Frequently Asked Questions
No, they don’t.
A lot organizations might say they have a wellbeing program, but what they actually have is some form of a worksite wellness program.
Most worksite wellness programs emphasize physical health, focusing on disease risk factors. This is known as the biomedical view. Traditional wellness programs look at disease management and focus on what is outwardly visible, on the surface. So, worksite wellness is traditionally more often associated with healthy lifestyle behaviours most often related to physical health.
Wellbeing on the other hand, includes all aspects of health – emotional, mental, spiritual, social, financial, community, career, as well as the traditional physical aspects.
Very few organizations have wellbeing programmes in place that factor in all aspects of what contribute to the overall health of a human being.
Whether you call it wellness or wellbeing, it should be about about how to help people live their best quality of life and how to develop people to their full human potential.
The current model is outdated – it’s not preparing people for their highest quality of life and highest level of performance.
Firstly because the focus of these programs has become narrower and narrower. When wellness is deployed, it is often done in a way that ignores the other aspects of wellbeing and the relationship between these dimensions. The current model doesn’t take the whole person into account.
Complete health – or the term we use, complete well-being – is more than the absence of disease or having a ‘good’ cholesterol level. Instead, complete well-being is a homeostatic balance of many factors with physical health being one factor, and not the only factor.
In designing work for wellbeing, it is important to look at the mental and emotional barriers first.
If wellness programs solely address the physical factor of employees, we are not addressing the “whole person”, people with real lives and problems outside of work.
Secondly, it clear that there is still a fixation on quick hit “programs”. Wellness programs have become a tick box exercise.
It’s very transactional. Many companies ask employees to do health activities to get some type of incentive. The problem with this type of approach is that it not only makes employees feel like they have extra work to do but it takes the autonomy out of wellness. For people to become healthy and change behaviour, they should be given the freedom and choice to self-direct their own journeys.
The bottom line is that although carrots and sticks can lead to short term compliance, it rarely leads to long term commitment.
The reality is that business leaders often demand a quantifiable return on their investment – both in terms of time and budget.
However, measuring the impact of wellness programs on the bottom is a very complex equation. Many elements make it difficult to research, for example, executive buy in to programs, culture – is the organization actually creating the conditions for people to be well, leadership, business and economic conditions, and so on.
In addition the definition of ROI can vary.
Since the ROI conversation is limiting, the conversation needs to shift to VOI or value of investment.
Value on Investment as a model is more comprehensive, flexible and adaptive to a company’s specific needs. Metrics here become about absenteeism, engagement, retention, happiness and so on.
This is a more holistic approach and offers better measurement. Ultimately, if employees don’t bring their best selves to work each day, feeling physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to give of their best, nothing else matters.
It starts with having a strategy. When you know what you want achieve, you can then design for value based on those outcomes. If for example, the goal is for employees to be less stressed and better able to cope with the current overwhelm, you would look at designing based on how to support people in that area.
It’s important to have a strategy so you know what you’re measuring.
Secondly – to get more value out of the money they spend, company culture matters. In fact, it is the most important and essential piece of a successful and sustainable wellness program. Before implementing a wellness programme, the other building blocks need to be in place. When cultures are trusting, collaborative and positive, and when participants felt valued and respected, individuals stand the best chance of becoming the best versions of themselves and wellbeing programmes stand the best chance of being successful.
All the research is now showing that wellbeing should be a core aspect of organizational strategy.
The research is clear – companies that care for the whole person are talent magnets, which will be a crucial competitive advantage in the days ahead. Their employees have stronger connections to the company, which improves engagement — and thus productivity, profitability and loyalty. Their people perform better during ordinary times and are more resilient during disruptions.
The goal is to move away from the perspective of negative cost implications of poor health and rather to look at the upside of a more engaged, energetic, vibrant workforce.
Executive buy-in is the most important place to start. When senior leaders see the clear link between wellbeing and business strategy, wellbeing is more likely to be driven from the top and then adopted by the broader organization.
The voice of the employee – the end-user – has traditionally been ignored when designing wellbeing.
Consider designing with employees, rather than for employees. People should be asked what they want from a programme. It’s important to find out what’s really going on in employees’ lives so that the programme design and content includes ways for them to intrinsically connect to what matters most to them.