How to plan beyond physical and mental health

The employee health and wellbeing market continues to move at pace, with new providers and innovations coming out of the woodwork every day.

I love seeing this pace of change, but I don’t always agree with the methods.

Many of these propositions take a singular approach to a particular type of wellbeing intervention, primarily physical or mental health. 

Wellbeing is so much more than that. While these aspects are crucial for our wellbeing, concentrating solely on them can leave other important facets of wellbeing in the shadows.

This single-track approach doesn't just skew the balance of your service; it might also dampen the very joy we aim to infuse into our workplace cultures.

Introducing the Five Ways to Wellbeing

To address this, let’s explore a model that captures the full spectrum of wellbeing. 

I’ve been a big advocate of the Five Ways to Wellbeing model for a long time. Rob Baker from Tailored Thinking introduced me to it back in 2013/14. 

First developed by the New Economics Foundation in 2008, the model is now used by organisations big and small all over the world. 

The framework enriches traditional wellbeing programmes by promoting more rounded and inclusive strategies, and in my opinion, provides elements that are much easier for people to engage with instead of the usual physical, financial, social etc.

Over the years I’ve been involved with, and seen on socials, some great examples of practice. These need little to no financial resource but have yielded fantastic results:

  1. Connect: I once worked with a university that implemented 'Random Coffee Talks', pairing employees from different departments for coffee dates. This simple yet effective initiative was organised using an automated Google Sheet (ChatGPT can tell you how to do it for free!), and not only boosted morale but also improved inter-departmental communication and collaboration. It underscored the importance of social connections in the workplace.

  1. Be Active: We’re broadening from physical in this post but we should still include it. I’ve seen on LinkedIn organisations introducing 'Walking Wednesdays', where meetings were held on the go, around the campus or local parks. I love it. This not only injects physical activity into working routines but also brings a fresh perspective to discussions, showing that being active isn’t just about going to the gym.

  1. Take Notice: A friend of mine introduced mindfulness sessions (using YouTube videos) at her workplace after noticing high stress levels amongst colleagues. These 15-minute daily sessions aimed to cultivate mindfulness and awareness. As a result, many reported improved concentration and reduced stress levels, highlighting how these small practices can make significant differences.

  1. Keep Learning: I used to work part-time at a university who offered all employees £250 per year for non-work-related courses. It put me through my strength & conditioning course, which I ultimately used to tour Australia with England Rugby League during the 2008 World Cup! This (relatively) inexpensive initiative not only encouraged continuous personal development but also brought new skills and hobbies into the workplace, enriching university culture and employee satisfaction.

  1. Give: One memorable initiative that I saw on LinkedIn involved a small team that organised monthly community service outings. Whether they were planting trees or serving at local shelters, employees felt a profound sense of fulfilment and teamwork. This sense of giving back not only strengthened team bonds but also enhanced their connection to the company and the community that it serves.

Using the Five Ways for your own work

We want to create a joyful workplace culture. That’s why we’re all here. 

As champions of the world of work, we hold the brushes to paint our workplaces with the broad strokes of wellbeing that go beyond just the basics.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing model offers us the perfect opportunity to differentiate ourselves from other organisations.

It gives us the ability to be creative, without the rigidity of more formal wellbeing brackets, and to build something more than step challenges and mental health apps. 

We can turn the everyday workday into a potential adventure that boosts morale and fosters a vibrant, supportive environment.

Ready to transform your workplace? 

Start by integrating the Five Ways to Wellbeing into your strategies today, and watch how a holistic approach can revolutionise not just your work environment, but also how your team interacts and thrives.

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On the final Thursday of each month, we tackle big employee wellbeing challenges and break them down into practical, actionable steps, so you can get the best out of your work.

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