Six pillars of employee wellbeing: support

In the fourth week of this blog series, Carl Chapman discusses the six pillars of employee wellbeing - an ethos that derives from the idea that employee performance is linked to six key areas of wellbeing in the workplace. Week four: support.

Whenever I am telling someone about our six pillars of employee wellbeing it is always the fourth pillar, ‘support’ that requires further explanation and can often confuse people. Despite this being a strange admission, I can understand why. Support in itself is a little vague and can stretch from employees requiring training support to fulfil the roles of their job to employees who are having a hard time and need the support and understanding of their employer, as they get through that difficult time. The reason we haven’t used anything more descriptive than ‘support’ is because we think all of these different variations of support are important and impact an employee’s wellbeing. The word ‘support’ may be vague, but the concept is so vast that it needs to be.

In our wellbeing survey, I scored nine out of ten for support - my highest score of any pillar. The reasons for scoring so high are very much down to the values of my employer and how these are adopted by all employees including myself, my team and my manager.

"The word ‘support’ may be vague, but the concept is so vast that it needs to be."

Recently I was listening to Nick, our senior partner, doing his annual road show around our offices talking about performance over the past financial year, expectations for the new financial year, all layered with moral boosting messages to get the troops raring to go for another year. One thing that stood out to me was the message that “Barnett Waddingham is a family, a big family but one that retains the values and closeness of one much smaller”. I had never considered that while he spoke, I had an expression that mirrored the cheesiness of the statement, albeit without making me think he didn’t mean it. I tell you this, not for my own personal gain, but because the more I think about it the more I realise that this is the reason I scored so high in support.

These days, I believe that managers are much more than work supervisors and the approvers of holiday, they are expected to deal with employees' personal issues, disputes and illness and where possible, pick up on these issues before they become problematic. It seems to me that they are expected to be as much a pillar of support (see what I did there?) to their employees. The topic of picking up on issues before they become problematic is an interesting one, surely if employees felt supported and part of a family they would seek help at an appropriate time rather than at breaking point? Perhaps managers need further training in these parts of the role?

I am not sitting here professing that Barnett Waddingham have got all of the answers and that we are the perfect firm because I don’t believe that exists, but if you look at the most successful companies, in the most part, they are the ones that truly care for their employees, support them - and their employees would say they love working for them.

"If companies can provide professional support why are they less able to provide non-professional support? "

Professional support is equally important, people need to have the tools to do their job and in my experience the vast majority of companies are good at providing this support. If companies can provide professional support why are they less able to provide non-professional support? After all, support is the glue that holds all of the other pillars together, support in job security and progression, support in ill-health, support in financial difficulty, support in protection needs and support in leading a good work/life balance.

In a previous blog I mentioned paternalism vs. inclusiveness, to be really effective in support companies must include their employees and provide them with the support they need. In terms of professional support we support our employees by finding the right training for them, we do not take a blanket approach and on the whole we don’t dictate, we let the employee lead. As long as we provide an environment where the employee feels comfortable and willing to discuss their problems then there is no reason the same can’t be true of non-professional support.

This article first appeared on Reward Guide as part of the 'Six Pillars of Wellbeing' 15 week blog series and was written by Carl Chapman. For further enquiries please contact Damian Stancombe, Head of Workplace Health and Wealth.