In recent years, the conversation around wellbeing at work has increasingly come centrestage. And with good reason. 60% of the UK workforce is currently not engaged or not happy in what they’re doing. Additionally, the growing millennial workforce is seeking and expecting to find meaning and happiness in their work. And with millennials set to dominate the workforce by 2030, it is time for companies to re-evaluate their approach to their employees’ wellness if they are to attract and retain the top talent.
Feedr gathered the founders of a few of the corporate employee wellness industry’s leading lights for a panel discussion on what wellbeing at work has come to mean in recent years, how technology is changing the way we approach the question of health and wellness at work, and actionable tips your business can take immediately to start investing in employee wellness.
Our industry experts:
Jack Tang, CEO & co-founder of Urban Massage, an on-demand massage service operating in the corporate space
Elliot Gold, co-founder of Work.Life, a string of co-working spaces aiming to create amazing spaces for business owners and employees to enjoy every day in the office
Sammy Rubin, CEO & co-founder of yulife, a wellness and rewards platform for corporates
Kim Johnson, co-founder of Wellness London, provider of in-office holistic workplace wellness programmes
Riya Grover, CEO & co-founder of Feedr, a foodtech platform seeking to revolutionise the food at work market
Changing Trends around Health and Wellness at Work
Employee wellness has in the last decade risen to prominence as a serious issue in need of addressing, and Kim sees this daily in the work she does. “It is a serious issue that needs approaching. It is more than just Instagram feeds, and I think workplaces are realising that this is something they need to adapt to, that it isn’t just for show.” Beyond improving happiness at work, wellness at work is a subject people are increasingly seeing as having a meaningful impact on their business, driving ROI and the key to attracting and retaining talent.
Another key trend is the evolution of tech, which has played a pivotal role in how we conceptualise wellness in recent years. Sammy of yulife says, “It used to be that a company’s idea of taking care of their people was sending them to the gym or giving them private health insurance. However, the idea that people can now access wellbeing through their phone – it changes the game. Now the question is how do we harness tech to drive wellness instead?”
He has a point. The Ubers, Airbnbs, and Spotifys of the world have fundamentally changed the way we interact with a whole spectrum of everyday services. The corporate benefits and employee packages world has remained largely unchanged for decades, lagging behind this trend. Yet what it means to be ‘at work’ has drastically changed in just the last 5-10 years alone.
“What is the workplace?” asks Sammy. “In the past, it used to mean a 9-5 in one company for years and years. Now, things change so quickly, and what it means to be ‘at work’ is so much more fluid – you’ve got people working from home, juggling multiple roles at once, and almost certainly holding down more than one career in their lifetimes.” (he’s got a point – I am writing this in the back of an Uber at 7:30am. Am I at work? You bet.)
The Epidemic of Workplace Stress
The creep of technology (and by extension, the availability to be ‘at work’ at any time) is a key driver of workplace stress. Preserving the importance of work life balance is crucial to keeping work-related stress at bay and uphold mental wellbeing.
“The fact that tech enables us to reach people 24/7 means boundaries between work and life are blurred,” says Sammy, which was identified unanimously by the panel to be a key inducer of stress. The question then becomes, who bears the burden of managing this? How can we help employees deal with stress at work?
“In an interconnected world, it is about the mindset the business has towards wellness, and requires leaders to take ownership of looking after their staff’s wellbeing. It is a necessity, not a nice-to-have,” asserts Jack. Supporting your employees in building and maintaining those work life boundaries will go a long way to making them feel you value their wellbeing.
The Key To Fostering Wellbeing at Work? Conviction At The Top
When it comes to what companies can do for their employees, the panel was in agreement. Responsibility lies with the employer to make sure their people are happy and well (though Elliot reminds us, within the context of the workplace only, rather than more generally). The best approach to meaningful change is conviction at a policy level. “You need conviction at the top,” explains Jack, “get the CEO on board and everything becomes a lot easier.” Urban Massage have recently implemented an unlimited holiday policy for their employees, finding it to be an empowering and effective measure to promote employee wellbeing. Which leads us on to…
Ask your employees what they want!
The last thing anyone wants is a team full of disillusioned people muttering “Aw is this another HR thing?” when you try to build out a new wellness initiative for them. It is easy for these kinds of things to become like big brother is watching. No one likes being told what to do, or feeling like something is being forced upon them. Instead, listen to your employees and more importantly, as Jack mentions, use behavioural data like facility usage, and rates of engagement to judge what’s working and what’s not.
The Key Take-Aways
- Workplace wellness is an important issue more and more companies are taking seriously
- Show your employees you value the importance of their work life balance and encourage them to set boundaries (e.g. a policy forbidding email checking after 6pm)
- Conviction at the top is key – getting your CEO or senior management on board will make things easier
- Listen to your employees and get a sense of what they engage with and find valuable
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