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April 23, 2020
8 min read

The Wellbeing Manager – Who Owns Wellbeing

Steve Longhorn, Wellbeing Lead for ISS Facility Services

Steve moved to the Netherlands from the United Kingdom in 1999 having spent 12 years working as a health & fitness consultant, wellness coach, and health & safety advisor. His work is now focused around helping businesses to understand the impact of the working environment on all employees, from both a human and a building perspective.

By: Elyse

In a nut-shell what is the role of a Wellbeing Manager?

“A Wellbeing Manager is there to improve employee comfort, health, and happiness. They do this by introducing evidence based interventions into the workplace to create an environment conducive to health.


To do this a Wellbeing Manager has to work ‘outside of the box’. Wellbeing is a huge industry, so a large part of the role is keeping on top of new research and best practices. We have to vet out the credible work, and bring those practices back into the workplace. We give our people the vehicle to improve their health and wellbeing.”

So what’s the difference between Wellbeing and Wellness?

“People often confuse wellbeing & wellness. But wellness is actually a smaller box within wellbeing. Wellness involves interventions to make unhealthy or unwell people well, and focuses on the 25% of people that cost a business through health related absence, injury, & illness. Wellbeing focuses on 100% of the people, from unwell through to achieving vitality.


To put it into perspective wellness only accounts for approximately 5-20% of the job of a Wellbeing Manager.”

What is the value in having a dedicated Wellbeing Manager?

“By having a Wellbeing Manager you have a spider on the web so to say. You have one person or team dedicated to driving wellness, wellbeing, and vitality. This person has a multifaceted view, they don’t just focus on health, they don’t just focus on injury, they don’t just focus on nutrition. It’s so cross functional.


They bring together the various business areas – Facilities, HR, Safety, etc. and see how each impacts employee health. The benefit is you have someone who can focus on the problem holistically.”

What does a wellbeing program look like in practice?

“Okay, so as an example research tells us that sitting in a different environment triggers different stimuli, different ways of thinking, different interactions, and it’s good for people & business. So recently, we helped an ISS business client to look at how their people are using their space to work.


The thing is you need to bring people along on these programs, there’s a huge element of behaviour change in this. So we gathered a large group of completely diverse employees and had a conversation about which areas they enjoyed working for different types of tasks.


Part of our findings showed that when it came to focused work we found people quite liked to work from home. However, we also found that if they had a more suitable place (for focused work) in the office they’d prefer to work in the office.


When we look at this from a wellbeing perspective the issue with being confined to the home for focused work is that you lose the social element of work. We know loneliness is a problem in society today, and you can be lonely even in the office. If we confine people to their homes for focused work they will be even more lonely. This is a perfect example of how we need to design our workplaces to support our people, and provide both focused and social areas that give people the opportunity to work and mix (socially) in the office. Movement and utilising spaces is key.


But we aren’t about to go out and buy a ‘one size fits all’ activity based working office design. No, we take this information and integrate it into our space on a small scale and test it. We bring people along on this journey. Introduce them to the space, train them how to use it, and show how it can improve their wellbeing. We see how the space is used in practice, and we can use these findings to develop future projects around activity based working and space design.”

And finally, what’s the first step a business should take to improve employee wellbeing?

“The first step is finding out what is going on. You need to understand the drivers of stress for your business. Look at the people, the perceptive data, the feedback, walk the floors and ask. Then match that up to what the data is saying, the hard HR metrics, the building metrics. Otherwise you end up with a one-size-fits-all program that doesn’t actually work. It needs to fit your people.”


If you’d like to hear more from Steve, you can follow him on LinkedIn.


Want to read more interviews from the ‘Who Owns Wellbeing’ blog series? Go to our overview page (e.g. with Real Estate Developer Daan van der Vorm)

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