Brian Crooke is a wellness advocate, speaker and trainer specialising in the development and delivery of workplace wellness programmes for Irish companies through his Office Worker Health business. He is also the founder of the Workplace Wellness Ireland community. Here in the first of two articles, Brian introduces the eight steps to a successful workplace wellness programme.
There’s a lot of interest in health promotion in the workplace in Ireland at the moment which is fantastic to see. Companies of all industries and sizes are waking up to the fact that healthy and happy staff have a positive impact on productivity, engagement, morale, and culture. Promoting the wellbeing of employees can reduce absenteeism, increase attraction and retention figures, reduce health care costs and improve camaraderie and team spirit. Why then are so many Irish businesses reluctant to start a wellness programme? For those that have started something, how come so many have been unsuccessful?
Developing and implementing a wellness programme can be straightforward if a structured process is followed. I’ve found in Ireland that wellness is not prioritised and therefore many programmes are at a disadvantage even before they have begun. Usually a member of the HR team is tasked with organising the healthy activities in Irish companies and often this is on top of their day job. Not having enough time, if any, to dedicate to wellness and the fact they’ve received no formal training in this area are complaints I hear on a regular basis from HR professionals in Ireland.
If you are considering a wellness programme at your workplace, my first piece of advice is to formally allocate time to the person or team tasked with this activity.
When I’m working with clients to develop a wellness programme or to update an existing programme, I follow an eight-step process. Rather than re-invent the wheel, my process is based on academic research and a tried and trusted formula that the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) have developed and improved over the last 30 years. Combining these sources with my own research and experiences in the Irish marketplace I’ve structured the steps as follows:
If you don’t have senior leaders driving the idea and supporting your initiatives with their communication, participation and financial backing then it’s highly likely that your initiatives
will not be successful. In an ideal world the CEO is already a wellness advocate and needs little convincing as to the benefits of supporting employee health. In reality it’s more likely that you’ll need to research and prepare a business case to get the management team on board. Senior management leading by example in this area is crucial so do not skip this step.
2. Create a Team of Wellness Champions
Depending on the size of the organisation it can be extremely difficult for the wellness coordinator to do everything on their own. Establishing a network of champions spread throughout the business in different functions, floors or locations (similar to fire marshals) can support the coordinator with the preparation, promotion, communication, engagement, participation and evaluation of wellness activities and more. Formal time should be allocated to these roles which should be voluntary and include a range of seniority levels if possible.
3. Listen to the Population
One of the most important steps is to listen to your employees. It stands to reason that activities you create and organise will have a greater chance of engagement and success if they are based on the wants and needs of employees. A wellness survey and small focus groups can provide the baseline from which all of your workplace wellness activities and programmes can be developed.
4. Develop an Operating Plan
Can you align your wellness programme with organisational objectives? Capturing the organisational objectives for wellness activities and documenting the details will serve
to focus the energy and investment in your wellness programme. The wellness operating plan should reflect the values, vision and purpose of an organisation.
In the March / April issue Brian will bring you the remaining four steps including, Choose the Interventions, Strategic Communication, Cultivate a Supportive Environment and Evaluate, Celebrate and Iterate.