Improving Workplace Wellbeing Starts with the Workplace, Not the Employees
Workplace wellbeing starts with a human environment of caring about people. In the United Kingdom, many companies, about half, adopt formal wellbeing strategies. These strategies include services such as Employee Assistance Programs, wellness apps, counseling, and spaces for meditation. They also offer training in stress management and mindfulness. Yet, it’s important to ask: do they really impact wellbeing?
The Wellbeing Research Center at the University of Oxford recently conducted an investigation that challenges the effectiveness of current wellbeing strategies. Analyzing survey data from 46,336 workers in 233 UK organizations, the researchers uncovered limited benefits from these interventions.
The survey asked whether the respondents participated in around 90 different employee wellbeing programs that fell into one of the following categories:
- Volunteering or charity work
- Mindfulness classes or programs
- Resilience, energy or stress management classes or programs
- Wellbeing app on broad range of physical health, mental health and lifestyle issues
- Massage or relaxation classes or programs
- Workload or time management training
- Coaching (one-on-one sessions on mental health and wellbeing)
- Financial wellbeing programs
- Events promoting healthy sleep
- Apps/programs promoting healthy sleep
None of these classes, coaching, training, and apps showed any association with improving employee wellbeing, with one exception: volunteering. But more importantly, they found some data indicating potential harm rather than wellbeing. This issue likely arises from the strategies’ focus on individual employees, intending to assist in their personal development.
Saying to a manager, who handles the workload of three people or has more direct reports than hours in a day, that the only support we can offer is an exercise benefit to manage job stress and overwhelm, feels insane.
Creating healthy workplaces might more effectively enhance wellbeing. Organizational changes, like communication, focus on employee experiences, open feedback, and truly caring about people, show more promise in boosting wellbeing.
The Workplace Wellbeing Gateway
The study revealed that employees participating in typical wellbeing activities, such as resilience training, mindfulness, and using wellbeing apps, didn’t see a significant improvement in their wellbeing compared to those who didn’t participate. This highlights a key point: these interventions don’t get to the root cause of holistic wellbeing. Maybe they are just band-aid solutions.
Large organizations invest an average of US$10.5 million annually in well-being programs. Despite these efforts, employees remain stressed, and burnout rates are climbing. Maybe these wellbeing programs might not be as effective as intended for our mental.health.
Jiddu Krishnamurti’s insight, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society,” is also relevant in our workplaces regarding wellbeing.
Maybe instead of mindfulness programs for individuals, companies stop overloading and burning people out? Perhaps it’s time to look at the source of everything and why people are not well at work?
When we question, we might discover that there is a need to shift from individual to holistic organizational strategies to create wellbeing. Understanding the intricate aspects of workplace wellbeing reveals that an environment where people thrive is essential for everyone. Radical honesty and openness could be vital for real impact. And an understanding that open two-way dialogue, not audiences, collaborate and live the organization’s mission. day-to-day.
So, work then becomes a place of vitality and wellbeing, where meaning and mindfulness are ingrained in our way of life. It’s about having true leaders who embody words and focus on the core reasons for the business’s existence. And an awareness that our priorities are always connecting people, planet, and community.