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How employee wellness is changing

How we take care of our people is changing. Employee wellness isn’t just something to stick on recruitment ads or to boast about as part of CSR. It’s about providing meaningful support that helps individuals, prevents burnout, and is good for everyone.

employee wellness

Even yoga gurus suffer burnout

Last weekend, the Sunday Times Style Magazine, featured a profile on Adriene Mishler, the 37-year-old yoga guru whose platform exploded during lockdown last year. The article certainly gave the impression of someone with an enviable level of success and a beautiful outlook on the world, but it focused on something a little unusual for a yoga guru. Earlier this year, she suffered serious burnout.

“I remember I told my partner I felt knocked out by anxiety. I am a caretaker by nature, but then that became my job, my world.”

She described in detail the physical impact of having taken on far too much, and by the end of the article, concluded with that age old lesson - practice what you preach.

This isn’t uncommon in the spa and wellness industry. The people who spend their lives and careers trying to make sure the rest of us feel relaxed and restored, often get stressed and burnt out. However, it’s not just therapists. Lots of us suffer from stress, which is fine to a point, but when it escalates it can be an issue for the employer as well as the individual.

Our approach to employee wellness is changing

The most savvy employers are ahead of the game when it comes to employee wellness, implementing practices that are more than token offerings or insidious ways of keeping people in the office for longer instead of taking breaks. Some spa owners for example are implementing wellbeing support that helps to prevent burnout and injury associated with massage with offerings like preventative physiotherapy.

Some employers offer things like Teladoc services, where they can ask a physician any health-related question 24/7, so they are not restricted to office hours. Some also offer things like financial wellness resources and health screening events as well as fitness classes and nutritional foods.

None of this will come as a surprise in itself, but what’s changing is the motivation. The emphasis is increasingly on providing genuine instead of token support for employee wellness.

  • The Health and Safety Executive estimated that between 2019 and 2020, 38.8 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health in Great Britain.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the majority of days lost.
  • On average, each person suffering took around 17.6 days off work.

So while there’s an obvious ethical reason to take care of employee health, there’s also an important economic wellbeing reason to look after out teams.

The best ways to look after employee wellbeing

While there’s no one way to look after employee health, the common (and broad) denominator is that it’s important to approach physical, emotional, and mental health, and the things that impact them: diet, money, rest, relaxation, a sense of purpose, a sense of pride in our work, and more.

What’s also clear is that it’s about a little and often - making sure there are regular wellbeing experiences rather than one big holiday once a year.

What do employees want from a wellness programme?

In a number of surveys, what employees themselves valued from wellness programmes was also interesting. While everyone loves the big ticket items, what they wanted most was:

  • Personal and meaningful experiences
  • Realistic advice
  • Flexibility to participate on their own terms and when it suits them
  • Programmes that make it easy to get involved

Do wellness programmes work?

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) reports that fostering employee wellbeing can result in:

  • Increased resilience
  • Better employee engagement
  • Reduced sickness absence
  • Higher performance and productivity

However, many wellness programmes fall short of what’s required to generate meaningful results, and they likely need a number of different elements with a sustainable level of participation.


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