Whose Responsibility is Wellbeing Anyway?

There is growing noise – in the workplace, the media, in online communities and even the European Parliament- around where the responsibility for wellbeing lies.

And this debate should also factor in the responsibility at team level in organisations.

So how do we go about unpicking where individual responsibility lies and where organisational accountability comes into play?

First of all… What could be on offer?

By simply reviewing the BITC’s April 2023 report, we can see there is a sizeable economic impact to gain by investing in wellbeing in the workplace.

But is there a challenge in us talking about Wellbeing vs. Performance?

When an economic model references wellbeing investment, it seems to forget the only currency which impacts the upward trend of these models:

Performance

Have we become uncomfortable discussing the two in unison as a way to unlock the right action from employers and also empower employees to feel their best each and every day?

We must look to pursue an environment that facilitates sustainable high performance in everything we do.

So what is an environment of sustainable high performance?

Individual: For our individuals, we want them to have enough energy day to day to express their knowledge, skills, behaviours and experiences in a productive way. By saying individuals are wholly responsible for their wellbeing, we are not removing any responsibility from the colleagues or the organisation, simply that if / when the capability (or tools), opportunity (or time) and motivation (reward, recognition or KPIs) to engage in wellbeing is provided – employees are then responsible for taking that final step.

Team: For teams, the way in which we work together, psychological safety, and the behaviours demonstrated by leaders are key drivers of effective teams. Especially as many organisations navigate remote and hybrid workforces. Again, referring to the BITC report, you can see how much ground we can make up in workplace wellbeing by improving how we work with and treat each other. However, it is important to note again this is not absolving the organisation or shifting blame. It is about showing through shared accountability that large improvements can be made.

Organisation: The organisation’s core responsibility, outside of regulatory safety requirements, is all about nourishing employees’ energy so that they can take personal accountability for their health and wellbeing by providing:

Tools: Make easy to engage with and attractive tools that employees want to use. Focus on tools that promote self-awareness of current health, coaching, learning towards improving health, and that also measure these improvements. Do not forget the simplest tool at your disposal – your annual leave allowance and encouraging employees to switch off while away.

Time: Forget the lunch and learn. Either provide training within work hours with permission and role modelling from senior leadership or make it flexible to allow employees to engage in their own time.

Support or incentives to engage: This is a broad area with many avenues, from rewarding engagement in healthy activities with financial or annual leave incentives, to senior leader role modelling of positive behaviours. The important thing is that employees know they have the right and the ability to engage in positive wellbeing activities.

So, where do you start?

Build trust: Openly communicate shared responsibility. What are you as an organisation doing to bring about better wellbeing? How are you going to share progress with the employees? How do you build a culture that promotes mutual empowerment.

Empower and encourage teams: Positive leadership behaviours and effective working boundaries will make progress in improving wellbeing.

Provide the tools, time and space: For individuals to engage in wellbeing when it suits them.

HumanOS 

References:

De Neve, J-E., Ward, G. (2023). Measuring Workplace Wellbeing. University of Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre Working Paper 2303. doi.org/10.5287/ora-exxjkdzym

Report: Prioritise People: Unlock the value of a thriving Workforce April 2023 BITC Wellbeing Leadership Team. With Research from Mckinsey Health Institute.

West, D. (2012). behaviour-change-development-framework. [online] behaviour-change-development-framework. Available at: https://behaviourchange.hee.nhs.uk/toolkits/individual/learning-behaviour-change/east:-a-behavioural-insights-tool.