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The last two years have thrown into sharp focus just how essential wellness and wellbeing are to businesses up and down the country. With the pandemic causing huge shifts in workplaces, and the stress of this cultural shock having dragged on for so long, many teams are now facing real burnout and mental health issues.
So, how do you go about transforming your business into one that takes wellness seriously and how do you, as a business leader, go about leading for wellness? In this article, we’ll go over some strategies you can use, as well as why it’s so important.
Why is leading for wellness so vital?
In our last article on company culture, we talked a bit about why wellbeing is so essential in the workplace in 2021. It’s always been an important part of business leadership, but it’s recently become a far more pressing and visible issue, and one that many prospective employees are taking seriously when it comes to looking for jobs. And it’s not just the younger Generation Z employees who are now re-evaluating work and life after the pandemic – Generation Y, X and even Baby Boomers are too.
The truth is that it’s a great time to redefine and rearticulate your values as a business and many companies and teams are doing so. The pandemic has caused a seismic shift across the business world, with remote and hybrid working systems being thrust upon many. More people are taking notice of which companies have their back in a crisis, and which have taken a head in the sand approach to wellness.
You may find your people are already asking more questions of you when it comes to wellness. Many people have been exposed to alternative forms of working during lockdown, and they’re now exploring what the most appropriate way of working for their role is – even for roles that would previously have defaulted to office-based. As leaders, thinking through your values and reasons for these decisions more carefully than ever before is going to be vital if you want to recruit new people, retain those currently at the business, and help them fulfil both their potential and your business growth.
How do you lead for wellness?
So, how do you go about actually leading for wellness? Like many things in business leadership, it’s about being consistent, articulating your values, setting measurable goals, and ensuring you stick to your course.
We share four of our top tips on how to lead for wellness below. For more ideas, check out our infographic with 101 ideas for wellbeing in the workplace.
Lead by example
One of the most important things when it comes to leading for wellness is leading by example. Many leaders don’t realise that they set expectations by their actions, not necessarily by their policies. Many people will follow examples set by their bosses, even if these are in direct contradiction to company rules. It turns out it really is about do what I do, not what I say.
So, as a leader this means setting an example that you are serious about the wellbeing initiatives that the company puts in place. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be constantly doing yoga or anything like that. But it does mean that you need to understand how your actions will set the tone for your team. If your business sets a policy to not send emails outside of business hours and yet you’re still sending them, your people will feel that they’re expected to follow your lead.
This goes for setting positive examples, too. If there’s a company policy of offering gym membership or a similar wellbeing initiative and you don’t take advantage, the people in your team may feel awkward about taking you up on the offer. Again, this doesn’t mean you need to take advantage of everything that’s available – however, as a leader, demonstrating a positive engagement with the wellness initiatives on offer speaks volumes.
Recognise that there’s no one right answer to wellbeing
Another key part of leading for wellness is recognising that wellbeing isn’t one size fits all. Every person in your team will have different preferences, both in terms of their ideal working patterns and environments and their attitude to wellness. What works for one person might not work for others.
This means flexibility is key to successful wellbeing initiatives. Not everybody will respond to the same things, so it’s a good idea to have different options available – and don’t expect everybody to participate in everything you offer. While some people find exercise helpful for wellness (and research shows physical exercise is really good at resetting our stress responses), not everybody wants to do so on their lunch break, for example. However, your team members might appreciate being able to work more flexible hours so they can exercise at a time that suits them. What works best for wellness in the workplace is to work with your people to understand what they want and then create a system with a choice of wellbeing initiatives available to your teams. Foster trust that your people will understand their own needs and take advantage of the things that will work for them, and keep the conversations going as wellbeing needs will change over time.
Create a culture where wellbeing is central
Of course, if you want people to take advantage of the wellbeing initiatives that your organisation puts in place, it is important to think about creating a culture where your people will explore their own wellbeing needs. This means allowing time and space for self-reflection on their working practices and what does and doesn’t work for them. It means encouraging understanding of their own health and wellbeing.
We recently produced an entire article on how to create a company culture that truly puts wellbeing first, so be sure to check that out for more on how to do this.
Make tough calls to prioritise wellness
The last tip we have on how to lead for wellness is that sometimes it requires some tough decisions – and you can’t be afraid of that. It’s easy to put wellbeing initiatives in place when everything’s going well, but when your team is working towards a tight deadline, it can be a lot more difficult. Now, taking wellness seriously doesn’t mean your team doesn’t have to work hard. But prioritising wellbeing might mean making a tough call to pushback on unrealistic deadlines or goals. It might mean in exceptional circumstances explaining that you simply don’t have capacity to go above and beyond this time, or allocating more time or resources to alleviate the pressure.
As a leader, you’ll need to step up and make these decisions to prioritise both your own wellbeing and that of your team. In doing so, though, you’ll find your team gains in other areas. If you get organisational wellbeing right, then you’re going to have a more engaged team. As Gallup research has demonstrated time and time again, employee engagement leads to more productivity, profit, higher share prices, lower absenteeism; the list of positive impacts for your business goes on. Wellbeing is good for you, good for your team, and good for your business.
Here at The Thrive Lab, our wellbeing assessments are designed to help you put the right wellness initiatives in place to help your team. Find out more about what we offer here, or get in touch with us.