April 20, 2021

It is exciting to see how attitudes towards health and wellbeing at work have changed so significantly, particularly in the last decade. In the past the focus was very much on health and safety, absence management and reducing absence figures. However, the case for investment and the tangible benefits of implementing wellbeing at work now includes clear evidence on the positive impact on performance, engagement, recruitment, and productivity too.

Increasingly people are going to be working later in life, therefore it will be even more important to focus on employee health and wellbeing now and in the future. We have changed our lifestyles and chronic disease is now being diagnosed earlier in life, and younger workers are looking for employers who show that they care about their wellbeing.

Investment in developing a targeted, tailored, and measurable health and wellbeing strategy simply makes good business sense.

Promoting health and wellbeing at work is not just about free fruit and yoga. It is so much more. It’s about how a company demonstrates that they value their people, and how they will support them to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, both inside and outside of work.

The reasons for developing a strategy on health and wellbeing may vary but it is usually driven by the desire to be a high performing company that is more productive and competitive in the marketplace. The best strategies also consider the promotion of employee health to be simply the right thing to do.

Duplicating another companies’ wellbeing programme is unlikely to work. Developing your own bespoke wellbeing strategy can help you be clear about your objectives, identify where you may need to prioritise interventions and activity, and determine how you measure its impact and effectiveness.

This guide offers some clear and simple steps that you can take, together with a number of tips and ideas, to help you develop your own bespoke wellbeing strategy. Creating a strategy that really works for your business and your workforce.

And in this new and improved version of the guide, you can find a case study on how Benenden Health adapted this five- stage framework to their own business needs and saw positive results for their company.

The reasons for developing a strategy on health and wellbeing are usually driven by the desire to be a high performing company that is more productive and competitive in the marketplace.

This guide takes you through the five key stages to creating a health and wellbeing strategy at your organisation


What is a health and wellbeing strategy and what are the benefits to creating one?

Stage 1 Planning your approach

Know where you are now, what you currently offer, and your vision for the future.

Stage 2 Getting management buy in and securing budget

Reviewing the data, costs, and creating a business case and priorities.

Stage 3 Developing your strategy

Putting it all together and identifying the right interventions and benefits to target your priority areas.  Making sure you know the key metrics and KPIs to measure to keep on track.

Stage 4 Launch your health and well- being strategy

How and where will you communicate what you are doing and what is happening?

Stage 5 Review and refresh

Reflect on how it is going. Use the data to quickly assess what is and isn’t working so you can keep improving. Report to the senior management.

Before we go into the development of a strategy, it’s important to understand what a health and wellbeing strategy contains and the benefits of moving away from an ad-hoc offering towards implementing a structured approach.

What is a health and wellbeing strategy?

Many companies implement wellbeing initiatives in an ad hoc way without considering what their workforce needs, what might be most effective and what’s suitable for their industry.

Whilst offering health and wellbeing schemes on an ad hoc basis may be well-meant, this approach does not lend itself to creating a cohesive plan that can be evaluated, tweaked, and improved upon. Equally, simply taking someone else’s wellbeing strategy and parachuting it into another workplace setting is never going to work.

A bespoke health and wellbeing strategy is a framework that:

  • Focuses on the impact that you want your wellbeing programme to achieve
  • Is aligned to organisational objectives
  • Helps your company understand your workforce
  • Allows a more strategic approach to selection of initiatives
  • Enables a better chance of success

Before starting such a strategy, as a company you’ll need to:

  • Agree on your vision for wellbeing and what you want the strategy to achieve
  • Agree how much resource you want to commit to it

Involving employees from the start is also an imperative. They are the best people to know how their health and wellbeing can be improved. It also helps to get their buy in too and gets them involved in decisions.

A health and wellbeing strategy should be flexible and not set in stone; it should be treated as an evolving document which will be shaped by outcomes and feedback. Likewise, it should not be thought of as a short-term solution but rather a long-term commitment to supporting employee health and wellbeing that is reviewed regularly and adapted as necessary.

For success, it is crucial that action is taken, and improvements are made. This means that all management levels need to demonstrate new ways of working and ensure their attitudes and behaviours are helping to create a culture
for improvement.

