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Home >> Journal >> Corporate >> Broadening The Lens On Workplace Wellness

Broadening The Lens On Workplace Wellness

Tuesday 26th January

Workplace wellness programs will continue to play an essential role in helping employers create a distinct brand identity in the future. The direct benefits include fostering engagement and mitigating the adverse effects of workplace stressors.

There are second-hand benefits too. High attrition rates, for instance, can slowly erode a company’s bottom line. Statistics reveal that an employer spends $18,982 to hire an employee, and Australian businesses spend $385 million in avoidable recruitment costs. Progressive & flexible wellness programs can be a deciding factor that helps retain talent in this competitive environment.

However, employers must send out the right message. Investments in wellness should not merely be a means to improve employee productivity or bolster engagement. Both of these are metrics linked to increased profitability.

Instead, the aim should be to help the employee thrive in all aspects of their lives. This comes naturally with well-designed programs.

Unfortunately, many companies continue to use a transactional yardstick to measure the ROI on wellness initiatives. When a program does not produce tangible returns, they question the efficacy. ‘Is the lunchtime Yoga working?’ Well, if it isn’t, then the answer may lie in the way you approach workplace wellness.

This article in Harvard Business Review puts forth a valid argument. Corporate wellness needs to be looked upon through a much broader lens. How about a shift in perspective, for instance? Perhaps looking at it from an employee’s lens might give us a better understanding of what workplace wellness stands for.

A shift from workplace wellness to wellbeing

Wellness and Wellbeing are two terms that are interchangeably thrown around while addressing employee health.

However, these are distinct concepts. Closely interconnected for sure, but as different as chalk and cheese.

Wellness as a concept leans more towards the physical aspect of health. That does not mean that it’s not holistic at all. But the focus is somewhat more on improving physical fitness. How it can help a person become more active and focused at the workplace and outside of it.

A reduction in direct healthcare costs might be an excellent motivator for employers. But by overemphasizing physical health, employers risk alienating a large percentage of the workforce. This could possibly even reduce the rate of participation in these programs.

On the other hand, wellbeing is a holistic state of existence. It helps an employee be socially, mentally, and emotionally healthy. It’s about attaining the perfect work-life balance and being content with life. This is more effective than using a myopic viewpoint that focuses on tangible markers like engagement or concentration.

A gradual shift from wellness to wellbeing might be a good starting point for employers. Even better might be considering wellness programs that synergize the three primary elements seamlessly.

Synergizing the three primary elements of workplace wellness

Any comprehensive workplace wellness program should focus on the three primary aspects of employee wellbeing.  These are physical health, mental health, and stress management. These three concepts are more closely interconnected than we believe.

Physical Exercise

Even in its most benign form, physical exercise provides a wide range of benefits. It can help improve a person’s energy levels, boost fitness levels, prevent workplace-linked injuries, and reduce chronic disease. But, it can also promote mental health.

It does not even have to be a radical program that’s too hard to implement. Even something as docile as yoga or pilates (although either of these can become progressively challenging) works great as a starting point.

Mental Health

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows how employers are slowly but steadily turning their attention towards mental health. That’s amazing. But it’s not even close to what’s needed. Even today, mental health continues to be the number one cause of disability around the world.

Mindfulness helps reduce stress

Focusing on mental and emotional health can help an employee become self-aware. It can bring about a marked improvement in all aspects of life. For instance, it helps increase resilience towards everyday workplace stressors. Also, it encourages them to partake in physical exercise, something that they may not consider otherwise.

The SHRM report mentioned above shows that there has been a 13% increase in workplace wellness programs that include mindfulness. Mindfulness allows a person to take timed, scheduled breaks from work to reflect on their current selves. It’s a great way to break away from all the overwhelming technology that invades their lives. Moreover, it is proven to be effective in helping improve focus, mood and reducing stress.

Stress Management 

We are in the midst of a stress epidemic. 73 % of employees in Australia feel stressed in the workplace. The corporate wellness program must have an integrated approach that includes stress management.

Stress management will be an ongoing process that business leaders have to be continuously involved in. Working on mental health and identifying stress triggers, will help an employee tackle stress more effectively. But communication, appreciation, and unrestricted opportunity for growth are equally important. This is something that employers must be aware of.

These are aspects of the workplace culture that need to be addressed separately. A well-rounded workplace wellness program will help employers identify these aspects as well.

Expanding holistic wellbeing beyond the workplace

An employer’s wellness toolbox should extend beyond the workplace when necessary. For instance, employees wanting to care for a sick parent may not always be entitled to sufficient paid leaves. The National Employment Standards allows full-time employees only 10-days of paid ‘Sick and Carer’s’ leave. Compassionate leave, on the other hand, is a frugal 2-days. Casuals are entitled to none in either scenario.

Workplace wellbeing should extend beyond the workplace

When employers fail to help an employee address these challenges, it may cause a ripple effect that spills over to the workplace. Not to mention that it can be a significant stressor, which affects all aspects of their lives.

A different approach to holistic wellbeing would mean looking at the employee as a whole person. They have distinct needs that extend beyond the workplace.

Time and again, it has been proven that businesses that show compassion and care have employees thriving. It makes them adept at tackling stressors, both at the workplace and outside of it. In the workplace, it helps foster engagement, teamwork, productivity, and innovation. It’s a win-win for both employer and employee.

Personal Growth as an element of wellbeing

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1-million employees changed employers in the year 2018. Turnover rates are at an all-time high. Part of this can be attributed to the feeling that a job does not offer sufficient opportunity for professional and personal growth. If your employee sees the job purely as a stepping stone, then you are bound to lose them sooner than later to your competition.

That’s after all the time and money that you invest in helping them develop skills and habits that help them adapt to the job and the company’s work culture. Add to this an equal amount of money you will spend on staffing and then training a replacement. That’s a significant amount of money lost to your competitor because the work culture is not conducive to growth.

An easier and cheaper alternative is to create a culture that offers ample opportunity for growth. When an employee sees the scope for personal and professional growth in a job, they are less likely to switch over to a competitor. Instead, they will put their best foot forward and try to earn their stripes.


Compartmentalizing workplace wellness to control healthcare costs or using it to gain a competitive edge will most likely lead to poor results. Instead, companies should employ a holistic approach to it and partner with a wellness service provider that understands the intricacies of mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

The goal should be to help your employees become the best they can be, physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. Employers who are willing to stay committed towards this should see their wellness initiatives yield results, both on an employee level and an organizational level.