How do the best workplaces invest in well-being and what can your company learn from them?
To find out, we carried out some research and interviewed some companies leading the way. This article shares our findings and some specific ideas you could apply in your own workplace right now.
What Do Leaders Offer?
Off-the-shelf benefits and medical insurance are not enough. The range of activities leaders offer varies as much as the type of staff they benefit, including:
- Away days (e.g. trips abroad, zorbing)
- Classes (e.g. yoga, fitness)
- Challenges (e.g. walking)
- Lunch & Learns (e.g. stress, nutrition)
- Goodies & Giveaways (e.g. iWatches, branded water-bottles)
- Group Workshops (e.g. pregnancy, meditation)
- Ongoing Tips (e.g. via weekly newsletter)
- Regular Leagues (e.g. football, netball)
- Subsidised (healthy) Food
Don’t infer this variety means an ad hoc approach. Leaders plan ahead to mix it up and keep employees engaged, whilst listening and learning inform what activities to offer next.
How Do Leaders Deliver?
Perhaps more important than what is delivered is how it is done.
Leaders have a well-being strategy. We found that strategy informs well-being calendar decisions up to 6 months ahead and invariably follows an A-B-C approach:
- Appropriate – No two people or workplaces are the same. Leaders listen to what everyone wants using surveys, focus groups and conversation and deliver it when it counts (e.g. Stress workshops during Mental Health Awareness Week)
- Belief – No pretending or box ticking. Leaders in well-being truly believe in the power of physical and mental well-being, flowing from management through to every level of the company.
- Consistency – No ‘plug n’ play’ tactics or last-minute rushing. Leaders plan 3-6 months ahead and have regular communications to back it up. Weekly baseline activities (e.g. classes, newsletters) are backed up with special one-offs (e.g. Sports Day, Competitions) and all are measured and refined over time.
So where have these insights come from, and what does a Leader actually look like?
Healthy fast-food restaurants aiming to make it easier for everyone to eat well and live well, including their team of >1,000 staff. LEON is synonymous with health so, to an extent, wellbeing is built into its offering. Their 6 well-being principles ensure they bring that vision to life.
- Classes (e.g. yoga, wing-tsun, fitness)
- Off-site Events (e.g. ‘Eat Well, Live Well day with workshops and activities, football tournaments and sports days)
- Training Studio / ‘Kwoon’
- 1-1 sessions with Mindset Coach Vida Scannell
- Other (e.g. meal on every shift)
Vida Scannell (LEON, Well-being) says:
“At LEON, our mission is to make it easier for people to eat well and live well. This means our teams as well as our customers. Wellbeing is part of everything we do at Leon. In restaurants, in the office, for team members, restaurant managers, everyone, every day.”
Speaking about what makes LEON’s wellbeing unique, Vida says “it starts with the team. What do they need? How can we provide them with the tools to be able to live well? In a physically demanding industry where people work long hours, start early and finish late, we feel it is important to do our best to help people live well and feel happy inside.”
Talking about how LEON’s wellbeing offer is inclusive Vida says “all new joiners attend a compulsory training event, Eat Well Live Well, where they learn about healthy eating and how to be your best self. Our culture is built on positivity and openness - we celebrate our people with GOBs (Glimpse of Brilliance). It is as much about the way we are with each other every day as well as the extra offerings - wellbeing classes, events and festivals that we run throughout the year.”
A creative and recruitment company, Wiser’s wellbeing offer helped them rank #2 in The Sunday Times Best Small Company List, securing a 3 Star Accreditation.
- Quarterly socials (Summer party, Awards, Ascot, Christmas Party)
- Events & One-Offs (e.g. Wellness week, Royal Wedding party, yoga, park sports)
- Goodies & Giveaways (e.g. exclusive discounts, perkbox membership, smoothie bar)
- Educational sessions (e.g. sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, monthly talks from successful business people called ‘Wiser Stories’)
- Discounted gym memberships
- Daily breakfast; a full range of healthy and fun options
- Onboarding; welcome boxes, training, introduction to the Wiser mindset
- Other (e.g. wellness gift-boxes, happiness suggestion box)
Wiser have built a powerful wellbeing offer with a personal touch (and without breaking the bank). Ideas are sourced from everyone at the company by making use of a ‘happiness suggestion box’ and company Whatsapp group.