  • What are the key benefits to a health and wellbeing strategy?
  • Improved employee engagement, productivity, and attendance.
  • Help recruit and retain talent.
  • A strategy can help you to manage budget, measure impact, and calculate value for money more easily.
  • Planning your approach.

What you could consider:

  • Make sure your company values mirror what you are trying to achieve.
  • Map existing benefits and initiatives and ask if they are achieving what they are designed to achieve.
  • Identify what roles different parts of the company will play and what will they be responsible for.
  • Consider why your company is supporting health and wellbeing and what the employee needs and wants.
  • Consider how to communicate the strategy and any interventions. How can you make sure everyone knows about the services and how they access the benefits available?
  • Getting management buy-in and securing budget.
  • Source specific company data.
  • Use internal data to understand your employee’s current health and wellbeing.
  • Use external data sources to further support your approach.

Developing your strategy

To help you create your strategy we have broken the process down into six key steps:

  • Set out your vision and objectives
  • Agree budget and resource needs
  • Identify responsibilities and actions
  • Determine key metrics
  • Select relevant initiatives
  • Find partners

Set vision and objectives

Your research and data trawl should have highlighted some key priorities that your strategy can address. Use this information to develop the vision and direction for your health and wellbeing strategy.

Ideally this vision should also relate to the overall goals of the company. For example, an objective could be “reduce incidents of workplace accidents and injury”. This would complement company goals by reducing compensation claims and lowering injury related absences. Try to make measurable goals to ensure that you can keep track of progress.

Once you have a vision you can develop a number of achievable objectives that will help you to meet this vision. It is important that each objective has a timeframe.

Depending on your vision, you may need to break your objectives down into smaller time periods e.g. year 1, year 2, year 3, or short, medium and long term. This will also help to keep your objectives focussed and easier to manage. Remember that some interventions can take a long time to be effective and create change.

Be realistic about these objectives. Is the outcome more important than the behaviours and culture that you want to achieve? If they are too unrealistic the strategy runs the risk of creating undesirable behaviours that create more of a problem.

Consider mental health for example. If the goal is to reduce mental health absence, some managers may focus on the absence target rather than creating the right culture where people feel comfortable about talking about their mental health. Perhaps the target could be to ‘reduce the stigma about mental health and raise awareness’ in year 1?

Agree any budget and resource needs

Now you have decided the vision and used data to define the business case and the priorities, you need to know what you are going to need to resource the strategy. It may be that you want to start small to prove value, but this needs to be considered before any further work. Decide on the budget that you have available and who is responsible for delivering the strategy in the company.

Is it going to be part of someone’s role to deliver this? If so, what do they need to do their job properly and to make sure that they have time to implement the strategy?

Identify responsibilities and expectations

One person cannot do this alone and other areas of the company may need to take responsibility for their own area of focus. Decide who is going to be responsible
for what.

Look at what you are hoping to achieve with the strategy, i.e. reduce sickness absence and raise awareness of mental health, and then be realistic about what you can expect the impact to be in year 1, 2 or 3. Be clear about these from the start, as it will help you measure whether the strategy is working and manages the expectations of others.

Determine the key metrics and how you will measure success

Measuring key metrics around employee health will help reinforce the company case and so is vital for success.

The learnings from the previous steps will help you decide how you are going to monitor and measure the success of the initiatives and benefits against the strategy expectations. This will help you get sign up from the board and justify the approach and spend. It also helps to identify if things aren’t working as expected and allows for a change in direction or benefit to ensure improvement.

As mentioned in Stage 2, there are a number of ways to gather data within your company. It’s important now to ensure that you have set up any processes necessary that will enable you to use these sources and collect the relevant data to showcase the success of the strategy.

Possible data sources:

  • HR records:
  • Exit Interviews:
  • Satisfaction or employee survey:
  • Uptake of benefits and initiatives:
  • Feedback from champions:
  • Health data:
  • Accident and injury data:

Select relevant initiatives

Once a vision has been established, a budget and resource agreed, and there is a list of objectives to meet it is time to brainstorm the relevant initiatives and benefits that will help achieve your goal.

