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Is it worth investing time and money in corporate wellbeing in the post pandemic age?

Is it worth investing time and money in corporate wellbeing in the post pandemic age?

Most people promoting health in organizations are well aware that corporate wellbeing is about much more than offering free fruits and yoga. Corporate wellbeing is about how you demonstrate their value to your employees and how you support them to be healthy, happy and to thrive further - also in times of crisis. So it goes beyond promoting health at work. Companies that outperform in corporate wellbeing have a holistic view on their people within and outside their organizations. They utilize wellbeing as a bridge to reunite people’s needs and company goals. They understand how situations like Covid-19 play a role in that equation and they adapt to propose the best support (and get the best returns and value on their investments)!

In this article I dive deep into the topic of wellbeing and propose 5 main reasons outlined by science showing that corporate wellbeing should be a top priority for your organization.

What does corporate wellbeing mean?

Wellbeing, also called wellness, refers to “diverse and interconnected dimensions of physical, mental, and social wellbeing that extend beyond the traditional definition of health” (Naci & Ioannidis, 2015). Corporate wellbeing refers to programs designed to encourage health and wellbeing at work. More broadly, it is about adopting a holistic perspective on humans within and outside their organization and acting to support their wellbeing

To be well at work implies 1) having a positive attitude towards the job, the people and the management,

and 2) & 3) to be free of pain and feel well physically and mentally. These three dimensions are interrelated. 

For example, it is harder to be good with my team if I am in a state of anger, it is difficult to feel emotionally strong when I feel that my job is not being valued, but on the other side, being in a mindful and calm state of mind helps me to be more innovative.

Why does corporate wellbeing matter? An overview of facts and research

Because stress is about to become a top priority issue

Corporate wellbeing is a clear engagement to fight diseases such as stress, burnouts and musco-squeletal disorders. Such engagement is very relevant as these diseases are fast spreading, particularly since the Corona Pandemic. Indeed, while 35% Americans generally report experiencing chronic work stress (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Spanish radiologists report that ​​the prevalence of burnout syndrome increased during the COVID-19 pandemic by 49.3%

Physical health is also affected by our stress, our growingly sedentary lifestyle (reinforced by hybrid work and lock downs) and by the increasing time we spend in front of our screens (musculoskeletal disorders affects up to 78% of office employees). Related to this lifestyle, there is an increase in eye diseases and overweight (which already affects 30-70% of adults) or obesity (affecting 10-30% of adults in Europe according to the WHO 2020). These trends represent real threats for people and companies.

Because negative wellbeing is very costly

Health and illness-related lost productivity are incurring tremendous costs for companies (up to $530 billion per year in the US, according to a report from the Integrated Benefits Institute). Stress related diseases represent up to 40 % of absences according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.  In Germany, a stress study from 2016 performed by the health insurance TK showed that out of the 15 days of absence per person and year, 2.5 days are attributable to psychological complaints such as depression, anxiety and stress disorders. Looking at the phenomenon of presenteeism, GCC (2016) reports that companies lose up to 12 weeks work a year because people are physically but not mentally present at their job.

Because research says it improves health

Corporate wellbeing has a significant positive effect on employees’ physical and mental health.  A 2018 study showed that employees with access to a corporate wellbeing program experienced positive improvements on both physical and mental health dimensions in only one year (Lowensteyn, Berberian et al., 2018). Participants had a lower blood pressure, a better sleep quality and a lower level of high emotional stress, particularly among the most engaged participants. Similarly, a 2009 meta-analysis from Columbia & Tuck Universities explored the effectiveness of corporate wellbeing based on a review of 50 studies on the topic. Results show that engaging in corporate well being leads to a significant improvement of employee health.

Because research says it improves productivity

Wellbeing has also a positive effect on productivity. Healthy employees are more productive and creative. For a study by the University of Bristol, 201 employees took part in a sports program, alternating daily. On the active days, 21% and 25% of the test persons were able to concentrate better and longer on their tasks, 41% felt more motivated. A Stanford study has shown that employees engaging in moderate to intensive sport activities were more productive and creative at work (Coulson, McKenna & Field, 2008). After reviewing dozens of academic research on the topic, the Australian research group Work on Wellbeing (WoW) found that workers benefiting from a wellbeing program in their company became more productive at work by about 850€ per year on average.

Because research says it will help you keep your employees

Finally, high employee wellbeing is associated with lower turnover. In a 2017 survey of employer-sponsored health plans in the U.S., the human resources consulting firm Mercer found that companies that do the most to promote wellness have lower employee turnover. Companies with five or more wellness best practices had an average turnover rate of 18%, while those with none or two had an average turnover rate of 29%.

Therefore, it is safe to say that engaging in wellbeing creates a real advantage for companies aiming to increase people's health, boost their performance and retain their employees. In a next article, we will discuss good practices on how to start or improve corporate wellbeing strategies and maximize their effects.

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