I am frequently asked what I feel are the necessary ingredients of a workplace which is supportive of employee wellbeing. For me, successful workplace wellbeing rests on one major element; leadership.

The biggest impact on any employee’s wellbeing will be their manager

The wellness industry has exploded in the last number of years as we have witnessed an upsurge in both demand and research educating companies and individuals on how to build resilience, psychological wellbeing, prevent burnout, improve performance and enable employees to flourish in life.  There is no doubt that positive psychology research and interventions can empower employees to make better choices for themselves and companies to be better equipped to support them.  Yet no amount of wellbeing initiatives will change the fact that the biggest impact on any employee’s wellbeing will be their manager. How a manager shows up each day, the goals and expectations they set and their willingness (or not) to support and hear each person will define their team’s experience of the workplace.

A central function of employee wellbeing initiatives is the permission to be human

The quality of the leadership in your organisation will define the wellbeing of your employees. Ensuring better leadership in organisations should be a foundational step in establishing any wellbeing program. Because a central function of employee wellbeing initiatives is the permission to be human. Recognition that to perform in the workplace, be innovative or creative we must equally have permission to take time off, permission to ask for help, permission to be ourselves and permission to have a life in which our work is just one component. It is the leaders in organisations who give this permission. I see a worrying trend of positive psychology being repurposed in workplaces to compensate for leadership and cultures which need to improve.  If your company offers yoga or meditation during lunch, flexible working, talks on resilience and rest but still expects long hours, sets targets which don’t match resources and your leadership team lacks empathy for the complexity of life, your workplace wellbeing program will  be an expensive plaster for a wound which will continue to bleed.

Your approach to wellness is reflective of your brand, identity and purpose

It is the CEO and the rest of the C-Suite that set the tone for the wellbeing of the entire organisation. This is no longer a nice to have but a critical requirement for competitiveness and stakeholder expectation in this new decade. The wellbeing environment is part of your company’s brand, identity and purpose. Saying you have a wellness program in place will not be enough. Demonstrating that you make courageous decisions, including changes to leadership, that influence wellbeing will be the expectation.

Developing your business strategy through a new lens that ensures the nurture of staff wellbeing is now a requirement, not just from employees but other stakeholders such as consumers and investors who expect more than financial performance alone. In this new decade, stakeholders in business will demand more of leaders. Employees will seek better workplaces, shareholders and consumers more sustainable and ethical business practices.

If you are a leader, this is about you

For leaders with a serious intention of improving employee wellbeing in 2020, the starting point must be some introspection. Who you are, how you lead, what your impact is will define your employees wellbeing in 2020 and beyond.

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash