Do wellbeing initiatives make a difference?

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I read this interesting piece from a Guardian columnist, speculating that some common wellbeing initiatives such as mindfulness seminars and resilience workshops may have limited benefit in actually making employees happier.

Instead, he highlights the importance of prioritising structural working practices, improving the quality of managers, and encouraging psychological safety.  

At byrne·dean, we absolutely agree and advocate that those elements are the bedrock of employee welfare. However, we equally feel that wellbeing initiatives should not be neglected. A two-pronged approach is best.

From my years of experience across HR, mental health, and workplace behaviour consultancy; I have seen firsthand how talking about mental health, reducing its stigma and raising awareness around the symptoms of conditions like anxiety and burnout, as well as what helps alleviate them, in turn raises the rates of people seeking help.

For example, after a programme of our mental health awareness sessions for a global food brand, the usage of their Employee Assistance Programme saw an uplift of 50%, as awareness grew and staff felt comfortable seeking help for themselves and others.

After attending workshops like this, I have seen people get help and support for suicidal feelings, anxiety and depression. I believe, with no hesitation, that well-designed workshops and seminars can have an immensely positive impact on the individual, giving people the chance to reflect on what they would like to do differently and spur action.

This should be done in tandem with addressing wider workplace culture and structure as well, such as the elements identified in that article. Part of that, should be ensuring that teams have the tools and support to identify both specific workplace stresses and wider mental health symptoms.

The Mindful Business Charter and the HSE give great suggestions on starting points and frameworks to work within and we build from there. What can be done to reduce team and organisational stress and how can they make that happen.

In a recent session I facilitated on stress, the team decided to dedicate time to discussing their preferred ways of working, communication styles and key strengths. By getting to know their team members better, their aim was to build trust and enable people to work to their strengths and in ways that they preferred.

They agreed to have their 1:1’s as ‘’walk and talks’, as it was difficult to always add movement into their days and have set times in the week without internal meetings to allow focus time. It all makes a difference and whilst we can’t reduce all workplace stresses, we can work to minimise them.

If your organisation needs help getting the balance right between addressing its working practices and fostering wellbeing, please get in touch. For information on our workshops including mental health during change and reducing team stress collaboratively please click here.

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