New Year’s resolutions are undoubtedly on the minds of millions of American employees hoping to kickstart new healthy habits both inside and outside of the workplace—and employers can play a role. The findings of a new comprehensive study conducted in partnership between Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) and the University of Southern California (USC) reveal insights about how corporate wellbeing programs can help reinforce many of the healthy habits employees start as part of their New Year’s resolutions.
USC and PwC partnered to conduct one of the largest studies examining the individual, team and business impacts of a corporate wellbeing program. Some of the key findings from the study that can relate directly to employees hoping to kickstart their 2020 healthy habits include:
- Commitment to wellbeing is the most important habit of all:The specific behavior an employee chooses to embrace isn’t nearly as important as the act of simply committing to engage in a healthy habit that is personally meaningful.
- Engaging in wellbeing programs builds better teams:When employees engage in corporate wellbeing programs that help foster habits and attitudes on the individual level, the impact radiates to their teams and even client relationships, fostering environments of inclusion, belonging and improved citizenship behavior.
- Technology boosts wellbeing: Employees and teams that leveraged technology (via a wearable device or tracking app to track wellbeing) during the study reported more positive perceptions of team collaboration and client relationships.
- Inclusive leadership and teamwork enable wellbeing to thrive:The work environment must be aligned with healthy behaviors for wellbeing to flourish. Specific environmental factors, such as inclusion, positive team dynamics and leadership/manager support, have a direct, positive result on employee wellbeing.
I recently talked with Michael Fenlon, Chief People Officer, at PwC to learn more about PwC’s Well-being Learning Project and how they create a culture of wellbeing.
“We’ve been on a wellbeing journey for some time. At PwC, we frame wellbeing around physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements. So we have been talking about these elements of wellbeing and how we can manage each of them effectively as a source of energy, and the things we can do deliberately to manage and cultivate our energy in a world where demand exceeds capacity,” said Michael.
One tool that PwC utilizes to bring wellbeing to its employees is a technology platform called The Well. This internal website is a one-stop-shop for all things wellbeing. It provides PwC a single place to share content from their Be well, work well program, crowdsource ideas from employees, promote successes and deliver new learning. Since they have a highly mobile workforce, PwC also built an app store that includes apps for physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing, including mindfulness.
But Michael cautions that technology is just one part of their wellbeing strategy. “One of the myths is that it’s just about providing information to people, and if people have enough information, they’ll use that to promote their wellbeing. Of course, there is some truth in that, but it’s not the complete truth. You have to have a climate that supports and explicitly validates the importance of wellbeing, recognizes the business benefit and then really anchors this all in trust.”
“The research we did with USC was really powerful. We looked at what we can do as leaders and teams to promote healthy behaviors and how does that translate into basic things like happiness. How does it prevent burn out, how does it drive engagement? How does it ignite or create a sense of passion about work? And what are the outcomes related to the effectiveness and performance of our teams, client relationships and other business outcomes,” said Michael.
According to Michael, mental health is an important part of the wellbeing discussion. The PwC Health Research Institute found that while 75% of employers offer mental health programs, 81% of employees have not sought treatment for mental health issues in the last five years. In spite of feeling anxiety, symptoms of stress or depression. “It’s really taking the stigma out of the conversation and framing this around how do we create environments where people can do their best work, fulfill their potential, and how do we rebuild resilience in a world where there’s a lot change, a lot of disruption. Those aren’t just buzzwords. Those are experiences that we are all living with in terms of how our jobs are changing and organizations are being disrupted,” said Michael. To assist PwC employees, they offer mental health coaching virtually. Employees can text a mental health professional and communicate with them 24/7.
“One of the things we’ve learned from doing this work is don’t go at it alone. In other words, the magic resides in teams, in creating that sense of community. So yes, while we are providing information to individuals and asking people to opt-in and build their own personal plan, really the power resides when we’re doing this socially in teams. There’s so much power and validation when you come together as team,” said Michael.
The research findings suggest actionable guidance for organizations that want to encourage wellbeing in the workplace.
- Encourage individuality.Create programs that allow people to embrace wellbeing on their own terms. Enable employees to select the healthy habits and attitudes that are most meaningful to them. This flexibility is critical to driving participation and increased measures of wellbeing.
- Inclusive teams are essential to success. Put the power in your people’s hands. When leaders create an environment of inclusion and belonging — and teams support one another and engage in healthy behaviors together — the benefits multiply wellbeing habits “stick,” citizenship behavior improves and teams believe they are more effective.
- Show that wellbeing matters. Make it a business priority. For wellbeing programs to succeed, organizations must commit to them as a business priority from the top. This may require making changes to the work environment and team dynamics that create a climate where greater wellbeing is possible.
- Up the engagement. Equip employees with technology that promotes wellbeing behaviors. Technology acts as energizing, visible support for corporate wellbeing. It isn’t essential to a wellbeing initiative, but it promotes accountability, interactivity and even friendly competition that lead to improved perceptions of team effectiveness.
Wellbeing is really at the heart at PwC’s people and business strategy. It’s not something that’s just nice to have, its essential for success. Michael believes their wellbeing agenda has a tremendous payoff and impact. PwC trusts that by investing in wellbeing their people will be happier, more resilient, less prone to burnout, more engaged and more passionate about their work. Ultimately it’s all about helping employees be their best.