Ownership: where wellbeing resides within organisations.

published on 06 April 2023

Organisations are starting to see that in order to exemplify their ESG credentials (for which many are now striving), there needs to be more of a philosophical approach to wellbeing being embedded into organisational culture, and being considered organisation-wide. It was made clear that as a starting premise, corporate responsibility for wellbeing needs to sit at board level, as part of a balanced scorecard alongside corporate measures relating to safety.

Organisation-wide wellbeing analytics was seen as a huge opportunity, but also a challenge, because to be effectively carried out, it was widely felt that the process had to be overseen centrally, requiring someone to own, interpret, and action the data and outcomes. However, for a lot of organisations, wellbeing is not currently owned by a single role or department, and is made up of many different elements, making it hard to pin down, define or quantify. Some of the time it's not even called wellbeing at all, and sometimes things get mislabelled as wellbeing.

Whilst wellbeing has traditionally come out of HR, it encompasses elements of health and safety, human resources, occupational health, and leadership and development. It was mentioned on more than one occasion that wellbeing success could be viewed as the representation of how well the business is operating.

It is clear however, that there is not currently an informed or strategic organisational approach to wellbeing in many large organisations, where it is often the person in charge of the budget who ends up just choosing what they like, without evidence of specific needs or goals. 

Wellbeing service providers also reported that over the course of a few months they would be approached by different departments of the same large firm, who had no idea their colleagues were seeking similar support. Approaching wellbeing in such a departmental way means no cross pollinating, and less opportunity for joined-up thinking. It was mentioned that this situation could be ameliorated by having a repository or dashboard within organisations where wellbeing data is collected and made accessible.

A lack of ownership means there's currently a lot of data being collected without clear objectives and imperatives about how to use it. It was highlighted how this can actually be counterproductive, because by regularly asking employees how they are feeling and not making changes, it can negatively affect wellbeing. 

One mechanism that might be more easily owned by an organisation, is to create a baseline, a human-made calculation for wellbeing impact and understanding that becomes broadly accepted, and can be compared against and built on. This is the case in the health and safety space, and it works because of the fact that nobody challenges it.

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