A New Way to Approach Organisational Wellbeing

It is quite possible that over the next 12 to 24 months there is likely to be a seismic shift in how we view our approach to well-being and the importance of our belief of how our working environment should be, both as an employee but also as an employer. As a result of Generation Z entering the workplace and additional emphasis from the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing employee well-being is more important than ever. No longer are employees wanting to ally with an organisation who are just passionate about what they do, the values they stand for. Employees are mindful of how their employers view their well-being and mental health, how the organisation shows they care and follows through with this. We are noticing a trend among the young professionals within Generation Z in their desire for appreciation of their well-being, alongside a proactive approach to promote and build key components of mental and physical health.

When we consider a proactive approach, we are talking more than just the desire to be able to take an afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment or go for a run before 5pm and the looming sunset. This is now a given. Instead we are talking about practical facilitators of one’s mental and physical health, targeted and individualised approaches to the needs of the employee standing in front of you, not a collective, blanket, employee wide approach.

The current working structures have seen traditional approaches to organisational wellbeing interventions redundant. The nap rooms, games rooms, and unlimited healthy snacks are no longer sufficient, or satisfactory. The home-based digitalisation of our work, blurred lines between home life and work life boundaries, increased expectations, and immediate accessibility, calls for different approaches to considering well-being. This sudden shift in our workplace set up and the current health crisis highlight the importance of developing and maintaining a healthy workforce. As the American businessman Doug Conant once remarked, “to win the marketplace, you must first win the workplace”. Given there is little indication that our workplace environment will change any time soon, how can organisations help employees build the resources, including the resilience, self-awareness, emotional literacy and emotional intelligence, alongside promoting positive mental and physical well-being, to match these workplace demands and enable them to flourish?

Across countless organisations we have seen the introduction of structural changes to include formal well-being programmes, with the hiring of chief wellness officers. This has focused on creating organisational frameworks for addressing wellbeing priorities and measuring the success of these using metrics which align with the company’s priorities. More recently, there has been a pivot in online corporate wellness programmes to meet the online demands, from in office workshops to online cooking demonstrations.

Welcoming the remote nature of our work, we need to provide corporate wellness programmes which embrace these changes, to enable employees to build the skills, capabilities and resources to manage the new way of working and in doing so supporting the physical and mental health of the workforce. Well-designed technical and virtual programming which captures this off-site engagement is one way which may play a key role in the future of corporate wellness, having a knock on impact on productivity and performance. This could include:

  • Virtual physical screening to enhance and monitor athletic performance and physiotherapy related concerns.
  • Virtual psychological screening to enhance and monitor performance psychology and mental health concerns.
  • Bespoke virtual webinars matched to employee preference on what matters most for them.
  • Live cooking demonstrations, exercise classes, dance classes and more.
  • Online communities to harness motivation for behaviour change initiatives.
  • Online health portals to log physical and mental health data, track and monitor progress to increase one’s self-awareness and one’s ability to anticipate potential upcoming challenges.

In consideration of these developments, a University of Oxford researcher suggested that the tendency to develop similar policies which monitor the health and fitness of employees is likely to grow. Additionally, the increase in Gen Z young professionals in the workplace, accompanied with the COVID-19 pandemic movement, sees a great opportunity to shift the perspectives of how we consider physical mental health, both as employees and employers. It presents an exciting opportunity to change the landscape of corporate wellness offerings to better meet the needs of employees and enhance their own personal resources.