Re-thinking well-being

  • Paul Barrett
  • 18 June 2021
  • Blog | Managing People | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

Why corporate well-being has become more holistic than ever 

“Good leaders have gone out of their way to show a more human face and break down the previous sense of status and separation.” 

Before COVID-19, most organisational well-being strategies were built on interventions that relied on face-to-face contact with employees. Whether it was well-being roadshows, gym facilities, or much of the counselling offered by employee assistance programmes, these interventions were delivered to employees in person. 

All of that changed with the pandemic. Businesses who prided themselves on the strength of their well-being offering needed to find new delivery channels to enable support to reach a largely home-based workforce. What we saw was a huge pivot to digital within a very short space of time.  

I have been really impressed by how quickly most banks geared up to do things differently and to think in a new way about well-being. Microsites on banks’ intranets were swiftly created to act as repositories for a huge range of well-being resources that could be accessed at any time. And a range of apps like Headspace were offered to help staff better manage their physical and psychological well-being. This shift to digital delivery has ensured that high quality well-being support continues to be available and is even more accessible than it was before the pandemic.  

At the Bank Workers Charity (BWC), we work closely with UK banks to support their well- being agendas. One of the ways we do that is to deliver well-being webinars across the sector. Aware that banks were reappraising their well-being approach, we created a suite of COVID-relevant webinars that fitted with the preference for digital interventions that could be delivered and accessed remotely.  

Another important change of emphasis since the pandemic hit is that well-being is no longer perceived to be the sole responsibility of HR. Business leaders and managers are much more aware of their own employee well-being responsibilities One of the things we’ve seen is that managers are very conscious of the fact that that they don’t have the same access to individuals as they did in the office. Most organisations, including banks, have had concerns about potential mental health problems resulting from social isolation and the other negative impacts of remote working. 

As a result, many line managers are now broadening the kind of one-to-one conversations they’re having with their teams. Not in a forced way, but out of genuine concern. We’re seeing an increase in the kind of discussions that not only focus on objectives and progress on tasks but also on how people are, in themselves. How are they coping? Is there any support that they need? These are proper, authentic conversations about well-being and these are being had at all organisational levels. 

Over the last five years, our understanding of what makes up someone’s well-being has become more sophisticated. Organisations now realise that you can’t just focus on one part of somebody’s life. The thinking around well-being used to focus on the pillars of physical health, financial well-being and mental health. And yet, if you’re looking at what enables people to function effectively at work, it’s a combination of all of those things and, more importantly, these areas all interlock. As a result, we’re seeing a much more holistic picture of well-being emerge.  

Good leaders have gone out of their way to show a more human face and break down the previous sense of status and separation. What we’ve also seen is leaders sending out clear signals to staff about the importance of looking after themselves and their families, of taking time out and not working extraordinary hours. That’s a powerful thing and something we must try to hold onto in the future. 

Read more from Paul Barrett in ‘Well-being rises to the top of the agenda’ on pages 20-22 of the Spring 2021 issue of Chartered Banker magazine.