Damian Stancombe, Head of Workplace Health and Wealth at Barnett Waddingham outlines the importance of consistency and alignment in order to deliver an effective wellbeing and benefits strategy.

Damian Stancombe, Partner, Barnett Waddingham

Damian Stancombe, Partner, Barnett Waddingham

Imagine you’ve just bought a new car and after much consideration, it’s the perfect choice. On your drive home you hear a strange noise, so you stop, open the bonnet and find the engine looks very different to the one you remember from your test drive. You call the salesman, who says: “Congratulations! Since you’re our one millionth customer, we replaced your engine with the best engine from the fastest car in the world. The sound is a bit unusual, but it’ll run like a dream!”

You should ask yourself: Do you keep the car, or insist on having the one you originally purchased?

Let that sink in for a while. We’ll get back to it.

As the modern workplace evolves, our approach to wellbeing in the workplace does too. Some time ago, wellbeing was linked solely to physical health and we’ve begun to recognise the impact of poor mental health on the wellbeing and productivity of employees too.

Barnett Waddingham’s study on wellbeing in the workplace, Why BWell, has confirmed these findings, discovering that two thirds of UK workers admitted to coasting or struggling in the workplace – with only 18% reporting they’re flourishing. We’ll be hearing more on mental health in the workplace at The Wellbeing 360 on 16 November, as Josh Quigley speaks on the need to find fulfilling work.

Recently, financial wellness has come to the fore as essential to the workplace for the same reasons: wellbeing and productivity. To keep up, the benefits and interventions on offer have had to evolve, providing endless opportunities for providers to help solve workplace concerns. Whether you’re looking after your employees as a true duty of care, or whether you’re simply concerned with productivity and maintaining attractive positions in your organisation - chances are you’ve considered or implemented a number of these solutions.

It can all be confusing. Employers realise that a wellbeing strategy is absolutely necessary. In the absence of a coherent strategy, an organisation might incur costs on benefits that aren’t fit for purpose, ultimately experiencing a drop in productivity - losing their best people to an employer that knows and delivers what its employees want. Our Why BWell report confirmed this - finding that nine in ten agree that a happier workplace is more productive.

Our survey – the UK Workplace Wellbeing Index 2017 – shows that 71% of employers surveyed currently have, or are developing, a wellbeing strategy. Compared to 51% in the previous year, this is a growing trend.

Companies generally implement a strategy - or have guidelines in place - for financial wellness and wellbeing separately. Though split, benefits and interventions associated with each are very different and offered traditionally by different types of providers. Sometimes, you will find different people in an organisation responsible for each strategy. The benefits you offer should have a structure and be implemented according to a set plan.

What could happen if these strategies are not consistent?

Studies show a strong link between financial wellness and mental ill health. We also know that sustained depression or other mental conditions can manifest in physical illness. In fact, most of the different aspects that make up overall wellbeing are closely linked; a third of people admitted their job has a negative impact on their mental health – the same number also believe their overall wellbeing is not important to their employer.

However, if we are not able to actually measure the effect of one on the other, it’s difficult to find the right way to address a specific problem.

For example – it’s not good enough to simply roll out financial wellness initiatives like pension education or employer loans and expect your employees’ overall state of health to improve. We need to assess the effect of a financial wellness benefit, not only on employees’ financial security, but also on their health and other aspects of wellbeing. Failing to do so may impact a company’s bottom line, as organisations experiment – keeping up to date with trends. Our findings confirm this; Why BWell revealed that 25% of people admitted that they couldn’t see themselves working for the same company in five years’ time.

Back to the new car. Just because it has the fastest engine in the world doesn’t mean it will work best. The number of adjustments the workshop has had to make to make the engine fit, might cost you more in the long run to maintain it. In addition, the car you now drive is not the one you wanted. Will the bigger engine cost more in fuel? Very likely. Will the car perform as expected to? Probably not.

The best way of achieving consistency in performance is through aligning the different parts to the whole; have an engine that’s suitable for your vehicle. If we take this one step further and consider the most effective alignment, then it has to be using only the parts that fit your car - parts that are tailor made; your car should be built from one plan.

So, how do we align financial wellness, wellbeing and benefits strategies in the best way? We apply our philosophy of ‘Eudaimonia’. We believe that individuals need to feel good in all six pillars of wellbeing in order to flourish: – ‘work/life balance’, ‘my job’, ‘financial security’, ‘support’, ‘health’ and ‘protection’.

  • Start over with one overall wellbeing strategy
  • Incorporate all the aspects of wellbeing into this one strategy – financial, physical and mental, support structures, protection benefits, sickness policies, the delivery of employee benefits, employee engagement platforms and programs etc.
  • Set out clear objectives, aligning them with the organisation’s culture and business strategies including: performance, staff attraction and retention
  • Determine the needs of your workforce across all aspects of wellbeing
  • Determine solutions to address these needs
  • Determine and implement the delivery of these solutions
  • Define a method for measuring the return on investment for any interventions and benefits
  • Ensure your strategy is flexible enough to remain suitable as the workforce grows and changes over time.

One holistic strategy that incorporates all the aspects of wellbeing will be more effective than trying to align a number of different strategies. Drive the car you intended to drive in the knowledge that everything under the hood is designed to work together and culminate in the best overall performance.

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