Having a strategy for the health of employees is shifting away from being a nice to have and towards a necessity. Due to rapidly changing lifestyles, people are finding it more difficult than ever before to maintain or improve their health alongside their professions. The changing nature of our work is also changing creating a new need for good health in businesses. Historically businesses were very 'fixed' in the way in which they produced goods or services. People were therefore paid to complete repetitive tasks. Today, thanks to technology and a global market, businesses of all shapes and sizes need to be agile. To enable agility businesses need high levels of collaboration and innovation throughout the majority of their workforces. People can only be collaborative and innovative when they are healthy.
In summary, this puts two new pressures on businesses.
1 - They have a higher need for their employees to be well for the business to prosper.
2 - People are struggling with their health more than ever before (in times of prosperity) and need help
At Better Happy, we see this as a business opportunity. But many businesses see it as a struggle. Many businesses find themselves frustrated because they spend time and money trying to address well-being but their efforts lead to poor results. So let's explore 5 reasons most well-being strategies don't work:
1 - Not incorporated with an engagement strategy
If your employees don't enjoy and feel valued in their work, all of the well-being support in the world isn't going to make a difference. The average working adult spends around 50% of their waking hours at work. If they're not coming away from that time stimulated or feeling good about themselves, they're probably not going to have the motivation to go and improve their health. I owned a functional fitness gym for 5 years. I had everything I needed to be super healthy in front of me. I also have more than enough knowledge to know how to enable optimal health in myself. About three years into that business I was still working 6 and half days a week and had taken less than 2 holidays. I didn't know it at the time but I started to experience the symptoms of burnout. My motivation levels dropped, my self-confidence dropped and I stopped taking care of myself. The key takeaway from this story is no matter how much someone knows about health, no matter how many solutions they have available to them, if their work isn't making them feel good, it won't work.
2 - Pitched at the wrong level
When delivering a product or service any business develops a deep understanding of their ideal customers. What amazes me still to this day is how little time businesses understand their employees before creating or investing in wellbeing services. Understanding, maintaining and improving well-being in the modern world is a new challenge for businesses and people. It's one we're all still figuring out. Naturally, there are tons of services emerging to address this market. From all of the available choices, it's certainly not easy for businesses to find 'the right' solutions for their people. But what businesses can do is take some time to think about who their employees are, what they need and what they are likely to respond well to. For example, most (not all) teams of middle-aged working professionals with families are not going to respond well to yoga and meditation classes. They're also unlikely to have the time or desire to start visiting a gym 3-5 times a week. What most people need is to understand the challenges, learn how to incorporate better habits alongside a busy life and be in a working environment that supports good health.
3 - Video-based
Providing employees with a series of videos about how to be healthy can seem, on the surface level like a great idea. But let's consider it this way. If having access to content that guides us on how to be healthier was effective almost every person on the planet would be in optimal condition and extremely wealthy. Part of the reason people are struggling with their health so much is spending too much time on digital devices. Technology works most effectively when it supports human interaction, not when it replaces it. If you want your employees to enjoy good health and your business to reap the benefits of a healthy workforce, you need to make time for regular human conversations about health. The broad topics of health to be covered do not need to change across businesses but when delivered by humans employees are more engaged and have the opportunity to ask questions. Creating a well-being 'solution' that is video-based is the equivalent of giving your employees a book on 'how to be healthy' when they join and then telling yourself you've ticked that box.
4 - Mistaking incentives with solutions
I'm not going to base incentives or suggest they don't have benefits. There are lots of great companies in the employee rewards realm. Providing employees with incentives such as discount codes and gym memberships can be a great way to help you stand out as an employer. But I have to stress that these are not well-being solutions. Providing employees with fruit in the office is not a well-being solution. Providing employees with gym memberships is not a well-being solution. Providing employees with a box of gifts and snacks is not a well-being solution. Another consideration is that when employees receive or are offered perks and they are labelled as 'well-being' it often does the opposite of its intended purpose and creates a feeling of resentment. If Steve in the accounts department is sitting for 8 hours a day and has a bad back, a gym membership probably isn't going to help him. He's too busy to go to the gym, his back already hurts so that puts him off from going to the gym and he's never been to a gym so has no idea what he would even do there. What would help Steve is having some idea on how to fix his bad back and how to offset the negative impacts of sitting 8 hours a day.
5 - Leadership aren't role modelling
There are some very well-known business leaders that take their health very seriously. While this is a good thing, It also creates some challenges. By and large, our perception of what it means to be healthy is way off from reality. Most of us believe, wrongly, that being healthy is about sweating, going to the gym, eating chicken and rice, meditating and herbal tea. The reality is being healthy is about moving enough to have energy and be pain-free, eating more whole foods, getting enough sleep, getting to know and protect your mind, having a healthy work-life balance and not working in a way that leads to burnout. If managers and senior leaders are working every hour god sends, constantly stressed, not taking breaks, not taking time for themselves and generally letting their work rule their lives it's very difficult for employees to prioritise their health. Ultimately the biggest challenge we face with our well-being is beating our habitual behaviour. We're all taught from a very young age that success is achieved by hard work and that our health should come second. When leaders get aligned with the clear well-documented benefits of prioritising health they can role model that behaviour. When leadership role model the behaviours that support good health everyone else in the company finds it easier to follow suit.
In the not-so-distant past working hard at all costs was an effective approach to business. Jobs were not available in abundance. The available jobs did not require high levels of collaboration or innovation. Technology was limited and markets changed slowly. The competition was limited. Due to the nature of our lives, people had better levels of health in the past than they do today. Jobs were more physically active, processed foods were limited and a lack of mobile phones/internet meant people socialised together therefore mental health levels were better than today. Today it's the opposite. Businesses change rapidly therefore they need healthy engaged people to innovate. Life is more unhealthy (if we let it be). When looked at in the right way it's easy to see the opportunities that lay before you. Businesses have more opportunities than ever before to grow. Although health is becoming an increasing struggle for the masses, just like there is more opportunity for businesses to grow in today's age, there is more opportunity for people to enjoy optimal health. The key to achieving both of these is understanding the challenges, understanding the opportunities and breaking away from our habitual behaviour.
A good well-being strategy in your company doesn't just enable you to feel good, it's one of the most important business growth assets you can create.
Want some help creating your well-being strategy?