Lawrence Mitchell is founder of RAW Energy, CCO of SumoSalad, and an author of three books. He is the creator of the RAW Energy philosophy and framework that has led to multiple award-winning workplace wellbeing programmes.
At Guild we believe that employee wellbeing is one of the most fundamental success factors of top performing companies. It will become even more important in the future, as employees increasingly want to work for organisations that have the right kind of culture and values.
We thought it would be a good idea to mine Lawrence's brain, to identify some actionable strategies and tactics that you can use to improve workplace wellbeing.
You are a champion for employee wellness, which is presumably one of the more important things for a company to focus on. Why do you think it matters so much?
Everyone wants wellbeing, everyone wants good health, everyone want to be that version of their best self, and everyone wants to thrive.
By prioritising employee wellbeing, organisations can enjoy the benefits that forward-thinking companies enjoy: breaking down silos, collaborative thinking, attracting and retaining the best talent, building resilience and resourcefulness, enhancing performance, reducing the cost of illness, and unlocking the unrealised human potential that exists within every workplace.
The business with the most talented, energised and cohesive teams win customers, market share and margin.
What are the key factors to consider?
We recently polled 500 UK HR Directors and asked them what issues they are grappling with now. Mental health issues was by far the biggest issue which is no surprise given that we’re living in a VUCA world, characterised by volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times.
To cope and not only survive, but to the thrive in this environment, we all need our own personalised wellbeing and resilience toolkit that can be leveraged to support us through the highs and lows.
By recognising that employees are whole people with core needs, and investing in employee wellbeing, leaders today can create an environment to help their employees minimise negative energy (stress) and create positive mental, physical, emotional and social energy.
How can employers increase health and wellness in the workplace?
Our research segmented organisations based on their attitude and investment in wellbeing. If we study the behaviours of the thriving organisations, we see that leadership role modelling, measurement targets and placing wellbeing at the heart of the culture, in contrast to the lower phases of development where wellbeing is a nice-to-have which is under-invested.
How can employee wellness be measured? Are there any good practices in this area?
As any marketer or business owner knows, 'what gets measured, gets managed’ and the current lack of measurement in the workplace wellbeing space is driven by over 75% of people either not knowing what KPIs to track, not being asked to measure ROI, or not having any data to track and measure.
The more mature organisations who continue to invest tend to combine a number of survey metrics with HR metrics: employee engagement, employee satisfaction, retention, cost of recruitment, absenteeism through sickness to create an overall company wellbeing KPI score.
Increasingly, companies are implementing the products from many health tech innovations in market or in development that are offering solutions to capture and aggregate more granular and interesting data on stress and feelings.
Are there any studies that prove the connection between wellness and productivity?
According to Gallups’s State of The Global Workplace Report, in 2013, every single UK employee took 4.4 days off sick each. Added together, that worked out at 131 million days lost to sickness absenteeism. And that's not the whole story, as the figure excludes the many people who struggled to work ill, but were far less productive than they could have been, a condition often referred to as 'presenteeism'.
Now, logic tells you that a sick and unproductive team is not going to be good for any business. So it's no surprise that, faced with this situation, increasing numbers of UK-based organisations are investing in wellness programmes and activities.
The evidence - primarily from the US - shows that well executed wellness programmes can return two to five times the cost of the programme through increases in employee engagement, productivity, recruitment and retention.
What are the best examples of healthy company culture? Which companies are leading the pack?
Great, well-known examples that have been written about include Zappos (Delivering Happiness) and Patagonia (Let my People Go Surfing), but there are plenty of examples of healthy company cultures in organisations that few of us have heard of.
What sets these companies apart? There are four key areas where they excel...
First, there's the importance of leadership. They had role model leaders, who walked the walk and talked the talk and creating a positive work environment for their staff.
Then there's the move to purpose. Purpose-led leadership and action energises individuals and builds teams and cultures of purpose creating high-performance organisations with a competitive difference.
What else? Flexibility. These companies allow their people to have the autonomy and freedom to not only decide where, when and how to do their work, and are also prepared to experiment, fail, learn and grow.
Finally, there's engagement, as these companies don't just define wellbeing initiatives, but they also support them with a communication strategy to increase participation.
Thinking more broadly, what does a good people strategy look like?
People are unpredictable, emotional, forgetful and imperfect which makes the human element one of the most challenging components of leadership. I was in my early 20s when I got my first management role and was given responsibility for seven staff.
Looking back, I hadn’t really learnt how to manage myself at that time, let alone manage others. But I got on with it, and saw the people element as a necessary evil. As the years past, and the teams I led got bigger, I learnt to shift this view to seeing people leadership as the most important part of my role.
A good people strategy will focus on employees experience in the same way we look at customer experience, with strategies in place to successful recruit, onboard, train, coach, develop, recognise, reward and unleash the passions and energy that we all have.
If you're interested in improving your own wellbeing initiatives then check out Lawrence's recent report, titled 'Human Centred Organisation: The Current State of Employee Wellbeing and its Impact on Business', which you can download for free.