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Well-being for everyone

Well-being is a hot topic - and almost certainly on everyone's agenda - but it needs to be much more than a tick box exercise. Taking the well-being of our people seriously is important on many levels but nothing is as effective and sincere as well-being that is culture deep.

Of course having someone qualified to support members of your team with any mental health issues is valuable. Understanding how the specific set of circumstances within your organisation impact on each and every member of staff is a complex science. But there's so much more to this issue.

What is well-being? That's a huge question but as a brief summary, I'd say it is a feeling of contentment, peace and calm. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy some pressure, ambition and manageable levels of stress - these things excite and motivate us. But well-being is, for me, a place that is realistically comfortable. In an ideal world we should be able to work, perform to the best of our abilities and make real and valuable contributions without being negatively affected by our environment. Creating a place where well-being is prioritised should remove a lot of unnecessary worry and anxiety. We could call it a 'positive culture', a place where focus is on achievement, not failure - on praise, not criticism.

I'm at the age where my, and my friends', kids are all starting out in the job market. Interestingly, the job descriptions that resonate loudest are those with a fantastic culture that scream "work here, we're amazing!". Clever employers are working harder to attract young talent and some of the most successful are placing culture above job specifics.

Flexible working hours, on-site gym, active social calendar, supported qualification and leadership programmes, weekly fruit deliveries and so much more! Why, apart from the fruit (obviously), it sounds much like uni life to me - except you get paid as well! Graduates are delighted at the prospect of employers who sound like they might actually like, welcome and enjoy them being there.

One of the organisations that my friend's daughter has applied to has a free gym, relaxing lake setting, restaurant with paid lunch and a pretty cool coffee bar. Other businesses offer financial rewards, bring your dog to work days, duvet days, work in the sunshine days, opportunities for international relocation, on-site yoga classes and cycle to work schemes. A decade on and we're all still slightly envious of the Google beanbag culture! Compare this against the very many businesses who still charge their staff for every cup of tea and monitor toilet breaks.

There is a connection between feeling valued and being happy. A culture of wellness helps employees feel valued and appreciated because it shows that you support them both professionally and personally. It proves that you are making efforts to help them make a healthy lifestyle achievable. When employees feel that their well-being is truly cared for and valued by their company, they will feel generally happier with their jobs and employers. [Forbes 2017]

Putting well-being first works for every level, not just graduates. For well-being programmes to have a significant effect, the care and support needs to be culture deep, permeating through the many layers of management and infrastructure. This type of environment creates an environment of loyalty and respect, a feeling of "I love working here, I'm going to do a good job as I have too much to lose if I don't". Yes it's a form of dangling the carrot but why not? It's an age old adage but a happy workforce is the most productive. Productivity, attendance and staff retention rates are all high on the back of this. Win win.

I very much enjoy a company that doesn't support the blame culture - people working in fear that they might make a mistake. Of course no one wants to support a sloppy attitude to work - but in a blame culture I believe mistakes are waiting to be made as they are a high focus. And worse, employees try to cover up mistakes so that they don't get the blame, causing stress for them and for whoever has to deal with the fallout.

Getting the well-being culture right is tricky - you might have worked very hard to create exactly the fun-filled, warm environment that I described earlier, only to have a manager somewhere who doesn't subscribe to this way of working and their team might operate quite differently. Getting buy-in at every level therefore is vital. Making sure that the layers of management within your business support and understand the effects of a well-being culture is just the start. The benefits have to filter through to every level, including the CEO, directors and of course, the HR Director.

It's an exhausting business balancing the needs of the team with the commercial needs of the business so we all have to take the time for our own well-being. At The HR Agenda, after many years of experiencing different types of working environment, we believe that HR leaders are usually the last people to experience this kind of investment - we look after everyone else, so why aren't we also looking after ourselves?

We know that we don't take the time we need and it's absolutely paramount that HR leaders, directors and senior managers all benefit from time away from the frantic pace we work at to work out how we a) manage the well-being of our teams, b) create that idyllic well-being culture and c) make sure we have the tools, energy and brain space to do it all.

Talk to us, it's one of the things we can help with and something we understand too well. Creating a work environment where well-being comes first isn't just a passing trend or a way of attracting young talent - it's a fundamental way of operating a business and that can only come from its core.

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