Fans of irony, take note: up and down the UK, plenty of business leaders are feeling stressed about health and wellbeing.
And no, this isn’t some unpleasant side-effect of their brand-new wellbeing programme. The problem is actually the opposite. In SMEs and larger companies alike, an increasing number of leaders feel under pressure because they want to do something about company health and wellbeing, but they just don’t have the time.
These business managers and leaders see the benefits of health and wellbeing programmes. They understand their value for recruitment. They find the business case convincing. But none of this gets around their central problem: where will they find the time to manage all this new stuff?
After all, they have a to-do list that’s as long as an aircraft carrier, a phone ringing like a Hollywood A-lister’s, and meetings just to schedule meetings. Until someone invents some new hours for the working day, there’s no space to even think about a health and wellbeing programme.
One day, they will have time for health and wellbeing. Around, let’s say, 2036.
Time for some myth-busting
As wellbeing consultants, we’re delighted to tell you that these time-related anxieties are — with some caveats — unfounded. An appropriate health and wellbeing programme is not the time-and-energy-sucking black hole that business managers dread. In fact (and you may have to brace yourself here), a really good intervention will demand very little input, especially after the initial phase.
So where does the time-devouring myth come from?
Without trying to psychoanalyse anyone, maybe it’s because business leaders and managers do tend to… well, lead and manage. They’re good at leading and managing and it’s how they earn their living. Naturally, they see every new change in their business as something they need to take personal charge of. And that includes any wellbeing intervention.
However, there are two solid reasons why wellbeing interventions — or at least the most effective ones — never require extensive management.
The first centres on the question of who ‘owns’ health and wellbeing. As we’ve argued before our view is that health and wellbeing interventions are never the sole responsibility of a company. All companies have a duty of care; great companies will take every opportunity to shape working environments and practices to optimize health and wellbeing, as well as guiding and supporting their staff in making positive health choices. But that doesn’t mean companies (and therefore managers) need to micromanage their employees’ day-to-day health decisions, any more than a dentist checks her patients’ daily brushing. Even if it were feasible, that would be counter-productive: we all kick against excessive monitoring.
The second reason relates to expertise. After an initial discussion, a professional wellbeing consultancy should have all the tools they need to work independently. They should be able to analyse the current situation, gather employee data and make evidence-based recommendations. After this, their ongoing work could involve further monitoring and recommendations. The point is that none of this should be onerous for leaders and managers.
In our own work, clients soon discover that the consultation and set-up all happen quite seamlessly, with minimal disruption to regular business activities. The only leg work they have to do is on the new compulsory exercise bikes. OK, we’re kidding about the bikes! Ongoing management is no challenge either, as we continue to work in the background, gathering information, feedback and presenting at convenient intervals. This is particularly important for SMEs, where there’s usually little spare capacity for managers or staff.
The one unavoidable time investment.
So, based on many successful wellbeing interventions, our view is that neither setting up nor maintaining a health and wellbeing programme should gobble up management time.
Ah, but there’s a sort-of catch (isn’t there always?). There is one block of time which managers cannot avoid spending on a health and wellbeing intervention. It’s the time you invest in choosing an appropriate provider.
Whether you’re running an SME or working in a larger company, there’s no escaping the research needed to choose the best provider for your needs. Without this, there’s the unfortunate possibility of, as the saying goes, buying a dog and barking yourself. So, before you commit to any wellbeing programme, we advise preparing some searching questions on how it will actually work, and what your commitments will be.
And that really would be time well spent.
ART Health Solutions is a wellbeing consultancy, providing effective, science-based wellbeing recommendations. Our bespoke solutions are generated by gathering data directly from the organisation and its employees. Having proven our methods working with large, multinational corporations, we’re excited to bring our expertise to small and medium-size UK businesses.
To learn how we can benefit your company, please contact our friendly team.