The Corporate Wellbeing Conundrum


“If you don’t exercise and eat clean you must be lazy and ill disciplined”


Wellbeing implies a culture where you feel valued and look forward to going into work, one that helps you work flexibly and manage your work life balance, and where trust and recognition of achievements are part and parcel.”

Cary Cooper

Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at University of Manchester.


It is now estimated that half of UK companies have a defined wellness strategy up from less than a third two years ago. This is inevitable as we also spend a third of our life at work, to ward off stress depression, improve energy and cognitive function for employees helping them fit wellbeing into their day is key.

However, the question remains how far is too far when it comes to strategies and is the aim to enhance culture and promote respectful flexible hours or keep our employees onsite longer.


Wellness Syndrome: Less is more

Many are viewing certain elements of Wellness Programs as a way to crank the whip even harder, so how far is too far as we are seeing sleeping pods being introduced along with ping pong tables in certain companies. Sleeping pods really? For me this is a strange one and too far, sleep surely is something we should be getting at home. I understand the power of a nap having studied the effectiveness of 40 winks through the day but from my experience sleeping pods are sending out a message to stay longer in work and offers a sense of guilt for leaving on time. The Harvard business review estimated that the return on a comprehensive well-run program is 6 to 1. This means the emphasis needs to be on helping the individual upgrade daily habits, elements of a program without education on the subject is pointless. Instead of sleeping pods why not educate the employee on the importance of sleep and on the keys to a quality nights rest. Long term surely the return on this investment will stand the test of time. The Evidence shows that if we continually work long hours we become less productive, ill and has an adverse effect on our private life. The average working week is 42 hours in Ireland and the UK yet our output is still a quarter behind our European neighbours in Germany and France who work on average 7 hours less per week.


Absenteeism versus presenteeism

The Office health market is valued at 33 billion whilst workplace illness is worth 100 billion In the uk alone. Presenteeism costs businesses twice as much as absenteeism and it is a lot harder to spot than an empty desk. As mentioned above we tend to work longer hours but our less productive, introducing wellbeing strategies should ultimately be aimed at helping each individual take control of the 3 key elements of Health, Regular facilities to Exercise, education around effective Nutrition planning and mindset, recovery and stress management.

I suggest when developing any Wellbeing Strategy ask yourself the following 5 questions to ensure you are getting the Return on Investment which for most will be happier, healthier employees who are more engaged in company culture and ultimately more productive.

1.       What is the best way to get engagement on this new Wellbeing Program? This is key and can be where most programs fail, whether it is having a launch/awareness day or setting up a communications platform where people can get questions answered this is a must and my biggest bit of advice here would be to recruit the help of a provider to manage this side, my reason for this is many employees will be more likely to engage if it is a third party managing the program.


2.       Will this enhance the employee experience of working at the company? Do you think a majority of employees will be impacted by what you are about to implement and as a result be more likely to stay longer at your company?


3.       Can I measure the impact and effectiveness of this element of the program? Can I or do I have a provider who can offer feedback and data on my Wellbeing program.


4.       Will this impact company cohesion? For example, subsidising gym memberships is great for fit people in an organisation but if your company is made up mainly of what we call ones and twos which are the people who are new to exercise or have never participated in a program before, will any of them avail or more importantly regularly use the offer? The truth is most companies are made up of ones and two not threes and fours.

·       Ones: Currently not exercising

·       Twos: Tend to start and stop exercising quite regularly and would have a poor level of fitness.

·       Threes: Tend to exercise at least 3-5 times per week and have a good level of health and fitness.

·       Fours: Tend to train 5 plus times a week and regularly take part in events such as runs and triathlons.


5.       What are my next steps in this area? Most employees enjoy an educational talk or 6-week program on a subject but what tends to annoy employees is when there is a lack of follow up or a progression in the area, ensure you factor in your next steps and communicate this with the group during the current program.


One final thought to leave you with is this “Workplace Wellbeing is more psychological than physical although the latter has a massive impact on the former.” With this in mind build a plan based on the individuals need for inclusion and accessibility first and foremost. It is not the fancy features or advantages that matter it’s the benefits to most employees you can reach which will have the biggest impact on the bottom line.