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- An employee wellbeing initiative refers to any action, habit, tool, or process introduced by a company to improve the happiness, safety, value, or productivity of its employees.
- Employee wellbeing initiatives can focus on the five pillars of wellbeing: social, physical, developmental, psychological, and emotional.
- There are a number of ways to boost mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, but its important to tailor your initiatives based on the specific needs of your team.
What is an employee wellbeing initiative?
‘Implementing an employee wellbeing initiative’ might sound like HR ate a textbook, but any People leads out there will know that it just means taking an action to make someone feel happier, safer, more valued or more productive at work.
An employee wellbeing initiative is any habit, tool, process or action put in place by a company to help its employees feel healthy and happy at work.
At Spill, we think there are 5 pillars of employee wellbeing:
- Give people safety (social wellbeing)
- Give people space (physical wellbeing)
- Give people goals (developmental wellbeing)
- Give people autonomy (psychological wellbeing)
- Give people support (emotional wellbeing)
These pillars should form the foundation of how you build your employee wellbeing strategy. (That just means a considered and specific plan for how you’re going to go about improving employee wellbeing at work.)
Download our employee wellbeing survey template
How to use this list of employee wellbeing initiatives
This list gives you a lot of small (but meaningful) changes to boost mental health and employee wellbeing in your company today. But let’s be honest: 51 employee wellbeing initiatives is probably more than any company reasonably could (or should) put into practice. The aim here isn’t to flood your employees with endless initiatives: the reason we’ve compiled such a long list is so that you have a bigger pool from which to choose the initiatives that are going to be most effective for your team in particular.
You know your team better than anyone else, so you’ll probably have an idea pretty quickly about which initiatives might work and which stand no chance. But no matter how well you know your team, we suggest starting by running an employee wellbeing survey to make sure employees have a chance to (anonymously, of course) let you know what’s working and where the gaps are when it comes to wellbeing at work.
Once you’ve got an idea of which pillars you need to improve in particular, we suggest starting by trialling a few initiatives in that pillar, and then running another wellbeing survey a few months later to see if they’ve had an effect and whether they stick or not. Then it’s a case of repeating this process until you start to see meaningful change in those scores.
Looking for more than just another wellbeing initiative? Spill finds anyone in your company struggling with their mental health and gives them access to next-day therapy sessions.
51 employee wellbeing initiatives to pick from
We’ve compiled this list of mental health and wellbeing examples from some that have worked for the team at Spill, some recommended by the 600 companies we work with, and some recommended by Spill therapists and manager trainers.
The initiatives are grouped into buckets based on the 5 pillars of wellbeing at work, so that you can easily pick initiatives in the area where you most want to see progress.
Give people safety: social wellbeing at work initiatives
1. Encourage employees to talk more often, but for less time
When we’re working in the same room, people tend to communicate little and often throughout the day. But we have a tendency when we work remotely to cram all of our talking into a 30 minute call at the end of the day. It might feel more efficient, but with less chance for non-work related chat or informal collaboration, it makes us feel more disconnected in the long term.
2. Create honest feedback loops
Define a way for people to report concerns about the business. Always make sure there’s an anonymous way, for maximum honesty. Collect this feedback and find a forum to talk about concerns and solutions as a team.
3. Get people to say “I don’t know” more often
Encourage the entire senior team in particular to do this. Not only does it feel kind of liberating for them (try it!), but it also helps to shatter the illusion of perfectionism for others in the business, which can lead to stress and imposter syndrome. The added benefit is that it means people are more likely to speak up earlier on when a project isn’t working, rather than bedding down and trying to gloss over the mistake or quietly fix it themselves.
4. Welcome new joiners thoughtfully
Introduce a buddy system for newbies to help them settle in. Pre-populate their diary with relevant meetings for the first couple of weeks and create an FAQ document to answer all the questions you had when you first started. This will help to remove some unknowns, especially if they’re joining remotely. Consider setting a budget for workers to set up their workspace at home, or provide access to co-working spaces if that’s more practical.
5. Encourage connections across teams and generations
This could be as simple as cross-functional workshops or giving people the time to pair on tricky tasks. Reverse mentoring is also a good way to share experiences across levels of the business. Pairing a junior worker with someone more senior in the company — for example by making one of them an onboarding buddy when the other joins the company — can result in a skill swap that might not have come about naturally.
