Employers at pivotal point on wellbeing

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It's an exciting time for wellbeing at work, with employers beginning to make it a priority, according to speakers at a Penguin and Yoke Consultancy event

Employers have increased funding for wellbeing programmes, meaning more can now be achieved, said Rachel Arkle, managing director of Yoke, commenting on a Penguin/Yoke Consultancy Wellbeing Narrative campaign at its launch event.

“It’s an exciting time. When we started, out no-one had a wellbeing budget, so you can imagine the effort and the test of resilience to start doing things with companies. Now, in 2018, we’re dealing with budgets with six rather than five figures, so it just means that we can make more of an impact,” she said.

Speaking of her own experiences, HR director at Stella McCartney Abigail Lerman said that the brand wanted to build on its values through taking a more holistic approach to wellbeing.

“At Stella McCartney we have very strong values in terms of the environment and our treatment of animals, so the ingredients have always been there. When you think of wellbeing you think of mental and physical wellbeing, and we really wanted to build on that and focus it in a more holistic way,” she said.

Saumya Barber, proposition development manager at Unum UK, said that the challenge lies in moving towards the preventative end of wellbeing, rather than looking for quick fixes.

“The business case is obvious, we don’t need to work too hard on that aspect now. It's about translating that in a way that is meaningful for leaders, and moving away from the one-hit wonders – we’ve all been there, we know they don’t work,” she said.

“We wanted to show people that it's a personal journey. It needs to be tailored, and that’s how we approached it internally. No matter what area you’re in there are people experiencing high levels of stress and mental illness. It’s about thinking: how do we shift that towards the preventative end, rather than investing in that reactive end?”

A company can’t perform well if its people’s wellbeing is compromised, added head of learning and development at Grosvenor Robert Nunn.

“For us there is a very direct relationship between the people in the organisation and the success of the organisation. For people living and working in London there are massive problems around housing shortages, and making sure that London remains an attractive, vibrant place for people living and working there. As soon as you make that comparison it’s very simple. We can’t achieve what we want without resilient people in our organisation,” he said.

At this inaugural event, Penguin and Yoke Consultancy introduced the first of a series of books, which features case studies from Stella McCartney, Unum, and Grosvenor, among others.

Jonathan Phillips, head of product and brand at Penguin Living, said that sharing experiences can help to inspire more businesses to invest in employee wellbeing.

“We’ve noticed that real change happens when people share their ideas. We felt that now was the right time to introduce the wellbeing narrative, where people come together to share their stories. We plan on building our community through a LinkedIn group, and a series of books and events such as this,” he said.

“As the lines of life and work continue to increasingly blur, so does the burden and responsibility of those who are charged with looking after employees. We hope that the book will help people in doing this,” he added.

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