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Smashing the silos: moving from wellbeing 1.0 to human sustainability

The last 3 - 4 years have transformed the way we live and work. In a post-pandemic world, people are prioritising belonging, purpose, and flexibility. There’s now a focus on wellbeing and taking better care of ourselves. The future of work has arrived, with organisations scrambling to move away from seeing wellbeing as fluffy to make human sustainability a business priority. But is it working?

Human sustainability is a shift in mindset about how we define and design work, how we interact with others, and how work impacts employees, their families, their communities, and ultimately, the planet. It sits at the crossroads of purpose, inclusion, health, and physical and psychological safety, whilst forming the bedrock of equity, trust, and climate sustainability. It is not about adding more responsibilities, benefits, or programs.

For organisations to achieve their goals and aspirations, address systemic barriers to wellbeing and ensure that investments made into people have a significant and meaningful impact, it is crucial to configure to human sustainability to ensure that people can thrive. When you do this right wellbeing is the output rather than the focus.

When it comes to work, many of us tend to look at employee wellbeing and associate it with HR. But if we’re going to successfully move from wellbeing 1.0 to human sustainability should one department manage it all? Who should really be in charge of it?

We worked with the IIRSM to create The Future of Wellbeing report to find some answers. We spoke to 30,000 directors and risk management practitioners to find out what wellbeing means for them and what needs to be prioritised in a wellbeing strategy.

We found that directors and practitioners prioritised employee health and safety in their respective wellbeing strategies. But that’s where the similarities end:

  • 50.39% of directors prioritised organisational culture
  • 27.15% of directors prioritised organisational vision and values.

In contrast:

  • 65.82% of practitioners chose employee health and safety as one of the most important topics to embed into employee wellbeing strategies, compared to Directors at 44.91%
  • 50.39% of directors for organizational culture, compared to practitioners for 25.26%.

This shows a disconnect on priorities and an understanding the needs, interests, concerns, and expectations of the workforce.

At a glance, it’s reassuring to see a top-down approach with line managers and heads of function delivering wellbeing strategies. But something doesn’t quite add up. There is a disconnect and if we look closer at these findings, they tell us there’s either no dedicated resource for wellbeing, or the impact on wellbeing isn’t being fully understood.

Our report found that siloed organisational wellbeing strategies were ineffective, and carried significant risk, when segmented on teams. It also showed that wellbeing was more likely to fall by the wayside, while causing additional stress to people who were responsible for the stress of others, due to a lack of dedicated resources, roles, and remit to deliver for employee wellbeing.

That’s the last thing we want!

We also learned that management was focusing less on health and wellbeing, when compared to the first year of the pandemic. In fact, only 60% of HR respondents told us they believe line managers have bought into the importance of wellbeing. That’s down from 67% last year. And 70% agreed that employee wellbeing is on senior leaders’ agendas – a decrease from 75% last year.

So, what’s going on? Are organisations letting standards slip when it comes to wellbeing at work?

If companies are serious about creating a workplace where people thrive, they need to talk the talk. Wellbeing can’t be an afterthought, siloed into one department, or given a one-size-fits-all approach with free bananas and bikes. It’s a cross-business priority they must actively take on.

Organisations must smash these silos and create cross-functional, diverse teams that can bridge the gap between directors and practitioners, while putting the full employee experience at the heart of wellbeing strategies.

Companies need to leave behind reactive strategies and embrace holistic, long-term, and measurable ones that focus on their employees’ wellbeing.

Take a look at the Future of Wellbeing page to find out how you can make strategic, data-driven decisions, and investments that create meaningful, and sustainable work environments where people thrive. Contact a member of our team and start your journey today.