Harriet Walsh (Marketing & Happiness Associate) then works with the People team to bring it all together. As Harriet explains: “Wellbeing at Wiser really is a team effort, stemming from a constant flow of ideas from the company. Everyone feels that wellbeing is at the heart of what Wiser does for them.
Better still, some of the most personal and powerful touches don’t need much planning or budget, Harriet says: “It’s a simple touch and easy to execute, but things like sending a wellness box when people are off sick is so powerful. A colleague was once off with tonsillitis, so we sent them some ice-cream – so simple but shows we care”.
That personal touch flows through into Wiser’s bigger activities. “Our Wellness Week was a big highlight and had something for everyone” says Harriet. “Activities ran from ‘Mindfulness Monday’ to a ‘Sweet Dreams Friday’. We hosted physical activities such as an Eric Prydz-themed workout and rounders, had talks from a sleep coach, a nutritionist and a psychologist”. Wellbeing at Wiser also goes above and beyond the core team. Wiser’s newest initiative, ‘Random Acts of Wiser’ focuses on giving back. A big focus going forward, each ‘act’ is centered around how big an impact it can make on someone’s life.
Co-working Spaces housing start-ups and small businesses. Their Spitalfields site has >1,000 members and is one of over 15 WeWork locations in London. They aim to create a healthy and collaborative environment to increase productivity and innovation among all members.
- Classes (e.g. massage, fitness)
- Environment (e.g. table tennis)
- Giveaways (e.g. healthy snack pop-ups, Thursday drinks)
- Lunch & Learns Workshops
- Off-site Events & Festivals (e.g. Summer Camp)
- 1-1 Drop-In Sessions
As Kate Chesterfield (Community Lead, Spitalfields) explains: “Our team of 5 Community Managers at Spitalfields genuinely care about all of our 1,000+ members. We talk to them and build a personal relationship”.
That relationship helps foster an amazing culture: “posters and the member network tell members what’s on offer but speaking in person is the important bit. An example of that is Wellness Wednesdays. We supported Chris with building a fitness community within Spitalfields and now 6 months from when we started, class numbers for our weekly HIIT fitness sessions consistently reach 15+ members and get great feedback”.
Members know they can trust the WeWork Community Managers. Yes, they’re lucky to have budget for big events, but it’s the 1-1 conversations over coffee or at the front desk which count.
Hiring platform that enables talent and companies connect directly with each other by making it easy to find and apply for jobs. Their team of 80 work across London, Dublin and New York to bring employers and employees together.
- Classes (e.g. fitness, yoga)
- Giveaways (e.g. water bottles on desk)
- New Joiner Inductions
- Off-site Events
Jobbio are uniquely placed to understand what works when it comes to well-being. Their team is adaptive and empowered act on a lot of the positive drivers which they found make people truly happy at work in the Jobbio WorkHappy Index 2018. As Aoife Geary (Content Editor) explains: “we're passionate about creating a culture that fosters the personal and professional development of employees and encourages healthy working practices. We understand the value of work-life balance and the importance of a supportive team".
Jobbio structure their wellness initiatives to offer a full week of well-being:
- Meditation Mondays - Good for focusing attention, relaxing and reducing stress and anxiety
- Yoga Tuesdays - Helps improve mobility and mindfulness
- HIIT Monday and Wednesday - Encourages an active lifestyle
- Thursday Tag - Social sport, exercise and bonding between colleagues
- Friday Fresh fruit deliveries - Encourages people to eat healthily in the workplace
And they know what they're talking about, having created the WorkHappy Index to discover what motivates today's workforce and what companies can do to keep their teams happy and engaged in their roles:
Healthy drink company of 300 people aiming to make it easy for people to do themselves some good (whilst making it taste nice too). Innocent ranked #3 in the Sunday Times Top 100 in 2018.
- Away days
- Lunch & Learn Workshops
- Environment (e.g. communal picnic area)
- Events & One-Offs
- Training Studio on-site
- Trips abroad (e.g. Spain)
Innocent's Culture Team work with the purpose 'to help people work better and go home happier'. They organise internal events and a packed Lunch & Learn schedule covering a range of topics. The office set up makes casual conversation easy and Friday drinks (complete with table-tennis) regularly get an awesome attendance.