6. Be open about mistakes and missteps
Even at a company level. Urge teams and individuals to talk about what you tried, why it failed this time, what you learned and most importantly, what you might do differently next time. This helps to create a sense of psychological safety so people are more comfortable to take risks and call out problems.
Give people space: physical wellbeing at work initiatives
7. Keep core ‘reasonable’ working hours
Offer flexible hours around a calendar of core collaboration times so that your team is empowered to work when they feel most productive. By helping people to fit their working day around other responsibilities, you’ll probably find that people are more focused and productive when they’re online.
8. Encourage people to change their Slack status when they’re not working.
If you're on a run, add a jogger emoji. If you're taking a lunch break, may we suggest the avocado? This does two things: makes sure your break goes undisturbed, and also normalises the idea of taking lots of little breaks during the day.
9. ‘Let Them Go Walking’
Once a month, send your team a 45 minute invitation to get outdoors. At Spill we choose the warmest forecast day, and set up a Slack channel to share pictures, too. It’s our British equivalent to the founder of Patagonia's famous ‘Let them go surfing’ philosophy.
10. Frame holiday as an investment in productivity
Make sure the leadership team takes their full holiday allowance and encourages others to do the same. Talk to colleagues about taking time off openly and positively; say well done when people have a proper break. Avoid saving it all up for the end of the year, too, because frequent breaks are more beneficial for our wellbeing and working relationships.
11. Create a ‘right to disconnect’ policy
This encourages employees to use a scheduling feature to send all work communications outside of reasonable hours. That includes Slack or MS Teams messages, emails, and anything else like that. You can borrow our template to create your own ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy easily.
12. Introduce a recharge day for your company
This is an extra day given to all team members that isn’t taken from their annual leave allowance. A company bank holiday helps people to reset and recharge without the fear of missing progress or needing to catch up while everyone else is at work.
13. Give people the option to have walking meetings
This one’s easy. Encourage the team to add a bit of movement into their schedule without sacrificing productivity. Help this catch on by adding a walking emoji to your calendar events.
14. Add some standing desks if you have an office
Not only do these help to mitigate some of the health risks associated with sitting for 8-ish hours a day, but adding some variety to your workspace gives people more autonomy over how, when and where they engage with work.
15. Make taking holiday a team KPI
And check in on progress regularly. This shows people that you mean business about not doing business. Alternatively, you can establish a minimum holiday allowance per quarter or term, and hold everyone to account.
16. Don't talk about working late
Throwaway comments about working until midnight on a Sunday may seem harmless, but over time they affect expectations, and expectations become your culture. If you do work late, it should be by choice, so instead of saying "I stayed up until 10pm finishing that presentation", just say "I finished that presentation".
17. Get some plants if you have an office
Biophilic design means adding natural elements like water and greenery to your workspace. Plants can improve air quality, and there’s loads of evidence that our brains are less stressed and more focused when we can access nature easily. Just ask the forest bathers in Japan. Taking care of plants is good for us too, so set up an office plant adoption system to spread the joy.
18. Let more natural light into your workspace
If you share an office, maximise the natural light available by moving furniture away from windows and adding transparent partitions instead of solid ones. This can help us regulate our circadian rhythm, boosting our performance during the day and deep sleep cycles at night.
19. Share a list of lunch options within walking distance of the office
You can crowd-source this from the team. It’ll encourage people to leave the office at lunchtime, and might help to break the habit of grabbing whatever ham and cheese sandwich happens to be closest. (No disrespect to ham and cheese intended.)
20. Start a cycle-to-work scheme
Exercise makes your brain release all kinds of feel-good chemicals. Cycle-to-work is a government-funded initiative that helps people to save money on a bike and bike equipment. Don’t forget that you’ll need somewhere for people to keep their bikes safely at work, too.
21. Organise a coffee roulette (with real or virtual coffee)
This is a relaxed way for colleagues from different teams to stay in touch and get to know each other better. You’ll just need a system to ‘matchmake’ coffee drinkers randomly.
22. Teach better boundaries
As a manager, it’s important to be clear about how you can and can’t help the people in your team. And modelling how to set clear boundaries is helpful to everyone’s self esteem in the long run. Teach people how to say ‘yes’ to the person, but ‘no’ to the task. Find out how to set healthy boundaries at work.
23. Take holidays into account when planning deadlines
A good way to show respect for people’s planned time off is to build your team’s holiday time into all execution plans. This stops people coming home to a full inbox, an unrealistic to-do list or a looming project deadline. Nothing good ever came from looming.
