In-work activities can help foster a culture of positive mental wellbeing. Lucie Mitchell examines how both public sector employers and employees can launch and nurture new clubs, drawing on people’s out-of-work passions and hobbies
The key to maintaining an effective team spirit is to keep your colleagues happy and motivated. Here, we round up just some of the activities your business can provide to help achieve it.
Many public sector workers are adjusting to new ways of working through the coronavirus pandemic. Some are having to cope with increased levels of stress and anxiety, while social distancing has resulted in minimal interactions with others.
That’s bad for employees on a personal level, but it’s also bad for productivity. A major global survey by the Myers-Briggs Company in 2019 found that the number one contributor to workplace wellbeing was good working relationships. If you have high levels of wellbeing at work, that correlates with financial and commercial success for organisations. So – relationships matter.
Team bonding at work
It’s therefore crucial that public sector employers create opportunities in the workplace to bring staff together and encourage social communication. Fortunately, there’s an easy and low-cost way to do exactly that: by promoting in-work clubs and activities. These activities can be incredibly varied – from running clubs to choirs, language classes to cooking and baking, camping and caravanning and beyond – but they all enable people to share common interests, relate to each other and form strong bonds.
“It’s the in-work clubs that embed a wellbeing culture internally, with a range of activities that engage and resonate with different workers based on their preferences,” comments Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant. “They even provide staff with the opportunity to drive activities themselves, empowering them in the process.”
Don't miss our other recent guides to better business practice
Health and wellbeing
The idea of leisure clubs at work isn’t new. Nearly a century ago in 1923, a group of civil servants interested in motoring gathered in Westminster to form the Civil Service Motoring Association. Today, that forward-thinking group has grown into Boundless, a 200,000-strong leisure and travel club for the whole public sector.
Spending time with like-minded colleagues is a good recipe for team bonding, says Karen Kwong, director of Renoc Consulting. “Social clubs and activities enable colleagues to mix in a more informal setting where there is no set work agenda. There is a shared purpose, which isn’t transactional, and this brings out a richer bonding experience, which is vital for the health and wellbeing of individuals on a personal and organisational level.”
By giving staff access to a variety of activities, they will feel valued, connected and rewarded, which experts agree plays an important part in workplace morale and motivation. Clubs can also be used to foster a culture of care and support between employer and employee, which can lead to more personal responsibility for their own wellbeing.
Adds Chambers: “This is vital in the public sector as it increases productivity and performance, reduces sickness, and decreases mistakes and conflict, leading to a happier and more efficient workplace.”
Increase your productivity
Basildon Council has been offering various social clubs and activities to staff since 2018, with the aim of boosting employee wellbeing. At first, the focus was on physical activities, all organised and run by employees at the council. In the last year, however, they have set up other clubs, including an arts and crafts group, a choir, table tennis, a board games club and a book club. The council uses its own building or open space to minimise the cost to the organisation.
As a result, there has been increased productivity in the workplace and a positive downward trend in sickness absence – saving the authority almost £300,000.
Stuart Young, head of people and change at Basildon Council, says it was important to involve employees in the design and delivery of activities. “Staff were great at getting involved in organising everything from craft activities to yoga, and keep fit classes to book clubs," he says. "Many initiatives were great fun, such as staff quizzes, whilst others were essential to mental health and wellbeing, such as tea and chat. Colleagues shared experiences of their own mental health challenges and offered support to others.”
Kwong agrees that employers must aim to involve staff from the outset: “The more people feel like they ‘own’ the activity," she says, "the more likely they are to buy into the idea and partake with enthusiasm.”
Talk to your employees
Employee surveys are also a good idea, as they give staff a sense of participation while gathering opinion on what clubs to offer.
While sporting activities can be a positive boost for mental and physical health, they may only appeal to certain demographics, so it’s important to tap into a wide variety of interests.
“A mixture of physical and non-physical should be on offer, across a variety of disciplines, from woodwork to book clubs, wine tasting to relay races,” advises Kwong. “This provides a great opportunity for people to mix with others at different levels within the organisation.”
It’s also worth having a wellbeing champion, suggests Craig Bulow, founder of Corporate Away Days. “They can bring people together to discuss or choose the activity, encouraging communication about something fun and engaging.”
Clubs and activities are a vital part of a public sector wellbeing strategy, concludes Chambers. “Once running, they embed connection and wellbeing within the organisation, and organically grow as workplace communities bind together.”
We can help your business
Boundless has been supporting the public sector and civil service by providing funding for local and online hobby and interests groups for 97 years, bringing workforces together through shared experiences.
All photos: Getty Images