During 2020, an estimated 81% of New Zealand company boards discussed workplace mental health issues – a large spike compared to 2019 where only 62% of boards discussed the mental health of their employees.

The discussion around mental health and wellbeing has risen to the forefront of business strategy since COVID-19 hit our shores. Even when the most immediate consequences of the pandemic have mostly abated (e.g. lockdowns), the changing landscape of our working (and personal) worlds has given many of our clients pause to wonder:

How do we know who needs support in our organisation?

How do we know what support they need?

According to data collected from over 3,000 New Zealand employees, 1 in 3 working New Zealanders report moderate or high levels of psychological distress and 1 in 5 are reporting poor levels of wellbeing. 

This year we have the opportunity to rethink employee wellbeing in order to improve these statistics. While last year necessitated reactive support as our country faced brand new challenges during lockdown, now is the time to take a strategic look at how to build long-term, meaningful changes in employee wellbeing.

On average, New Zealand employers already invest $1500 per employee on benefits to improve their wellbeing. Recent research has found that proactive wellbeing initiatives produce an average return on investment of $5 for every dollar spent – substantially greater return than the $3 return on investment for every dollar spent on reactive support. 

According to research by Deloitte UK and Canada, the return on investment for wellbeing initiatives is maximised when we take a planned and coordinated approach, including:

  • focusing on prevention and proactive support to build employee resilience 
  • generating large-scale wellbeing culture change
  • investing in long-term wellbeing programmes (i.e. over several years)
  • tailoring support for at-risk groups through screening tools.

This means that a forward-thinking approach to wellbeing is the best thing we can do for our people and our business. Workplace wellbeing requires strategic and systemic thinking. You can start by asking the following questions as you plan your 2021 wellbeing initiatives: 

  1. Why do we want a wellbeing programme? What are our goals?
  2. Do we know how our people are really doing? Who needs the most support?
  3. Do we know what factors are positively and negatively contributing to our people’s wellbeing at work and at home? 
  4. How can we tailor our wellbeing initiatives to what our people really need?
  5. What can we do to proactively increase positive wellbeing, not just reduce distress?
  6. How can we enact our wellbeing strategy at all levels of the organisation? What changes need to be made at the organisational level and at the leadership level, as well as the group and individual level?
  7. What does success look like for us? Do these expectations align with what our people want from us?

We also recommend these two articles from our Umbrella archives to help your thinking: “How to create real impact from your wellbeing programme” and “Wellbeing strategies that work: Frequently asked questions”.

Umbrella can help

A wellbeing strategy should be an evolving, iterative process rather than working towards a single endpoint. It should begin with a clear purpose, involve consultation with your people, include data-gathering on the state of wellbeing in your organisation, informed planning on how best to improve wellbeing, decisive action that is backed by evidence, and regular review to ensure you are meeting your goals.

Umbrella Wellbeing is pleased to offer businesses an end-to-end service, from determining your purpose and developing your strategy, through to getting to know your people and gathering wellbeing data (Umbrella Wellbeing Assessment), taking action (workshops and e-training), and reviewing your progress (pulse checks and/or follow-up assessment).

We know that every business is different, and that’s why every wellbeing strategy will look different. Whether you are in the middle of your own wellbeing programme, or just starting out, our business nous and psychology expertise will help to ensure that your most important asset – your people – are getting the most out of your investment and that your business is thriving as a result.

Get in touch to discuss what Umbrella can help with on your wellbeing journey – you can email us at [email protected] or call us at 0800 643 000.