Remember that workplace mantra of the 80s, “lunch is for wimps”? And who doesn’t love a bit of management speak like, “work hard, play hard” (although, going forward, we may need to circle back and take that offline). Certainly, in many companies there has long been a prevailing workplace culture where people compete to be first in, last out and available 24/7.
But, over the last twenty years some of the more forward-looking companies began to understand that such practices were making their workers miserable, unproductive and, all too frequently, unwell. Employers realised that they stood to benefit from going beyond basic occupational health provision, with numerous studies proving a strong link between employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity.
As employers sought to differentiate themselves, the early pushes for employee wellbeing often took the somewhat underwhelming form of a few beanbags and a ping pong table, or the occasional basket of fruit or muffins. Muffins are great, but on their own, they’re unlikely to improve employee wellbeing. Even the ones with chocolate chips.
Things are changing
Even before the pandemic, many in the corporate world had begun to take the physical and mental health of workers much more seriously. Suddenly, post-pandemic, employers are falling over themselves to look after their staff, armed with the ‘new’ understanding that a happy, healthy workforce is not only more productive, but also likely to be more loyal and, in some cases, accept a lower salary for a better working environment. As a result, the workplace wellbeing industry is booming.
But not all workplace wellbeing strategies are created equal. It’s not enough to give people discounted gym membership or spend one afternoon a year in a conference room discussing mental health. These lip-service ideas are about as much use as chocolate chip muffins, and a lot less tasty.
Wellbeing needs to be taken seriously. It needs proper, company-wide, top-down buy-in. Any wellbeing model needs to be science-based, accessible, practical, rewarding – and, in a workplace environment – part of the company culture.
It needs, in short, to be like BuddyBoost Wellbeing.
Four pillars, four weeks
BuddyBoost Wellbeing is a month-long workplace challenge that addresses four key pillars of wellness: physical activity, mental health, nutrition and sleep.
Week 1, Physical activity: It goes without saying that being active has huge physical benefits, whether it’s increased energy, better immunity, or reduced chronic health conditions – the list is endless. But it also offers significant mental health benefits. The chemicals released by physical activity give participants a significant mood boost and are proven to be effective in the treatment of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.
The first week of BuddyBoost Wellbeing therefore focuses on getting participants to undertake some form of physical activity for 26 minutes every day. Because this activity can be anything from walking or gardening to cycling or weight-training, it caters for every level of fitness, and can fit in with even the busiest lifestyle.
Week 2, Mind: In the past, many workplaces adopted a tried-and-tested approach to mental health: Quietly sweep it under the photocopier and hope it goes away. But mental health isn’t a subject that’s going away. Instead, it needs to be addressed, discussed, and understood, giving people tools and tips to build mental resilience. It sounds rather dramatic, but the reality is that life can be challenging at times, but there are practical ways we can acknowledge and manage this.
So, BuddyBoost Mind week is all about taking time to understand how our brains work whilst giving people practical and fun ways to help support their mental health. Packed with science-based tips to promote relaxation and build resilience, it is also a way of removing taboos and misconceptions and normalising the conversation around mental health.
Week 3, Nutrition: The link between diet and overall wellbeing is well-established. We really are ‘what we eat.’ This doesn’t mean we all need to adopt macrobiotic, nut-based diets. But paying a little attention to what we eat can have a significant impact on our mental health, as well as making us physically healthier, more alert and energetic.
During week 3, BuddyBoost Good Food is all about helping people make better eating choices. Expert nutritionist and #1 best-seller Jenny Tschiesche’s daily video, audio or written content features handy tips, advice on how to consume a balanced and varied diet, plus some fabulous recipes.
Week 4, Sleep: Sleep is one of the cornerstones of physical and mental health, and yet we are surprisingly bad at it. Over 60% of adults globally feel they don’t get enough sleep, and over 80% of employees feel their productivity is impacted by tiredness and a lack of energy. Yet there are plenty of simple, practical steps that can be taken to improve the quantity and quality of our sleep.
In the final week, BuddyBoost Sleep addresses the importance of sleep, and the various behaviours and lifestyle factors that might contribute to a bad night’s kip. Each day of the programme features simple tips and exercises to help people sleep better and feel more energetic.
How and why it works
Now you might well be thinking, not unreasonably, that this is hardly ground-breaking stuff. Get people to exercise, eat well, sleep well and pay attention to their mental health, and they will be happier and healthier. But the secret to BuddyBoost Wellbeing is how it helps to integrate these pillars into the daily lives of participants.
The mixture of educational material and daily challenges in BuddyBoost Wellbeing encourages participants not just to become informed about each subject, but to actually integrate it into their everyday lives. The daily challenges help participants to connect and interact with the material, so that they’re not just learning about it, they’re living it.
The key to any workplace wellbeing programme is to get people to actually buy into it. By throwing themselves in wholeheartedly, they stand the greatest chance of reaping its rewards. And this is where BuddyBoost has an ace up its sleeve: The buddy system.
When taking part in a challenge, employees buddy-up into groups of up to 12. In the app’s private Buddies page, the group provides support and encouragement for each other – and the accountability to make sure everyone sticks at it!
Meanwhile, everyone taking part in the challenge can come together on the Community Feed – a bespoke BuddyBoost version of social media, only with nobody arguing about Brexit. Participants can post pictures, videos and text about the challenge, what they’ve been up to, and how it’s made them feel. This not only encourages others to complete their challenges and share their experiences, but also boosts a sense of camaraderie and mutual support across the organisation. Our clients have repeatedly emphasised the importance of the community feed in the success of the challenge. It’s a great space for colleagues to feel connected, cheer each other on and even make new work friends.
The value of community
And this sense of community, and of a shared experience, doesn’t just ensure greater engagement from those taking part. It is also of intrinsic value itself. It helps to shape a stronger bond among colleagues, and encourages more open discussion in the workplace about issues surrounding wellbeing.
It’s never been more important for people to feel connected. We live in complicated times. The pandemic, and a cost-of-living crisis, have meant that people are facing challenges to their physical and mental health like never before. These challenges can be very isolating, all the more so in the new age of hybrid working. Bringing people together in a supportive environment can only help combat that isolation.
With its emphasis on the four key elements of wellbeing, and the addition of community, openness, and a mutually supportive workplace culture, BuddyBoost Wellbeing offers a unique opportunity for employers to look after their workers and, in so doing, ensuring a happier, healthier and more productive environment. We’ve come a long way since the Victorian workhouses, but in many ways, the challenges to supporting employees have never been greater. The right wellbeing programme can make all the difference to your people and to your bottom line.