As an insurance, health and protection company it is no surprise that Aviva is a leader in workplace well-being. Its core well-being team of 4 people work closely with over 300 ‘Health Heroes’ to care for 1,000s of Aviva colleagues across the UK.
- Ambassadors (Health heroes)
- Classes (e.g. fitness, dance, running, walking, music)
- Environment (e.g. long cables so people can walk when on the phone, desk pedals, stand up meetings as part of On Your Feet Britain)
- Wellbeing space / Wellbeing village on-site (e.g. music room, fitness room)
- Other (e.g. Headspace app for free)
Aviva’s well-being strategy spans 4 pillars:
- Be healthy
- Be mindful
- Be Secure (currently focusing on financial wellbeing)
- Be Awesome (e.g. feel good by doing good)
A dedicated central team oversees group efforts and empowers a network of over 300 local ‘Health Heroes’ to deliver the needs of each teams. As Elliott Tomlie (Health Hero) describes: “our Health Heroes are crucial for delivery because they know what works with their teams”.
Speaking at an event on workplace well-being, Elliot explains: “it’s the small stuff people talk about that make the biggest difference. Walking clubs can be free but have a massive impact; way more than off-the-shelf benefits packages”.
We asked Debbie Bullock, Wellbeing lead at Aviva UK for her top 3 tips on designing an awesome well-being offer, the she responded: “It’s all about being bold, brave and leverage what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to take action and make the most of ambassadors, data and your existing business. You don’t need a massive budget, just be smart about it”.
Aviva’s well-being strategy is as much ‘bottom-up’ as it is ‘top-down’. It works so well because everyone at Aviva knows we’re committed to well-being. To work it needs to be at least a 2-5 year strategy and beyond, finding ways to always striving to offer appropriate activities for all employees.
Brand Experience Agency & Customer Relationship Agencies respectively, home to over 400 staff in their shared London office. They aim to boost the well-being of all staff so that when they’re asked the question “what’s it like to work at Momentum or MRM?”, their first instinct is to rave about the awesome well-being offer.
- Ambassadors (MFit Ambassadors)
- Brand for well-being (MFit)
- Classes (e.g. yoga, fitness) & leagues (e.g. football, netball)
- Events & One-offs (e.g. Walking Challenges with iWatch prizes)
- Give-aways (e.g. Branded water bottles)
- Lunch & Learn Workshops
- Training Studio on-site
- Other (e.g. ongoing tips via weekly newsletter, well-being new-joiner inductions)
Natalie Heinsen (Head of MRM HR) and Cat Rudland (Senior Talent Advisor, Momentum) and team join forces to offer an inclusive well-being calendar tied to the 2018 pillars: mind, body & soul.
Weekly re-groups keep the core team one-step ahead. New ideas, as Nat explains, come from listening to the people they’re trying to benefit: “before re-launching the new ‘MFit’ well-being brand and logo we ran surveys and focus groups to understand what everyone wanted. That dialogue continues today as we keep looking for new timely activities across each of our Mind-Body-Soul pillars”. The core HR team is also supported by MFit ambassadors, ‘on the ground’ volunteers adding an extra personal touch.
“Communicating with a clear brand has been integral too”, explains Cat. “We went through a few iterations before nailing the logo and email template but it looks amazing now and makes our efforts feel more professional. Busy schedules mean not everyone can attend physical classes, so it’s important we share useful ‘take-home-tips’ in a well-branded weekly email”.
AON’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2018 finds that >50% of employers have, or intend to have, a specific well-being budget. Leaders set that budget long ago and have since realised discounted gym membership and yoga won’t cut it.
What they offer varies significantly but invariably links back to the unique needs of their team. How they invest and deliver invariably follows our A-B-C of workplace well-being. Leaders make Appropriate interventions, based on the Belief they can massively improve the well-being of their team and back it up with Consistent action.
If you are thinking about well-being in your workplace, take inspiration from the ideas shared in this article and try applying the A-B-C framework in how you deliver. Maybe your workplace will be the next to lead the way…
If you think your company should be added to this to help others learn from what you do then please get in touch. We have inevitably missed off some great workplaces (Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Google, Mercer to name a few). Equally, smaller players in The Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For or Vitality’s Healthiest Workplaces list are well worth a look.
Likewise, if you would like to chat about workplace well-being then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.