1 September 2021 posted by Elizabeth Tierney

Workplace wellbeing has never been so important. Whether you’re working in the office, remotely or a blend of both, you seek community, connectedness, growth and support.

Workplace health and wellbeing practices (WHWPs) often fail to launch due to implementation failure. Well, the research* is in, stating there are three critical success factors to implementation. Drum roll, please:

  1. Continuity of efforts
  2. Learning
  3. Effective governance.

When you spell them out like that, it seems blatantly obvious that these are the three key factors of implementation that can determine the success or failure of workplace health and wellbeing practices. 

Continuity of efforts

Chances are, you’ve been part of a meeting where ideas and suggestions for workplace wellbeing have been bandied about. Leaders pledge to do [x] and you’re excited for [x], even telling your friends/family/partner about [x]. The brainstorming butcher’s paper and post-it notes are displayed in the office and meeting minutes are emailed around. But within a couple of months, even weeks, the idea has lost momentum and you never hear about it again.

According to the research, infrequent communications about initiatives, uneven implementation across workplaces, change in leadership and time limits often lead to non-beneficial interventions. The review defines continuity as the perseverance in implementation efforts, local adaptations and embedding practices into everyday activities. Continuity of efforts essentially refers to clear communication to implement, adapt and sustain the intervention. Because, really, when you think about it, frequent communication keeps leaders accountable and engages employees.

Learning

Your work has developed a series of wellbeing workshops as part of ongoing learning. Fantastic! Not surprisingly, you’re a little bit stressed right now, so you’ve really been looking forward to the mindfulness workshop. But, at the last minute, an important client meeting is scheduled and you miss out. Not so fantastic.

The review defines learning structures as procedures for capturing learning from implementation for adaptation capability building. Mentally healthy workplaces are more productive, have less staff turnover and absenteeism, and overall a more positive culture. Facilitating learning and ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to understand concepts is critical for a mentally healthy workplace.

Beneficial learning includes staged sequences of workshops, modules and training. Ideally, everyone can attend. However, we know this isn’t always possible, whether it’s due to clashing schedules, budgets or, say, a global pandemic. We’ve all shown great adaptability and online learning offers a lot of flexibility. Workshops, webinars and training can all be recorded. Employees might attend alternate training and follow up with peer-to-peer learning, teaching their colleagues about their key takeaways. A secondary effect of this approach is everyone benefits from community and connectedness.

It’s no surprise that learning coupled with effective governance help adaptation and continuity in workplace health and wellbeing practice implementation.

Effective governance

You and a work colleague have strategised and suggested a new wellbeing initiative to your line manager. Your line manager seems begrudging, and you’re concerned about the future success of your intervention. After all, you and your colleague really want to be able to bring your dogs to work and you’ve conducted loads of research as to the many psychosocial benefits!

Manager attitudes can undermine the effectiveness of an intervention, but fortunately, negative dispositions can be overcome. Problem-solving to overcome barriers to implementation is an important part of leadership. The research reveals that effective governance is the co-ordination and management of intervention activities, including factors such as the presence of a steering committee, designated implementer roles and involvement of stakeholders in regular group project meetings. Active and effective leaders monitor progress and regularly communicate within the organisation.

To be the most beneficial, implementation needs to include learning structures, stakeholders need to be part of the intervention process and ultimately, continuous communication is needed for accountability and engagement.

Learn more about how Recovery Partners can help with you workplace wellbeing. 

*The long of it: A systematic review carefully analysed the quality, quantity and consistency of 74 studies about the implementation of workplace health and wellbeing practices and their effects on psychological health and wellbeing. Duplicates, non-peer reviewed work and work published before 2009 were excluded. The studies came from a range of countries and sectors. Interventions reviewed included work redesign and behaviour change programs, mindfulness training, subsidised gym memberships and talking therapies, to name a few. The review categorised the studies as beneficial, contingently beneficial and non-beneficial, according to a complex coding system.

The short of it: It was an extensive and thorough review of 74 studies.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au