Ireland’s Workplace Wellbeing Day for 2019 is fast approaching. April 12th is the date for your diary this year. Workplace Wellbeing Day is now in its fifth year and has been growing in strength and significance every year. It’s a really positive day in the Irish business calendar and something to really be proud of. Do you know there’s no other country in Europe that has a National Workplace Wellbeing Day? There may not even be another national Workplace Wellbeing Day anywhere on the planet?! Let me know if you’ve heard otherwise!
The team at Ibec deserve huge credit for launching the initiative in 2015 and backing it every year since. It’s managed to shine a spotlight on health and wellbeing in Irish workplaces and has also done wonders for many small suppliers that work with Irish businesses delivering services in this area.
There is however a drawback with the day that I’ve encountered in recent years. I’d describe it as the law of unintended consequences. Unfortunately, some organisations use the day as a box ticking exercise. They cram a number of activities in to the one day, shout from the rooftops about it then tell anyone that wants to listen that they have a wellbeing programme and that they take employee wellbeing very seriously.
One day of activities does not constitute a wellness programme. One week doesn’t either for that matter (although it’s better than a day of course). A few senior leaders I’ve spoken with on the subject of workplace wellness are not clear on this I’m afraid. We have a fantastic wellness programme they tell me. “We had a talk, some fruit delivered and a yoga class on wellbeing day last year. We’re going to do the same this year”.
Individual vs Organisation
Would you brush your teeth 365 times on one day then not touch them for the rest of the year?
Would you go to the gym for 8 hours on one day then not go again all year?
Would you eat incredibly healthily on one day of the year then not bother about what you eat every other day?
The above individual examples are ridiculous; they make absolutely no sense. I believe the same holds true for an organisation that only “does” wellness on one day a year. A one-day PR exercise will do nothing to support a healthier workforce, it certainly won’t result in any behaviour change.
I appreciate that some companies are just starting out in this area and I also believe that small steps are important when establishing a wellness programme. I would however encourage a longer-term vision when it comes to any wellness activities. By all means start small, put a bit of thought in to some related activities and then spread them out over a couple of days. Make it a couple of weeks next time around, and a few months after that.
Pairing a couch to 5k initiative with raising funds for a charity partner in the lead up to an event like the Calcutta Run for example could be a nice place to start promoting physical activity in the workplace. Add in supporting nutrition and exercise preparation and recovery workshops and all of a sudden, a programme starts to emerge.
Regardless of where you are starting from the goal should be to aim for a continuously improving long term strategic calendar that supports a healthy work environment. This approach should also foster a culture of more open feedback and support for employees, something that the one-off initiatives just can’t provide.
Workplace Wellbeing Programme Launch Day?
I certainly don’t mean to say that you should ignore Workplace Wellbeing Day. Far from it, it should be embraced and celebrated. A great example I’ve seen a few clients of mine employ is to use the day to launch their calendar of events for the entire year. Yes, they have a fanfare and yes, they have lots of healthy activities taking place on the day but they also have a long-term plan to back it up. I propose updating the day to Ireland’s National Workplace Wellbeing Programme Launch Day (trademark pending) in 2020. Not quite as snappy I’ll admit but it does what it says on the tin. Who’s with me???
How about the service providers? Workplace Wellbeing Day is like Christmas Day for what I do and others like me. It’s fantastic, often impossible to meet all the requests for that day and the week leading up to it. The problem of course is the week afterwards; that’s a bit like the week between Christmas and New Year. The phone stops ringing, people are feeling lazy and no one’s replying to any emails!
A week is better than a day, a programme is better than a week, an operating plan (strategy) is better than a programme. Cultivate a culture of wellness at your workplace by thinking longer term about wellness and create an environment that makes behaviour change a real possibility in your organisation (and keeps service providers happy all year round!).
Healthy Workplace Accreditations
The recently launched healthy workplace accreditations such as Healthy Place to Work or the KeepWell Mark from Ibec require longer term thinking when it comes to wellness in the workplace. You certainly won’t achieve these accreditations if you just have wellness activities on one day of the year. A wellness operating plan with related policies and procedures is required as a baseline even before you consider any wellness interventions.
I use my own Workplace Wellness Ireland community to regularly promote the idea of long-term thinking, it’s one of the main drivers of the community.
The growing need for HR professionals to develop wellness programmes in Irish workplaces is the reason why I’m partnering with Dr Sarah-Jane Cullinane of Trinity College Dublin to develop a training programme for the individual. Sarah-Jane and I have identified an 8-step process for workplace wellness programme development based on academic research, 30 years of US industry experience and our own experience and knowledge of the Irish marketplace.
The training will provide a framework for Irish professionals to create, implement and improve sustainable wellness programmes at their workplace. Drop me a line if you’d like to learn more and to get involved.
It’s time to get planning for Workplace Wellbeing Day 2019 on April 12th. Sign up here and celebrate the day with fun and healthy activities that target the majority of your employee base and are as inclusive as possible. Reach out if you are looking for some ideas. Now is also the time to plan for Workplace Wellbeing Programme Launch Day in 2020!
Yours in health, Brian
About the author:
Brian Crooke is a wellness consultant, speaker and trainer specialising in the auditing, development and delivery of workplace wellness programmes (such as Corporation Transformation) for Irish companies through his Office Worker Health business. He is also the founder of the Workplace Wellness Ireland community. In his spare time he is bringing free resistance training to every county and community in Ireland through his parkHIIT project