How can organisations support and encourage individual responsibility for wellbeing?
Wellbeing in the workplace – whose responsibility is it? Perhaps more than any other initiative, it finds itself passed from pillar to post. Is it a question of Health and Safety? Should it fall into the remit of HR? Should it be handed to a newly created Wellbeing specialist role? Where does an individual’s responsibility stop and an employer’s responsibility start?
When it comes to an employer’s duty of care, it can be difficult to apply this to something as complex and holistic as personal wellbeing, which knows no 9-5 boundaries.
Responsibilities are further confused by the term “Personal Resilience” which is fast becoming a buzzword. The term implies a more individualised, subjective approach to employee wellbeing. It must not, however, be seen as an opportunity for organisations to escape their responsibility for employee wellbeing. It should herald a far more effective approach, which sees organisations building their wellbeing strategy around each employee’s own perceptions of wellness. Aligning health initiatives and wellbeing goals to support people’s individual motivations and aspirations gives us the best chance of making a real and sustainable positive difference to that person’s life….and to their productivity levels.
Resilient people stay committed and increase their efforts when the going gets tough. Organisations now have the opportunity to help employees improve their resilience and equip them with the right skills and confidence to respond positively to the many pressures and adversities they encounter in the workplace. This approach also promotes a more flexible and adaptable attitude to change, which is increasingly important in today’s constantly changing and unpredictable business environment.
“Employee Wellbeing”, like Employee Engagement should not be viewed as a product that can be applied to employees. Just as you cannot enforce someone to be “engaged” nor can you place demands on them to be “well”. Wellbeing is a personal issue, with each individual holding ultimate responsibility for their own health and wellness.
That said, there are of course many ways in which organisations can support the wellbeing of their employees. Financial support - gym memberships, health checks and subsidised healthy meals – have their place. Far more important, however, is creating a culture that allows employees to discuss their wellbeing issues. One that helps them, through dialogue, to realise the care of duty they have to themselves.
So, how do we create a culture where these conversations can happen freely? Like any change process, achieving success relies on strong leadership. And when it comes to line management, it is vital that leaders are aware of the impact their management style has on the wellbeing of their reports. Support, challenge, feedback, authenticity, integrity and awareness on the part of the manager all play a major role in limiting negative stress and maximising positive wellbeing.
One of the most important roles HR can play is to ensure managers and leaders have developed the necessary skills to both support and challenge their reports. Improving relationships between managers and staff has a profound impact on employee wellbeing.
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