Words: David Green
Well-being requires more than just fresh fruit. It should be embedded into your organisational culture…
So morale is low, sick leave has increased, and there is a lack of trust between staff and the management team. As a relatively new CEO you have taken steps to secure future funding, but you can see this is not enough to improve workplace well-being. These problems, it seems, pre-date your arrival and appear to be endemic.
So where to start?
Difficult as it may seem, the only lasting solution is to change the workplace culture. So no quick fix…but not impossible. Firstly, everyone needs to be on board. Secondly, you need to have a strategy that is underpinned by practical steps to bring about change. It is not enough just to write a good policy and provide fresh fruit. Finally, the goal should be a well workplace; and that means embedding well-being throughout the organisation. In other words, promote good health, but equally, consider the operational and the environmental factors affecting well-being.
Begin by understanding the problems and pressure points. Your data – sickness records, complaints, staff turnover rates etc. – is indicative, but they will not tell the full story. So start talking. Speak to people, individually, in teams, and via their representatives. Ask what needs to change to improve morale; and find out the pressure points. Explain your strategic goal of changing the culture; and you will soon recognise where the main problems lie.
OK, so you may have no control over external pressures, but a well workplace will be better equipped to face such challenges. So you need to be leading rather than just managing.
Also, no one likes change. Some staff may be set in their ways; and difficult to motivate. So your strategy should put staff (and volunteer) engagement at its centre. Continued consultation with and respect for your people, enabling them to see clearly their own value to the organisation, will bring trust and buy-in. You can do this though regular one-to-one’s with individuals, through group and full team meetings, and enabling staff to have their own effective voice.
This need not be time consuming and cumbersome, but instead should be a continued process of consultation. Use such engagement to outline what is happening across the organisation, review progress, to discuss past and future activity, and raise ideas, and in particular, to praise good work.
Not surprisingly, workplaces with a well–being culture tend to have managers who demonstrate good people skills; and provide continuing professional development. So look at your current skills and training capacity, and consider how it can be expanded.
Closely linked to this will be the organisation’s approach to HR. A good work-life balance, along with flexible working opportunities, and fair procedures for resolving problems are essential. So your approach will need to look at what you do well; and what can be improved. This can be anything from how you recruit and select people, to how you deal with grievances, discipline and poor performance.
Of course one of the biggest barriers to well-being in many workplaces is stress. Work related stress can have a major impact on individuals and organisations; and your well-being strategy needs to look closely at effective prevention. The Health and Safety Executive management standards preventing work related stress provide a very good benchmark, and are the place to start.
But just as mental health is an important aspect of well-being, so is physical health. So promotion of healthy eating, physical activity and developing a healthier lifestyle should also be incorporated into your wellbeing strategy.
Finally, don’t forget to look at the working environment – lighting, noise, temperature, slip and trip hazards, workstations etc.
I said earlier there will be no quick fix; and understandably, all of this may appear daunting. Indeed, it would be misleading to suggest that changing an organisation’s culture is easy. It can be a big job, particularly where trust is very low. There is a risk of becoming bogged down in the finer details, or being stalled by specific problems or even individuals. That is why buy-in from everyone is so necessary; and why the process of change needs to be on-going. Indeed, support from the organisation’s leadership is a key to success.
So involve people, seek help as needed; and make it happen. Because left unchanged, a poor workplace culture soon becomes a rotten one; and that is no help to you, your team, or the people your organisation is trying to help.
David Green is director of Green Pepper Consulting