Health and wellbeing, once the domain of the HR team, is now on the lips of every CEO up and down the land, so it’s time for IC professionals to put our arms around it.
While we’re talking about lips and arms, let’s mention toes, too. I believe the main reason IC teams haven’t stepped in with their expertise before is fear of stepping on the toes of HR colleagues. They needn’t worry. Covid-19 has amplified the importance of employee wellbeing, especially mental health, and catapulted it to the same level as corporate values. It must be led from the top, owned by the entire business and woven into the culture.
So how do we do that? The same way we do everything else that we want to be part of our business DNA. And, I get it, I work for Bupa, so we have a distinct advantage. Wellbeing is already woven into our DNA, but even we have seen a shift in the minds of some leaders.
No one ever thinks employee wellbeing is a bad idea, but that’s different from making it a priority and seeing it as a key enabler for engagement and delivery. Executive teams and HR functions need the skills and experience of IC teams to figure out how to promote wellbeing as part of the company narrative and signpost people to the advice and care when it’s needed.
We use a simple model at Bupa – Healthier Minds, Healthier Bodies, Healthier Culture and Healthier Places. Now more than ever we need safe, healthy workplaces to return to.
For healthier cultures think about calling out employee wellbeing in your corporate strategy, baking it into your induction, adding questions into your employee survey, featuring it in the language of your executives. Healthier Minds is the term we use to cover off all our activity for mental wellbeing, Whether that’s building awareness and breaking down any stigma about mental health issues, encouraging open conversations, training managers for the signs and symptoms to look out for, or signposting what support is available and how people can access it. All of this packs a more powerful punch when the People and IC teams work in partnership.
But it needs more than that. For wellbeing to be owned by the entire business it needs to be built into leadership capabilities and accountabilities. It’s not easy, but the best way leaders can demonstrate that wellbeing is important is to role model and be open about their personal self-care.
Often leaders have worked out strategies over the years to keep themselves energised. Help them share their stories and be up front about their struggles and what techniques they use to overcome them.
As more and more leaders lead by example and help people take control of their health and wellbeing, we’ll see individuals, companies and society reap the benefits.
With almost two decades as an internal communication expert, Mairi is Director of Internal Communication and Wellbeing at Bupa. You can connect with Mairi via LinkedIn here.