Employee Engagement

How your intranet can support employee health and wellbeing

May 25, 2021


Steve Bynghall

How your intranet can support employee health and wellbeing

Does your intranet support employee health and wellbeing? Intranets are surprisingly versatile in the range of benefits they deliver, including ensuring effective communications, supporting productivity and efficiency, and being the ‘one source of truth’ for corporate content. Most intranet teams have these positive outcomes on their radar, but explicitly supporting health and wellbeing tends to be an aim that is more peripheral and largely left for colleagues in HR. While wellness can come under an umbrella of ‘employee engagement’ or even ‘employee experience’, ‘health and wellbeing’ is not often a defined outcome in the brief for an intranet project.  

In fact, intranets can play a highly positive role in supporting health and wellbeing in several different ways, and intranet teams have an opportunity to consider the active role the intranet plays in protecting and promoting these values. In this post, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the ways intranets support wellbeing.

Why health and wellbeing are important

Health and wellbeing have never been more important than they are now. The pandemic has placed more focus on our collective health than ever before, and many employers have acted to support staff and mitigate the impact of a highly stressful situation and new remote working patterns. In the UK, the CIPD’s annual health and wellbeing survey of HR professionals shows a growing number of senior leaders (75%) have wellbeing on their agenda.

Much has been written about the links between wellbeing and engagement, reduced absence and productivity. From an organisational perspective, there are additional reasons to drive formal health and wellbeing programmes, such as remaining competitive in the talent market and reducing the risk of legal action by fulfilling duty-of-care to employees around health and safety.

Let’s explore some of the ways an intranet can support an HR function’s aims around health and wellbeing.

1.       Establishing a health and wellbeing hub

Most organisations with a formal health and wellbeing programme will have a presence on the intranet. A ‘health and wellbeing’ hub or area will usually be managed by HR or a health & safety team, and can be a popular destination for staff. A hub might include:

·       Details of any relevant benefits including subsidies for gym memberships and cycle-to-work schemes

·       Employee assistance programmes, such as confidential helplines

·       Health and wellbeing content relating to anything from eating well to managing financial wellbeing; this is often produced by third parties

·       Details of beneficial health-related apps

·       Details of any campaigns or events, for example, yoga or mindfulness sessions

·       Health and safety information (although this may have its own area depending on the industry).

If you don’t have a formal health and wellbeing programme or site on your intranet, consider creating an area that pulls together relevant resources.

2.       Providing community and connection

Loneliness and isolation and their relative impact on mental health have been brought into focus by lockdown. Intranets and related social channels can make a difference by supporting day-to-day interaction and connecting employees through several different features.

Online communities and discussion forums are mainly work-focused, but can be non-work related too: books, recipes, pets, photos and sport are often popular topics. During COVID-19, many organisations have successfully created working and non-working groups or channels with everything from home-working tips to TV recommendations. Some intranet teams and community managers are resolute in having a ‘no cat videos’ rule on their intranet because it’s not business-focused, but personally I think we all need a good cat video now and then. More specifically, there can be some groups very much associated with health and wellbeing including sport, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, healthy eating and even wellbeing itself.

Communities can also be very important in supporting diversity and inclusion; employee resource groups such as LGBT+ groups, for example, can play an active role in fostering wellbeing.

Other intranet features also help to support connection, such as a feed that everyone can post into, including employee shout-outs, and even the humble employee directory on your intranet.

3.       A channel for listening

Intranets and related social channels are conduits for dialogue; they provide opportunities for employees to have a voice and for senior leaders to listen to how the workforce is feeling. Listening is critical in wellbeing - positive action to tackle health issues can only happen once you identify and understand the pain points that employees are experiencing. This has been demonstrated during the pandemic where many leaders have used digital channels to understand the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown, subsequently influencing the support given to employees.

There are multiple tools on intranets that can help get a sense of employee sentiment, including polls and surveys, discussion threads, comments on blogs and articles and even search and content analytics. From quick pulse surveys to deeper explorations of issues, your intranet can play a role in understanding health and wellbeing issues as they emerge.

4.       Reducing technostress and information overload

Information overload is already a familiar term, and is rapidly being joined by technostress in describing that feeling of being overwhelmed by the technology we use at work. Anecdotally, many of us are familiar with having too many applications to keep open to get things done and too many emails to deal with. A poor technology experience can be immensely frustrating and, in the current pandemic, online meeting fatigue is also joining the party.

Technostress is most definitely a health and wellbeing issue. DWG’s Elizabeth Marsh, an expert on technostress, defines two kinds of overload – ‘Information & communication overload’ and ‘Application & feature overload’. Fundamentally, intranets are about helping employees get things done and complete tasks, and they can reduce the amount of information we need to consume and the apps we need to open through:

·       Aggregating notifications from different systems to reduce email usage

·       Providing clarity on process and procedures to remove ambiguity or Kafkaesque-level efforts to find one piece of information

·       Reducing the need to visit other systems by integrating applications into the intranet to help self-service, such as incorporating the HR system to book annual leave

·       Helping people reach the right apps quickly through links and single sign-on

·       Facilitating discussions that reduce the need for lengthy email threads.

These might all sound modest, but collectively, an intranet can make a contribution to reducing the confusion and stress associated with information and app overload.

5.       Health and wellbeing events and campaigns

During the pandemic, we’ve seen the rise of various wellbeing-focused events and campaigns, including everything from individual mindfulness sessions and virtual keep fit sessions through to fully blown wellbeing-themed weeks with multiple events. There have also been numerous awareness campaigns around mental health, financial wellbeing and more. The intranet plays a critical role here, often being used as the main digital communication channel for publicising such events.

6.       Supporting flexible working

Before the pandemic, the ability to work remotely was often regarded as a way to support wellbeing, helping employees achieve a better balance between the demands of our life both within and outside work, especially for parents and carers, and reducing stress in the process.

The enforced remote working caused by lockdown has perhaps skewed our view of flexible working, but once we settle into regular hybrid working patterns, intranets will continue to support our ability to work from any location, reinforcing wellness and mental health. By providing the information and connections that underpin communication, collaboration and multiple processes, intranets will continue to be important.

Five actions for tomorrow

If you think your intranet could support health and wellbeing better, consider the following actions:

1.       Speak to your health and wellbeing team to see if there is more you can do

2.       Review your intranet strategy and roadmap to see how it can promote wellbeing

3.       Speak to employees about how the intranet could support their wellbeing

4.       Create a health and wellbeing hub or area on your intranet if you haven’t already done so

5.       Make a series of small and regular iterative steps that focus on health and wellbeing.

Stay healthy and well!

Many intranet teams have already created areas to help employee wellbeing during the pandemic. Make sure your intranet supports health and wellbeing in the wider sense too, which will, in turn, help drive adoption and value.

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