A case for wellbeing initiatives that speak to the needs of our time

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Over recent years, I have studied the growing ‘hot topic’ of wellbeing, particularly its pivotal role in the workplace. Over the last seven years, I have researched and applied proactive wellbeing strategies to my own life, and nearly 20 years ago I began my undergraduate degree in Psychology without any real idea of the journey it would take me on.

There is an incredible amount of evidence supporting the business case for wellbeing. It has a clear place holding within corporate strategy. Increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, increased engagement, greater creativity and innovation – all substantiating the significant return on investment that organisations gain when they do it right. However, at the heart of meaningful workplace wellbeing is, in my humble opinion, the individual. The mother, the father, a son, a daughter, friend or colleague. In order for any wellbeing initiative to be meaningful, it is imperative that an organisation’s focus is on holistic solutions that enable a true lift in the subjective wellbeing of their people. When this happens, the rest takes care of itself.

One wellbeing priority that businesses could address more proactively is mental wellness. In order to develop the inner resources to deal with what life ‘throws at you’ both personally and professionally, we need to explore a proactive approach to educating intrapersonal skills. Generally, this education is not received within mainstream schooling nor often in our homes and communities; therefore, organisations are increasingly taking some responsibility in this regard, for example, with resilience training, mindfulness or strengths-based coaching. Secondly, mental wellness speaks to the needs of our time. Gone are the days where subsidised gym memberships and fitness challenges cut it. If you have highly stressed, overworked employees at risk of burnout, a gym membership will not serve to create a meaningful lift in their wellbeing. It will only serve to create physically fit stressed and overworked employees, or may escalate psychosocial risk. Focusing on more traditional aspects of wellbeing alone (often the physical) is short sighted. In this fast-paced digital age we need to offer organisations solutions and services that are meaningful and bring about sustained personal growth.

Good mental wellness is fundamental to workplace wellbeing, in order for employees to be engaged, productive and to thrive at work. The need is illustrated globally by increasing and alarming rates of mental illness. Worldwide, one in four people* will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives, placing it among one of the leading causes of ill health and disability. Globally, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year ** – sadly that is one person every 40 seconds. In order to thrive, both personally and at work, people need good social support systems, access to psychological support when needed, rewarding and meaningful jobs that allow them to facilitate balance between work and home, with access to training that will boost resilience and enable them to increase their mental wellbeing.

Lastly, organisations need to address the important role that leaders play in improving wellbeing. Where wellbeing is viewed as a key leadership capability – where it is carved into the expectations and roles of leadership positions, measured and rewarded. Leaders need to understand it and they need to live it, promote it and champion it in their teams and wider organisations. At the end of the day, legislating wellbeing may push it in the right direction, but in order to improve it in an organisation it takes true leaders to get behind it and become the change they want to see.

Rebekah is an Organisational Psychologist and works for Progress People in corporate wellbeing. If you would like further information about how Progress People could help your organisation, or if you would like to get in touch, please click here.

* World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

**World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/

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