Strong business case for offering 'wellbeing days off'

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Lendlease's Lisa White discusses giving employees days off for activities that boost their sense of wellbeing

There is a strong business case for offering staff ‘wellbeing days off’, according to Lisa White, head of HR for property group Lendlease.

“We launched our wellbeing leave scheme very recently,” White told HR magazine. “We encourage our workforce to take time off for a day once a quarter, with the goal of giving them time to think positive and focus on their wellbeing. The aim is to prevent future sickness leave.

“It’s starting to emerge that there is a strong business case. Our engagement survey shows an increase in engagement and retention since we implemented this programme. Nearly half [41%] of our employees now work on a flexible basis and they show higher levels of engagement too. We need to make this a part of the company’s DNA, and not just an add-on.”

Staff are allowed a high degree of freedom over what they spend their wellbeing day doing. “We are being careful not to be too prescriptive and to trust our employees,” White said. “We try to remember that ‘health’ means different things to different people at different times.

“Some choose to go out for lunch or visit their relatives. They could add the day to a weekend to go on a yoga retreat. I took a wellbeing day last week, which I spent at a spa with my family.”

White believes that stress is present in many roles. “Even at a desk job, or in an organisation’s headquarters, stress is now a part of life,” she said. “However, you can tailor your response to fit your workforce. There is a higher male population in construction, so we have campaigns regarding prostate cancer as it is a male issue, for example. It’s not one-size-fits-all.”

Lendlease has also signed up to the Time To Change employer pledge to work towards ending stigma around mental health issues. “We now have 180 mental health first aiders in our team who are there for people who may need them. They aren’t necessarily professionals, but they can signpost people in the right direction for help.

“We’re always focused on health and safety, those are core values to us. Understand your organisation’s culture and don’t just do it because it sounds good,” she added.

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