24. Get an office doggo
Having an office pet can boost morale and lower stress, giving people a chance to take conscious breaks from work with a welcome furry distraction. It’s important to ask the whole team before you declare your office pet-friendly, mind – allergies and phobias are an obvious reason that a dog might not be the answer to boosting employee wellbeing all round.
Give people goals: developmental wellbeing at work initiatives
25. Give constructive feedback verbally, but write praise down
Encourage managers to deliver constructive criticism over a one-on-one call rather than written down. That’s because it’s easier to control your tone and tell when a comment is being misinterpreted. Praise is best received in writing and in public, so it gives people the added emotional payoff of feeling respected and recognised by others.
26. Include personality fit on your job descriptions
Getting the right personality in the right job means someone is less likely to find the work stressful (or boring) once they start. Aligning personal values with job goals helps to keep people more motivated and generally happier. Your description is great for filtering candidates, but it’ll also prove useful for 121s and reviews once your new hires are in the company.
27. Offer ways for people to feel fulfilled outside of their role
Providing volunteering opportunities is a great option here. Whether it’s helping at the local food bank or dog walking for your elderly neighbour, volunteering has been shown to boost self-esteem, confidence and social skills while combating symptoms of stress. Get colleagues to report back on their achievements in a team meeting to double the feel-good factor.
28. Organise regular team retrospectives
This gives each team a chance to celebrate their successes and think about how they might work better together going forwards. Remember to assign a specific person to complete each action which needs to be taken, and begin each retro by revisiting your insights from last time.
29. Give everyone a chance to input
The best ideas can come from anywhere, and we all like to be listened to. Create a rolling ideas document for the business with a fair system for upvoting. Decide on a threshold to take action, for example, any idea with more than 10 votes will get an implementation plan (and earn a pizza lunch for the contributor 🍕).
30. Involve your team in their KPIs
Let people pitch what they want to work on each quarter, and help managers to co-create KPIs with their team. This gives people more autonomy over their work and helps them to grow in a direction they choose.
31. Let people learn from one another
One of the best ways to retain information is to teach it. Allow job shadowing or job swapping in quiet times. This involves a little bit of planning to make sure both people get the most out of the experience, but it’s a brilliant way to build rapport between teams and get a fresh perspective on the business.
32. Encourage horizontal moves
People need to feel in control over their own career paths. It’s easy to assume someone wants that shiny promotion, but maybe they’re not looking for more responsibility right now. Don’t lose good people because they feel pressured to keep moving upwards. Listen to their needs, let them try out different roles and encourage horizontal moves within the company.
33. Do personality and strength tests for the whole company
This is a good way to nurture understanding and improve relationships between colleagues, as well as helping people to progress and develop. It’s also interesting to see how well balanced your team is. Depending on your results, they might guide you to do, share or present things a bit differently. Try the Big Five or the TypeFinder® Personality Test.
Give people autonomy: psychological wellbeing at work initiatives
34. Make 'Deep Work Wednesdays' a thing.
Encourage anyone who’d like to participate to block out their calendar, turn off Slack notifications and add an out-of-office to their email for the whole of Wednesday. It's a chance to enjoy some juicy 'flow state' work with no distractions. ‘Meeting-free Wednesdays’ is another variation.
35. Ask employees to commit to what they won’t do (not just what they will)
In team meetings and standups, get your team to share which tasks are being de-prioritised – as well as the reasons why – to help people feel more in control of their workload. Having a ‘not to do’ list helps us to feel like we have more agency over our week and what we’re doing, versus the feeling of an endless backlog of tasks that we’re subservient to.
36. Empower people to say when they’re having an off-day
This normalises opening up about your emotions, and recognises that we can’t possibly be firing on all cylinders all day, every day. At Spill, we’ve added a ‘Not feeling 100%’ option as a Slack status for this very reason.
37. Ask people to avoid sharing global news in work channels
It’s easy to get political by accident. Some people also find thinking about global events outside of their control quite overwhelming, which can contribute to anxiety. Give employees the power to decide what news and information they take in by keeping things like this off public work channels.
38. Encourage people to write ‘user manuals’
Individual user manuals are designed to help people understand differences in working styles within their team. Did you know Dave hates it when you chase him over Slack, but Diana finds it super useful? Your manual might be easier to fill in with multiple choice answers, but it’s always good to give people a little space to explain, too.
