From wellness to wellbeing

By Martyn Anwyl, head of operations for corporate solutions at Buck Consultants at Xerox

The idea of corporate wellbeing is evolving exponentially. As lines become increasingly blurred between organisational and employee responsibility, wellness becomes ever more entrenched into wellbeing.

In the infancy of wellness, if an organisation had a cycle-to-work scheme, or even a bowl of fruit in the kitchen area, it was considered to have a wellness strategy in place.  Things have progressed. Just as organisations are expanding their wellness offerings to employees, the next stage in evolution is becoming more apparent.

Wellbeing goes a stage further than wellness. It includes the elements of wellness but has a wider remit and a more holistic approach, focusing on delivering a balanced state of optimum physical, mental and financial health.

More and more, we are seeing wellbeing strategies implemented, developing a culture of health by integrating health, wealth and career into wellbeing programmes. In addition, there is also an increasing trend for programmes to be extended to the families of employees.

The business case for wellness or wellbeing
Why should organisations invest time and money in this? In the past, the business case for wellness, or wellbeing, has traditionally focused on reduced absence, increased productivity and lower benefit cost for employers. Our Global Wellness Survey shows that, while these remain important areas, the number-one reason globally for implementing a wellness or wellbeing strategy is to increase employee morale and engagement. It is reported that organisations that enjoy engagement scores in the top quartile report twice the net profit to those in the bottom quartile.

The conclusion then is simple; programmes focused on the key factors influencing the holy grail of engagement will be a win-win for both employers and employees.

However, just having a wellness or wellbeing programme in place is not enough. To be truly successful, it must be embraced by the leadership in an organisation, and a culture of health developed. Business leaders who demonstrate a sincere interest in the health and wellbeing of their employees are also the most effective in engaging their employees. Disappointingly, only 43 per cent of our survey respondents said that their leadership strongly supports wellness. Without this ‚Äėtop-down‚Äô approach, any programme will likely be viewed by employees with a degree of cynicism, and subsequently will result in low engagement.

Respondents did, however, appreciate the importance of a culture of health in their organisations. Seventy-six per cent believe they have a moderately strong or very strong culture of health, and 95 per cent of respondents have plans in place to develop this in the future. The key elements of a culture of heath are:

  • Seniors leaders as champions and role models
  • Support at all levels, including middle management
  • A holistic approach ‚ÄĒ physical, psychosocial and financial
  • Supportive workplace and environmental policies
  • A strong and consistent communication strategy

The latter cannot be underestimated. The Global Wellness Survey respondents indicated big developments in the use of social media to put across their messages and raise awareness. Seventy-six per cent utilise web portals, as well as the traditional posters and flyers. Seventy-one per cent utilise targeted email. Workplace challenges and gamification are still very popular, rising from 41 per cent in 2009 to 54 per cent in 2014. In short, whether it is called wellbeing or wellness is in some respects a moot point.  What is important, for the reasons detailed above, is that organisations are working towards an integrated approach to the physical, mental and financial aspects of employee wellbeing, both in and out of the workplace. The demands that are placed on employees and organisations necessitate the need for employees that are productive and engaged.

Our consultants are passionate about employee wellbeing and support our clients in developing and considering all avenues that will ensure a healthier and more productive workforce. To find out more, please contact [email protected].

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