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Corporate Social Responsibility

Doing well by being well – doing well by doing good

By Ewa Stelmasiak, The Wellness Institute
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The Wellness Institute partners with teams and organisations to enhance their levels of wellbeing and employee self-care for better health and performance.

Wellbeing and CSR are natural partners; both contribute to the bottom line and both have long struggled to make their business case. Both run the risk of remaining a nice extra to boast about instead of being at the heart and soul of the organisation.

Substance comes before form. If there’s no content, there can’t be effective communications. And if there’s no cultural and strategic back-up in the organisation for both wellbeing and CSR initiatives, they become inconsistent with the company’s identity and everyday managerial behaviour. The company is seen not to walk its talk. This lack of authenticity is counterproductive. When the employee experience compromises the company’s declarations, the company loses its credibility. There’s no ground for a relationship of trust, nor for true partnership between the employee and the employer.

Unlike the millennials for whom self-care is of utmost importance, older generations are not used to being pampered at work. They tend to think that they have to cope on their own and are not aware that they could ask their manager for a wellbeing training or coaching. Nevertheless, most managers that I had recently talked to do feel responsible for the wellbeing of their teams. They are aware of the need to care for people’s needs to make them stay with the company and they do believe that people work more productively when they are physically and mentally well.

On the other hand, some other managers consider competitive pay as the most convincing argument to make people stay and engage. In the words of a board member of a Polish company I recently talked to, “the company was not a kindergarten; people were grown-ups who looked after their needs on their own”. Yet whether in a kindergarten or in real life, people like to play. Gallup’s research shows that people who consciously use their strengths at work are more likely to have higher wellbeing which in turn grows their engagement and helps create better working relationships.

So what is wellbeing in the workplace and how is it connected to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility? Wellbeing relates to the ‘P’ that stands for the ‘People’ part of the triple bottom-line framework (People, Planet, Profits) and – according to British workplace wellbeing experts Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper – that includes three parts: physical, social and psychological wellbeing.

Physical wellbeing relates to the amount of exercise, sleeping habits, nutrition or daily flows of energy. Social wellbeing stands for a positive and supportive social network and the quality of relationships in the workplace while psychological wellbeing is about our ability to handle stress, maintain a positive attitude and a sense of purpose. Wellbeing can be approached on an individual, team and organisational level.

How does it contribute to the bottom line? As well as enhancing key HR business metrics such as talent retention, productivity or sustained engagement, “the ROI on comprehensive, well-run employee wellness programmes can be as high as six to one”[1]. There is also much evidence that CSR positively impacts the bottom line such as the correlation between CSR index ranking and profitability or the results of a longitudinal study of passion and purpose-driven organisations which proved that they outperformed other S&P 500 companies by a factor of eight [2].

Despite these rationales, over the past two decades both workplace wellness/wellbeing and CSR fields had often been seen as nice extras, not strategic imperatives. Today wellbeing is still often understood as yoga classes, office massage or benefit cards – this limited appreciation of it proves that there’s a need for an evolution from wellbeing initiative to wellbeing management. When managed strategically, wellbeing is a function of management based on data and business metrics, as well as stakeholder dialogue. Wellbeing-oriented company efforts are a part of the company’s identity, its culture and strategy and form an integral part of leadership.

While the perspective of profit-related outcomes such as positive image or external recognition may be a driver to embark on a CSR or wellbeing journey, there is need for more than this sheer end-result driven business mindset. Yes, both CSR and wellbeing do contribute to the bottom line, but they also have another thing in common: to be at the heart and soul of the organisation they cannot be approached solely through the perspective of short-term profit.

Wellbeing and CSR belong to the realm of the how to do business, that of conscious business as put by Fred Kofman and that of the core, essence or true identity in the words of Collins and Porras. They’re about real behaviour, managerial practices and reputation, not image. Just as “corporate citizenship is no longer simply a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, or a marketing initiative. It’s now a CEO-level business strategy—defining the organisation’s very identity” [2], so is organisational wellbeing.

The ground has been prepared. Research shows that Polish employees are stressed, don’t get enough sleep and have problems focusing at work. They lead sedentary lifestyles which cause spine and health problems, but also impede cognitive functions necessary to stay productive. For the CSR function it is important information about the existing need to direct CSR efforts to one of their key stakeholders from top executives and middle managers to employees and their families. A wellbeing strategy can moreover become an integral part of the company’s CSR strategy.

A true employer-employee partnership requires meeting in the win-win zone. On the one hand the employer expresses care and provides wellbeing tools and guidance, while on the other - the employee takes responsibility for their self-care, health and performance at work. At The Wellness Institute, we offer wellbeing through welldoing programmes in addition to work-life balance or stress management. Research shows that doing something good for others results in a better self-esteem, increased happiness and longevity while decreasing levels of stress, depression and blood pressure. This is why welldoing and wellbeing are ideal partners and both contribute to creating wellness.

With the rise of organisational wellbeing in Poland, the CSR function gains a new opportunity to partner with HR and deliver leading-edge wellbeing initiatives under the category of ‘CSR in the workplace’. Both wellbeing and CSR create measurable value [3]. Both have common stakeholder audiences. Both relate to the process and to the end-result. Both relate to corporate identity. Both have the capacity to create competitive advantage. Both are at their best when they are strategic and long-term. Both fall into the “being well, doing well and doing good” concepts. Finally, both benefit the individual, the workplace, families and society as a whole.

Contact the author at e.stelmasiak@wellnessinstitute.pl, wellnessinstitute.pl

As cited in:

  1. „What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?” Berry, L., Mirabito, A., Baun, W.   Harvard Business Review. December, 2010. retrieved on Nov., 21st, 2018 from: https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs

  2. „The rise of the social enterprise”, 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, report retrieved on Nov., 21st, 2018 from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/HCTrends2018/2018-HCtrends_Rise-of-the-social-enterprise.pdf

  3. „Key Performance Indicators for measuring organisational wellbeing” („Kluczowe Wskaźniki pomiaru wellbeingu w firmie”), Stelmasiak, E. in „Wellbeing w organizacji – co? jak? dlaczego?”, pod red. Katarzyny Kulig-Moskwy, wyd. Infor, 2018

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