39. Record big meetings
Stop anybody on holiday from feeling like they’ll miss out by recording your team meetings and sharing it publicly afterwards. This is also good practice for stakeholder interviews and user research calls, as long as you get permission from the interviewees. It’s a low-effort way to make sure anyone in the business can benefit from the insights you’ve learned.
40. Do a stress at work risk assessment
This is a legal requirement for all companies with more than 5 employees, so it's less of an initiative and more of a must-do. But we still wanted to include it because it's so useful: a stress at work risk assessment audits where your employees might be at greater risk of feeling out of control, under pressure, or unable to cope. You can see our template for doing a stress risk assessment here.
Give people support: emotional wellbeing at work initiatives
41. Introduce mental health days
Some businesses choose to schedule these in, but a particularly powerful way to implement paid mental health days is to let people take them unplanned and at short notice. This lets people reset when they feel exhausted or overwhelmed, lowering stress levels and reducing the risk of serious burnout. Mental Health Days can also nurture a level of trust between managers and employees, because no one has to phone up with a faux frog in their throat to spend a day looking after themselves.
42. Give unconditional praise
Find a way for colleagues to offer each other unconditional praise. That’s praise which is unrelated to performance at work. It’ll help people to feel like their personalities are valued within the team, and it stops people craving recognition through over-working.
43. Send real post
Whether it’s a postcard or something more substantial, send something hand-written to recognise and reward people who have met or exceeded their targets at work. (Or just to say hello, that’s nice too.)
44. Train a few employees or managers as Mental Health First Aiders
This training helps people to spot early signs of mental ill-health in their co-workers. They’ll be able to offer reassurance to anyone who might be struggling and signpost people to the right support. They can also complete mental health risk assessments for any planned team activities.
45. Get your managers together regularly
Organise a regular informal catch up so that managers have a chance to share their experiences and work out solutions for supporting individuals together. Having someone there from the People team also gives the business a chance to reflect on the existing ‘party line’ and revise policies to better reflect your team’s needs and challenges.
46. Write your own mental health policy
Getting your approach to mental health training and support on paper shows people inside and outside of your business that you really care about your team’s mental wellbeing – and that you’re prepared to act when someone’s struggling. If creating a detailed document on this stuff sounds intimidating, we’ve written a template to help you build your very own mental health policy.
47. Encourage non-work-focused one-to-one meetings
Ask managers to set aside time in one-to-ones to find out how their report is doing personally – separate to feedback or performance-related discussions. Having a space to really talk stops emotions from spilling out into other, less productive places at work.
48. Find a way to get people thinking about how they feel
We know that getting people to fill in a survey about how they’re feeling can be a daunting task for the People team, but the benefits can be massive. Keeping your survey short and easy to fill in goes a long way to getting the responses you need. Once you have that data, you can track your company mood overall, see how it changes over time, and act quicker if things take a dip. Find out how to create your own wellbeing survey.
49. Add a wellness hour into your team’s week
Wellness activities can be shared or individual, but giving people the time and permission to pursue them is important. You could try a series of sessions, where you host an expert (or nominate someone from your team) to guide you through some simple yoga, sleep, meditation or breathing techniques, for example.
50. Give managers mental health training
Helping managers to spot early signs of burnout or poor mental health and equipping them to intervene can make a massive difference to your team’s wellbeing in the long run. Moderated one-to-one sessions between a manager and a therapist are also a great way to help leadership teams cope with the emotional labour of managing other people.
51. Give your team access to proper mental health support
When someone’s mental health is flagging, they can’t possibly do their best work. But it’s not enough to offer support once someone’s already feeling unwell. Giving your team access to an external resource like therapy can proactively prevent burnout and improve productivity. It also takes the pressure off your managers by giving them somewhere confidential to signpost people towards. Just one course of therapy on Spill is shown to lower anxiety and depression symptoms by over 70%, according to standard clinical measures.
Prioritise employee wellbeing by making sure you keep measuring it
So, there we have it. 51 big ideas to boost your team's wellbeing. And if you're wondering how to prioritise or measure the stonking success of any of these initiatives, an employee wellbeing survey is a great place to start. A survey will help you get a better picture of how people in your team are feeling, and act quickly when issues arise. Find out how to create your own wellbeing survey, or take a look at our template below. We recommend surveying the team at least every quarter to see progress and spot any new gaps.
Wishing you and the whole team well for 2024 :)
Download our free employee wellbeing survey template
See how much it would cost to boost your team's wellbeing by giving them easy access to next-day therapy sessions.