From Wellness to Wellbeing

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

In the infancy of wellness programs, 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 since. 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, focussing on delivering a balanced state of optimum physical, mental and financial health.

More and more we are seeing wellbeing strategies implemented, organisations are developing a culture of health by integrating health, wealth and career development into wellbeing programmes. There is also an increasing trend to extending programmes 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 focussed on reducing absence, increasing productivity and lowering benefit cost for employers. Our Global Wellness Survey shows that, whilst these remain important areas, the number one reason for implementing a wellness or wellbeing strategy is to increase employee 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 focussed on the key factors influencing 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, senior leadership needs to embrace the program and develop and promote the idea of a culture of health throughout the organisation. Business leaders who demonstrate a sincere interest in the health and wellbeing of their employees are also the most effective in engaging their employees. It’s disappointing that only 43% of our survey respondents said their leadership strongly supports wellness. Without this “top down” approach, employees will view the programme with a degree of cynicism, defeating its goal of increasing the level of engagement.

Respondents did, however, appreciate the importance of a culture of health in their organisations. For instance, 76% believe they have a moderately strong or very strong culture of health, and 95% of respondents have plans in place to develop this in the future. The key elements of a culture of health are:

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

A strong communication strategy can’t be underestimated. Our respondents indicated big developments in the use of social media to put across their messages and raise awareness:

  • 76% utilise web portals, as well as the traditional posters and flyers
  • 71% utilised targeted email
  • Workplace challenges and gamification are still very popular rising from 41% in 2009 to 54% in 2014

In short, whether it is called wellbeing or wellness is in some respects a moot point. What is important 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. To meet the demands of business, organisations need employees that are productive and engaged.

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