Here are some tips to help you brainstorm and select your final initiatives:

Food and drink:

The REBA report found that more than eight in ten respondents with a wellbeing strategy have made changes to the food and drink options at their workplace. The most common changes were adding healthier options to the canteen menu, swapping biscuits for fruit and introducing decaffeinated coffee and/or herbal teas.

Physical environment:

Changes to the physical environment can positively impact wellbeing. These changes could include introducing new workstation designs, providing on-site shower facilities and building an on-site relaxation area.

Look to the future:

The fastest growing initiatives over the next few years are estimated to be financial education and support, wellbeing apps and sessions on mindfulness. Employers offering access to wellbeing apps, virtual GPs and wearable devices have also grown recently7.

Create a committee:

One way to ensure employee needs are at the forefront of decision making is to develop a committee consisting of employees from each department from desk-based employees to team members who are on the road or working remotely. These can include representatives from HR, H&S, union reps, and a senior manager too.

Train up health and wellbeing champions in the workforce:

Embedding employees who are passionate about health and wellbeing into teams and different work sites can really help drive the strategy forward and give feedback too.

Free but effective:

Don’t neglect benefits or interventions simply because they are free, in many cases these can be very effective. For example, emails can sometimes be a big source of stress in many employees’ lives. To combat this consider implementing an automatic deletion of emails when on holiday, so employees do not return to an inbox fit to burst.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP):

EAPs tend to be relatively inexpensive to set up and implement and can offer employees a myriad of wellbeing benefits including mental health support.

Training line managers:

it is often said that people don’t leave their job they leave their manager. Managers are the gatekeeper to how someone feels about their work and their wellbeing. But line managers are often not trained to discuss health
and wellbeing.

Make sure that you train up anyone with management responsibility to have discussions on health, identify when someone is struggling, and know where to signpost them for support should they need it.

Consider external support:

There is diary of annual health awareness days that offer advice and support. These include Stoptober, Movember, Dry January etc. Harnessing these highly publicised events can really help communicate your strategy and provide some great resources too. There are government initiatives such
as Time to Change or the Cycle to Work scheme, or local charities or Health Promotion teams, that could provide extra support to help make this strategy a success.

Once you’ve established a long list of initiatives and their cost, you can review and rank them to determine your final list:

  • Review against your objectives
  • Can you measure it?
  • Review against budget
  • Review against identified priorities
  • Can everyone access it?
  • Survey employees
  • Find partners

Launch your health and wellbeing strategy, and consider the on-going communication strategy.

Communication methods will vary from company to company but here are some suggestions you could use to communicate the strategy at launch and in the future.

When working through your strategy, use this checklist as a reminder for the key points to consider at each stage.

Stage 1 – Planning your approach

  • Think through and plan your approach, considering and answering the following:
  • What are the main drivers for implementing a strategy? Do you know what your employees want and need?
  • What is the current offering and are there are any gaps? what are your competitors are offering?
  • Who might be responsible for what?

Stage 2 – Getting management buy-in

Present tangible data to show how a health and wellbeing strategy can help your company. Review and gather date from the following sources:

  • Sickness records
  • Employee demographics
  • Existing initiatives
  • Exit surveys or employee engagement surveys External sources

Stage 3 – Developing your strategy

  • Once you have buy-in you can develop your strategy: Set out your vision and objectives
  • Agree budget and resource needs
  • Identify responsibilities and expectations Determine key metrics

Stage 4 – Launching your strategy

  • Plan how you will launch your strategynand communicate it on a regular basis. Some suggestions include:
  • Create a launch event featuring posters/emails/social media and employee briefings
  • Link your comms into national/external campaigns e.g Movember/ Stop Smoking Day
  • Identify and use champions who can promote the initiatives amongst your employees
  • Communicate examples of real change Create and send a regular newsletter

Stage 5 – Review and refresh

  • Ensure that you regularly review the data and KPIs to check that you are on track
  • Check your metrics on a quarterly basis
  • If something is not working, try to establish why and see if something can be done to improve it
  • Don’t be afraid to evolve and change elements of the strategy
  • Use the data and take time to consider next steps and how you can improve year on year

We can offer your business a free wellbeing employee survey, call us on 07375 097443 to arrange.

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