing of people across the organisation.
Visibility for all the right reasons
You can use these 3 areas to start a conversation about what wellbeing means for you and your organisation and the steps you can take to can put the health, happiness and performance of people at the centre of what you do.
There is of course, no specific recipe to building the perfect wellbeing approach.
It’s in everyone’s interest to develop high quality, evidence informed approaches to wellbeing, which will make the most amount of difference to the most amount of people.
Let’s give wellbeing visibility for all the right reasons.
References & resources:
- Read more about Dr Aaron Jarden’s amazing research on human wellbeing here.
- National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health