5 mistakes that cause workplace wellness initiatives to fail

5 mistakes that cause workplace wellness initiatives to fail
28 February 2019 Serena Sabala

5 mistakes that cause workplace wellness initiatives to fail 

These days, most companies recognize the importance of integrating wellness initiatives in the workplace as a fundamental requirement to boost staff morale and increase productivity and therefore revenue. Research shows that hiring a new employee can cost up to 1.5 their yearly salary so it is safe to say that all initiatives aimed at retaining top talent should be seen as a priority.

And if you look at the cost of stress, the numbers are even more staggering: Paul Rosch, president of The American Institute of Stress claims that stress costs the U.S. industry well in excess of $300 billion a year in lost productivity, insurance claims, health costs, accidents and the need to replace workers. 

Here in the UK, the cost of stress to the economy is estimated to be in excess of £6.5 billions a years. 

That’s why the most successful and forward thinking companies out there such as Google, Facebook, Virgin are happy to invest in wellness initiatives.

In our experience delivering workplace initiatives we’ve come to identify the main mistakes that usually cause them to flop and not deliver the intended ROI: as it turns out, not all Wellness is created equal. Here are the top 4 that have made our list and some effective tips on how to avoid them. 

1.Over digitalized: technology is great and I am first to admit that it has empowered us beyond what we could have imagined. Years ago it took a lot of leg work and hard craft to be able to reach thousands of people with our messages and missions: today a blog on LinkedIn can easily land in front of thousands of eyes in just a few minutes. However, there comes a time  when one must put down the phone, laptops, tablet and go back to good old fashioned personal interaction. 

The truth is, most companies are turning to digital interactions more and more each day and as much as this allows flexibility and efficacy, it also brings with it some side effects: it’s very easy for employees to feel isolated and disconnected, especially when they often work from home or remotely. It’s harder to build and maintain a sense of community and team work and to deliver those personal touches that often make a difference in how much we feel valued and appreciated for our work. That’s why it’s very important for wellness initiatives to feel personal and ideally be delivered in person (if not entirely, at least for the most part). The focus should be on balancing out the isolation that comes from digital interactions rather than adding onto it. It’s tempting to let practicality and cost distract us from the real and most important objective behind the effort and the objective is to make our employees feel taken care of and valued. Trust me when I say, a screen of any kind takes the most important elements away from such delivery! 

2. Not Genuine: any initiative aimed at supporting your team’s health and wellbeing must be genuine in every way. I know this may sound obvious but believe me, it is a point that’s often underestimated or overlooked altogether. If the project or initiative is approached simply as something that has to be done to tick the box and pretend appreciation, not only will it not achieve the intended ROI but it may even end up wasting more money, time and energy than anything else. The most successful initiatives we’ve witnessed and hosted have been those where the company was genuinely concerned about delivering real value with no hidden agendas or alternative motive other than supporting the wellbeing of the team and trusting that healthier, happier and more cared for employees are worth the investment. If you go about it begrudgingly or with alternative motives than the intended purpose, your judgment will be clouded when setting it up and choosing the right partners AND you won’t take the time and care needed to investigate what the team actually needs and would enjoy. It will feel forced and mechanical rather than authentic and let me tell you: there’s nothing more demoralizing for an employee than a fake attempt at caring for them. No attempt at all would actually be better than that.

3. Focused on skill training instead personal development: the goal of any wellness initiative should be above all else, to offer the space and opportunity for self development rather than skill training. Don’t get me wrong, we’re massive supporters of skill training initiatives but their goals and implementations should be VERY different from wellness initiatives and the two should in no way overlap. The point is to facilitate self development without any other agenda that supporting their wellbeing; inevitably this will lead to an improved performance in life as well as at work. I’m sure we can all agree that individuals who are healthier, happier and more satisfied will undoubtedly do a better job, no matter what their job is.

And if you think that you will save money and time or will be more efficient by combining self development with skill training, think again! The point, when improving your wellbeing, is to switch the brain from “work mode” and give it a chance to re-charge. It is also important to recognize that, in order to maintain or even increase productivity and creativity at work, you have to take breaks from linear and organized thinking and do something profoundly different from your day to day routine: nothing new will ever come out of ticking the same old boxes but incredible things will stem out stepping out of the box.

4. Too individualized rather than team building: human beings are not meant to go about things alone. Even the naturally introverted individuals who seemingly thrive in isolated conditions need regular social interaction. That is why it’s so important for wellness initiatives to revolve around the team, as much as the individual. Some one on one coaching can and probably should be included but the emphasis should definitely revolve around team building initiative. This is mainly due to the same reasons I’ve already touch on in point #1: a downside of a digitalized world is that, although it is easier than ever to connect with anyone from anywhere in the world, somehow we actually feel more disconnected than ever before.

The number of genuine and personal interactions during an average day have probably reached an all time low and even when we are in the presence of others, we’re often still with our head in our phones or computers. This inevitably means that creating and maintaining a sense of “belonging to the team” within the workplace can be harder than it used to so whenever designing our workplace projects we always put an emphasis around activities that will inedible the team to bond and feel closer: it can be confronting to begin with as it requires some “stepping out of the comfort zone” but always, without fail, get rave reviews afterwards.

5. Not Inspiring above ALL else: the final and most important thing which shouldn’t be overlooked is one that often is, especially within traditional corporate environments. Inspiration. I’m not talking about motivation or goal setting. I’m talking about the kind of feeling that is hard to pinpoint and measure exactly but which makes you leave an event or gathering feeling like anything at all is possible or like you’re actually a slightly different person that you were before you attended such event. Inspiration is SO important but because is not tangible it is often overlooked.

Think about how you feel when you start a new job you were really hoping to get? you’re full of hope, you can’t wait to see how it unfolds, for some weeks you may even be excited at the prospects of going into work: then the routine sets in and the spark is lost forever. This can take as long as some years or, unfortunately, as little as some weeks but it’s a huge factor in poor retention of top talent. By sourcing inspiring initiatives that contribute to the wellbeing of employees, you will re-ignite the spark and allow for new, fresh energy to flow into their routine so that all of a sudden, the same mundane tasks will actually feel a bit different because guess what? THEY are actually a bit different.

If you’re interested in booking a complimentary #workplacewellness lunch hour session for your team, simply email us at info@wholeshiftwellness.com. You LITERALLY have nothing to loose and so much to gain from it.