A good wellbeing strategy reflects organisational values and culture. It has consistent messaging and is a coherent whole, rather being than a series of one-off interventions. However, a global wellbeing strategy also needs to be flexible enough to account for local attitudes to the employment relationship, different views of the value of interventions and varying legal and regulatory landscapes.
Cultural differences will affect the degree of openness about mental and physical wellbeing, as well as expectations around the support an employer is expected or permitted to offer. A good wellbeing strategy should stress organisational values in terms of behaviours and interventions, but be sensitive to local attitudes.
Differences in social security provisions and the work environment will influence the perceived value of wellness benefits. In countries with little or no healthcare or social security provision, private healthcare and insurance will be of significant value. Where the state provides higher levels of social security provision, other benefits like volunteering or agile working may be preferred as methods of enhancing wellness.
The regulatory and legal environment must also be considered. Well-designed wellbeing interventions can help mitigate the risk of claims by employees where work has damaged their health, or where the organisation has failed to take the necessary steps to create an inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities. Policies and procedures which help managers navigate difficult and sensitive health-related workplace concerns can help avoid situations that give rise to potentially costly legal claims.
So, when implementing a global wellbeing strategy at the local level, organisations should consult employees to identify cultural sensitivities, review the social security and employment landscape to establish what interventions and benefits are likely to be appreciated, and take local legal advice to maximise the protective effect of such interventions in respect of legal claims.
Annelise Tracy Phillips is a senior associate in the employment law team at independent UK law firm Burges Salmon