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7 ways to improve wellbeing at work

Clare Walsby

It’s International Happiness at Work week! 

What – you didn’t know?!  Well, fear not, whether you are a HR/Operations professional, an employee or employer looking to improve wellbeing in your workplace, these 7 handy tips should give you plenty of ideas for bringing a bit more happy into the office. They are things that I have implemented at McPin since I started earlier this year and although none of them are particularly earth-shattering on their own, together they add up to show staff that you care about them and are tuned into their needs.

1. Ask your colleagues

It can be easy to be cynical about workplace wellbeing strategies – lunchtime mindfulness sessions will become an unwelcome distraction if the whole team is chronically stressed. There is a simple way to make them more meaningful – put employees’  thoughts and ideas at the heart of the strategy.  Surveys, suggestion boxes and online polls are all good ways to collect and then gauge support for different ideas. Don’t be afraid, for every “more money, please” (valid, but not always possible) there will be some great ideas that can be taken on and implemented easily.  And if everyone has mentioned feeling undervalued and burnt out, take this seriously – escalate and push management to make some systemic changes.

Listening and valuing your colleagues’ contributions will go a long way to creating a happier environment – as long as they see some action…

2. Do an audit

An audit?  But that sounds like no fun at all!

This is one for the managers among you – an audit of your policies and procedures is another good way to assess the work environment and gather feedback from your employees.  Are you missing any policies?  Are the ones you have fit for purpose and understood?  And, crucially, are the systems and procedures you have fair and equal – ensuring no particular group of people is unfairly benefitted or penalised?

Once you know where the gaps are, working to improve policies can be become an organisation-wide project.  Again, the more you listen, the more valued and happy people will feel.

3. Support neurodiversity and mental health

Here at McPin, we think support for neurodiversity and mental health is really important.

There are several government-funded initiatives that can help.  For example, the Access to Work program can provide grants for one-to-one support, assistive technology and other practical help. There are also free mental health support programmes run by Able Futures and Remploy, which are available to anyone who is living with mental health issues, over 16 and working or living in the UK.

Or why not start a conversation at your workplace about mental health?  You never know the difference you might make to someone in need.  Time to Change has a fabulous array of activities and ideas to help you get started, and Mind have produced lots of helpful resources for both employers and employees. 

The most important thing though is to be open and available to listen, without judgement or fear.  Do this and you’re well on your way.

4. Promote healthy living

Here’s an oldie but a goodie.

Does your office have a biscuit mountain?  I have nothing against them (as a self-confessed chocaholic) but promoting a bit more fruit and a bit less refined sugar can do wonders for wellbeing.  Set up a fruit bowl, keep an eye on the favourites and keep your bananas separate. 😊

We also have a running club at McPin – a friendly group of colleagues who run every week during a lunch break.  There is no pressure or pacemakers, just a desire to get fitter and step away from our desks for half an hour.  Why not start a walking or running group in your office? Or find out what activities are happening in your local area and get a group together to go?  Mutual support makes exercise more fun and much more achievable.

5. Get outdoors

If you are based in a busy town or city, it is easy to believe that you are surrounded by concrete.  But, take a look at your local area via satellite (thank you Google Maps) and you will be surprised by the amount of green spaces within easy reach.  At McPin, we are based in central London and I have made it my mission to find all the parks and hidden green areas surrounding the office so colleagues know where their nearest grassy lunch spot is.  Give it a go – you won’t regret it!

I am also championing the ‘walking’ or outdoor meeting – many one-to-one conversations have been improved by doing them on the go, discovering the local area while discussing the issues of the day.  Some fresh air and an active body can do wonders for the mind…

6. It’s good to talk

This takes a bit of time and planning but the introduction of a mentoring or coaching culture within your organisation can have benefits for all.  There are many ways of doing it, whether it is training up members of staff to be mentors, bringing in an external organisation to provide coaching and support, or developing a more informal ‘buddy’ system to support new employees – this article is great for more details.

7. Putting things down on paper

This International Happiness at Work week, I’m trying something new.  Inspired by many mental health support professionals (and Michelle Obama), I am becoming an advocate for journaling, giving each member of staff at McPin a journal to use as they wish – giving a potential outlet to their thoughts, plans, ideas and frustrations. 

Writing a journal can be exciting, or fear-inducing – I have never kept a diary or found it easy to write down my thoughts, but I was encouraged by the former First Lady Michelle Obama.  She confessed in her autobiography that she disliked the idea of journaling too but has now kept the same one for many years and uses it at times of difficulty to organise her thoughts and feelings.  This resonated with me, and I wanted to share this with my colleagues to hopefully promote a bit of happiness and wellbeing in my workplace.

So that’s it from me. For more, please read this fantastic list of 80 ideas from the people at Happy Training. Good luck, and here’s to happy workplaces everywhere!