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Why Your Workplace Wellbeing Program Is Probably Wasting Money

BY Michelle McQuaid

With 98% of workers recently reporting that their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing is just as important to them as their pay, the pressure is on for workplace wellbeing programs to deliver what workers want. Unfortunately, new research released today by The Wellbeing Lab and The Australian HR Institute, Growth Faculty, NeuroPower Group, and Pioneera has found that most workplaces are continuing to invest in the least effective wellbeing tools for workers.

The research surveyed 1,009 randomly selected workers representative of the Australian workforce during September, and found three common mistakes being made by many workplace wellbeing programs:

  1. Promote wellbeing, don’t just protect mental health.
    Almost one-third of workers reported feeling uncomfortable talking about mental health (31.9%) or accessing mental health programs (33.1%) at work, compared to feeling comfortable talking about wellbeing (76.2%) and accessing wellbeing programs (73.5%).  Notably, workplaces who were often providing Wellbeing Programs and occasionally providing Mental Health Programs were statistically more likely to have higher levels of worker job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psychological safety, and performance.

    How does your workplace wellbeing strategy normalize moments of thriving and struggle? Is this part of your everyday wellbeing language?
  1. Invest in wellbeing tools that work for everyone, don’t just mitigate risks.
    Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) remain the most frequently provided support in Australian workplaces (38.2%, up from 29.8% in 2021). Unfortunately, workers continue to report that EAPs are the least utilized support. EAPs are also the least effective form of support for amplifying workers’ levels of Wellbeing Ability, Motivation, and Psychological Safety. In fact, EAPs were only slightly better than providing Nothing.

    What were the most effective forms of workplace wellbeing support? Wellbeing Artificial Intelligence Bots, Wellbeing Apps, Wellbeing Workshops, and Wellbeing Coaching led the way. Unfortunately, despite being no more expensive than EAP services, these forms of wellbeing support are provided far less frequently.

    How are you balancing your workers’ preferences for mental health and wellbeing tools and support at work?
  1. Take a systems approach, don’t just expect self-care.
    More than two-thirds of workers (68.5%) felt like they were burning out at work.  This is impacting workers’ levels of performance, job satisfaction, and commitment. And while many workplaces have tried to increase support for self-care, preventing burnout is an issue that needs to be addressed by leaders and workplaces.

    For example, workers who often felt like they were burning out reported most frequently experiencing Unachievable Job Demands (93.5%), Poor Workplace Relationships (90.6%), and Harassment (87.9%) in their workplaces. Leaders and workplaces need to support each other in addressing these psychosocial hazards if they want to see the levels of burnout decline.

    Does your workplace strategy take a systems lens to caring for wellbeing? How are you addressing the psychosocial hazard requirements in your workplace?

Want to know how else your workplace wellbeing strategy may be falling short based on what workers actually need right now? For a full copy of the research report, please click here.

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