We’ve all heard about health initiatives in the workplace. Some companies put out fruit baskets, others incentivize working out or using pedometers. These might seem better than companies that don’t offer any health initiatives at all, but workplace wellness isn’t just about fruit and pedometers.

Workplace wellness refers to any approach that allows employees to be more human at work. It’s about getting the opportunity to move more, to have fun and laugh on the job, to eat more natural foods, to build meaningful connections and to work towards a higher goal. It has more layers than just “being healthy” – it’s about feeling engaged, recognised and well at work.

Just like these students, your first task in promoting well-being in your organisation will be to persuade – and the way to do so is to shift your mindset from expert to agent of change. While experts inform us and even guide us, agents of change move us. And, that’s exactly what you’ll need to be doing a lot of.

Establish a clear direction and purpose.
One of the most important stages in creating a health and wellbeing strategy is establishing a clear direction and purpose from the start – by choosing appropriate key objectives and a clear vision for the strategy. Measurable objectives will help you to assess the strategy’s performance over time and give evidence to secure senior management buy-in for any improvements you need to make. They’ll also help you prioritise your time and budget on the most relevant initiatives for your workforce.

The power of art and culture to drive change.
Creative expression has taken on a sense of urgency during the COVID-19 crisis – for example – illustrating the power of art to address existential threat. Culture is the glue of society. Cultural Leaders appeal to hearts and minds and are drivers of social change.

In recent years, there has been increasing recognition the impact that arts participation can have on people’s mental and physical health. The arts can improve health outcomes, promote wellbeing, and strengthen communities by providing new opportunities for social connection.

To start your movement, look on the bright side.
To get your movement off to a flying start: focus on strengths, both on the individual and organisational levels. To find your organisation’s bright spots, aim to answer the following questions: “How is your company supporting the employees?” – this might be health services, yoga classes or a credit union – and “What are successes of your company’s already established workplace wellness?”. Answers to these questions should give you your starting points.

Take a da Vinci approach to change: (the interdisciplinary imperative).
Da Vinci’s prolific contributions demonstrate the power of taking an interdisciplinary approach to work and life, and his contributions to our world celebrate the power of integration to make anything better. Workplace wellness, on the other hand, has historically been compartmentalized and disconnected from other related efforts within the organisation. The da Vinci approach promises a much more powerful wellness effect with synergy and integration, across multiple channels and departments. Senior leaders are critical players in promoting wellness and in helping you start the cultural evolution to more readily support your wellness movement. A great way to start to evolve the culture in our favour is by building a network of cultural ambassadors.

Social connection improves health, well-being, and longevity.
We all know the basics of health 101: eat your veggies, go to the gym and get proper rest. But how many of us know that social connection is as important? Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity.

Use nudges and cues to make behavioural change last even longer.
Nudges and cues are highly effective approaches to behavioural chang. By making small adjustments to the environment according to your wellness initiative, nudges and cues coax us into behaving differently.

A nudge could be an invitation to do something, for example, by making the healthy option the easiest option. If there were apples and bananas on display at the cafeteria cash register instead of candy bars, people would probably grab them as a quick snack.

A cue is more cultural and concerns which activities are considered normal and which aren’t.

Some tips and tricks on launching and iterating your well-being movement.
First, learning through doing and encouraging a growth mindset in your organisation will ease your staff into your wellness program.

A growth mindset means believing in the power of change for all people at all times. It’s never too late to get onboard with this way of thinking and you can foster it by posting questions like “What do you stand for?” on social media platforms and on employee bathrooms.

Once your program is running, monitor it, and assess staff engagement and its organisational impact. This will make refining and improving methods to get a better feeling for employee engagement:

Start by observing how people look when taking part in the program. Speak with them, ask them how they like the program, and observe what happens after a big event. Do you notice any changes?

To see your movement from another perspective, measure its impact on an organisational level. For instance, are there changes in absenteeism, presenteeism or productivity? Have medical costs decreased? Has the rate of injuries dropped? Has the quality of your employee’s lives changed?

Going global gives your well-being movement another kick.
An international employee health and wellbeing programme can face common issues in any country it covers, but there are local differences that employers must take into account:

• Many health and wellbeing issues are common to all countries covered by a programme.
• The type and prevalence of medical treatments will vary from country to country.
• Interventions such as healthy eating and physical activity are relevant despite geographical location.
• Multinational employers should be aware of what is required by all employees and what is legislated in each country they are based.

Multinational organisations that roll out a health and wellbeing programme across a variety of countries should consider the different risk factors in different regions and must imbed specific interventions to suit particular workforce needs.

In sum…
Workplace wellbeing should be front and centre of every employer’s mind. Health and wellbeing in the workplace has been an ongoing matter through history but rarely has the wellbeing conversation raged as keenly as it does today. It’s now vital that employers take active steps to promote the health and wellness of their employees.