Wellbeing

How to help teams keep their good New Year’s resolutions

Lydia Watson

Another year, another fresh start. After the excesses of the festive season (whether dairy, alcohol, or sugar-based…), it feels like the easiest time to reflect – and dive into making a change. 

Across the world, thousands of notebooks will be etched with well-meaning, possibly overambitious lists consisting of just two things: things people want to do less, and things they want to do more. Yes, we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions.

New Year resolution meaning and origins

A New Year’s resolution can be a challenge you set to yourself, or a promise you make. Its whole point is to make you better than you were the year before – whether physically, mentally, professionally, or otherwise. But how did this tradition start?

It’s said to have originated in ancient Babylon, and the 12-day celebration of Akitu – where loyalty to the king would be pledged, crops planted and promises made to the gods. If they kept their resolutions, they’d expect a pretty good year ahead. And after Caesar making the 1st of January the beginning of the year, and promises were made to the two-faced god Janus of best behaviour, the habit stuck… until this very day. 

Does anyone keep New Year’s resolutions?

So we all like making resolutions. But are we keeping them? Apparently not: one study saw only 24% managed to keep their resolutions for a year, whereas other research saw that one third don’t even get to the end of January! 

Does this sound familiar, and do you want to know why? Why is that? It seems to come down to either a lack of desire, a lack of specificity, or a lack of realism. Either we’re making resolutions we don’t really feel strongly about, or they’re too hard or vague to actually accomplish. 

So what are most resolutions actually about?

The most common New Year’s resolutions? They’re all about physical wellbeing

According to YouGov, of the most common resolutions 47% relate to doing more exercise, 41% relate to losing weight, and 41% are about improving diets. Other research has shown that ‘giving up smoking’ is often in the top five, with quitting or cutting down on booze up there too. 

The common thread? Physical wellbeing. Although many of us will make resolutions that relate to working towards other things, like a career progression or meeting a relationship goal, the thing that brings us back to physical wellbeing is that (in theory) it’s the one thing we can control.

So why then do so many of these resolutions get abandoned, forgotten, or even sabotaged by the people in our lives? And why should employers care?

What does your employees’ physical wellbeing have to do with you?

If your employees give up on their health-focused resolutions, that’s not your problem – true. But it would be naive to pretend that your employees’ physical wellbeing doesn’t have an impact on their work performance. 

Multiple studies show that engagement and wellbeing are closely linked. And with physical wellbeing and mental health being so connected, by encouraging physical health you’re likely to see employees with higher self-esteem, higher alertness, and higher levels of engagement. Which we all know is good for business.

New Year’s Resolution: template for supporting your employees’ efforts

Believe it or not, you can help your employees keep their good New Year’s resolutions (i.e. the ones they can best control). This can be done in four ways:

  1. Set them up for success
  2. Help them avoid the temptation
  3. Give them the time they need
  4. Make it a group activity 

Here’s some examples:

Doing more exercise

  1. Can you subsidise exercise equipment, or point them towards useful fitness resources? Maybe a discounted gym membership could be part of your employee perks.
  2. Be encouraging if they turn down socialising for another gym session, and encourage an atmosphere where people don’t try to dissuade each other from doing what they’ve resolved to do.
  3. It’s hard to get out in the mornings while they’re still so dark, and it’s hard to be motivated after work – consider allowing extended lunch breaks to exercise, in exchange for an earlier start or later finish.
  4. Start a virtual (or real!) running group, or sports club- the latter could even lead to your organisation competing with other company-run teams.

Have a healthier diet

  1. Filling the office kitchen with a wide variety of fruit, veg, wholegrain items and sugar-free options might be unpopular – but it’ll help people stick to their goals.
  2. On that note… treats are always welcome, but regular spreads of chocolatey pastries or pizza Fridays can be excruciating for employees trying to eat clean. Take a pause on ‘cake culture’ at least for a month or two…
  3. This is where remote working comes into its own. Having a healthy stew bubbling away in the slow cooker all day, or getting to crack on with cooking a fresh dinner by 5.30 pm – these are lifesaving freedoms for something quitting their ready meal habit.
  4. If a few of you are on the healthy eating train, create a channel to share your favourite new recipes – with handy tips on great substitutions, and the tastiest ingredients. You could even consider an office-based ‘snack-off’ if done safely.

Quitting smoking

  1. There are a lot of helpful resources out there that can support you if you’re looking to give up smoking. Make a space on your employee portal with helpful guides, and let people know they’re there if they’re looking to quit.
  2. No-one wants to lose their smoking buddy. But resist the instinct to invite them out for a smoke, if you’d regularly pop out a few times a day. It doesn’t mean your hang-outs are over, why not pop out for a cuppa instead?
  3. For some, quitting smoking is about replacing the activity – so be open to them stepping out for a short walk when needed, to meet that impulse. And consider making allowances if they need to leave early to head to cessation meetings.
  4. If several employees are quitting, and happy to be open about it, it’s not a bad idea for them to support each other. Having a channel where they can discuss the challenges, and techniques for overcoming cravings could help.

The best New Year resolution is committing to a wellbeing strategy

So that’s your employees sorted for the upcoming year. But aside from New Year’s resolutions for business professionals, what about small businesses themselves? Now might be the time you resolve to get serious about employee wellbeing, and commit to forming a strategy. This might seem challenging, but like everything else, you need to break it down into steps.

We’ve got two easy steps to get started:

  1. Download our Employee Wellbeing Guide

Jam-packed with everything you need to know about wellbeing: what it is, how it affects work performance, industry insights, how to measure it, and how to build a strategy. You’ll get the information you need to start thinking practically. 

2. Send our Wellbeing Survey… for free!

Yes, that’s right – for free! Try Qlearsite Employee Feedback Platform (no payment details required) and you can send out our Wellbeing Survey to your employees and identify A) how wellbeing is right now, and B) what you can do to improve it.

It’s time to start the conversation

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