• An audience of business leaders at the Wellbeing Symposium hosted this month came together and shared their inspiring work stories to improve the wellbeing of individuals within the workforce of Kent and the wider community.

    What was clear was the breadth of initiatives being implemented and the real and tangible benefits these are bringing to individuals’ lives and also to businesses in the form of reduced absenteeism, increased engagement and better productivity. The wider benefits of a healthier and more active population cannot be understated in terms of the impact on the quality of lives and reducing calls on public services, particularly the NHS.

    Our Head of Employment and HR, Catherine Daw who participated in the panel discussion session of the Symposium said

    “Most businesses want to ensure their workers are looked after but when it comes to investing (either in terms of time or financial investment) in wellbeing initiatives, a clear business case often needs to be made out with tangible benefits identified.

    The CIPD’s absence management survey indicated that 63% of businesses who focused on wellbeing did so because they wanted their organisations to be a great place to work and 47% because they believed a focus on wellbeing is linked to business performance.”

    Christian van Stolk’s at RAND, who also contributed to the panel discussion, discussed the link between investments in wellbeing at work to improving outcomes for those with mental health conditions. The CIPD’s Employee Outlook, focusing on mental health in the workplace indicated the extent to which poor mental health can impact on workplace performance with 85% of individuals suffering from mental health conditions finding it difficult to concentrate, 64% finding it takes longer to do tasks and 54% having difficulty in making decisions. It is clear that an effective wellbeing strategy which assists individuals can make a real difference.

    Responding to how businesses can measure wellbeing at work, Catherine added

    “Some measures can easily be identified such as improvements in absentee rates but many employers also favour questionnaires and other means of assessing individual engagement, sometimes linking this directly to customer feedback and levels of customer and brand engagement. The biggest causes of absence currently are mental health issues and musculoskeletal concerns both of which can in many cases be substantially improved through active strategies incorporating not just treatment but also lifestyle changes including increasing activity levels. The statistics talked about by Christine Hancock (C3) clearly show the longer term health benefits and C3’s message to “eat a bit less and add some more greens” definitely stuck in my mind!”

    So should wellbeing strategies still sit with HR departments?

    A key theme of the entire Symposium was “wellbeing is everyone’s business”. Whilst it was clear HR teams play a pivotal role in ensuring businesses have a really effective wellbeing strategy, the role of occupational health services and all levels of management cannot be understated. It is clear that a wellbeing strategy will only be really effective where there is a firm commitment at every level of an organisation. Catherine added “There is little point in having glossy brochures or catchy straplines if the day to day reality is very different and the impact of having a strategy which lacks substance can do real damage to levels of trust and employee engagement. Communication and ensuring a consistent listening ear to what employees want and need will be key.”

    The feedback from the Symposium suggests that a compassionate approach to employees directly translates into a better working environment and better work for customers, clients and wider service users. The CIPD’s absence survey indicated there has been a substantial increase in organisations improving communication to staff about wellbeing benefits and how to access them and this was clearly something which is a key objective for Kent’s employers.

    When looking at wider community engagement the benefits of thinking beyond on organisation was illustrated by the animation series “Eddie and Friends” a concept championed by the Hazlitt Theatre, Wellbeing People, Golding Vision and RBLI which underlined the fact that wellbeing is a lifelong need.

    Catherine concluded

    “We were very proud to be associated with the Wellbeing Symposium and to be part of the drive to improve wellbeing and working lives for individuals in Kent. We send our congratulations to the commended finalists and winners of the Inspiring Wellbeing Awards 2017 and we look forward to the next Wellbeing Symposium.”

    Brachers and Kent HR provide legal and HR services that support employers looking to improve their wellbeing strategy and those wanting to create and implement one for the first time.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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