Why do some health and wellbeing initiatives not work…?

Neon sign on a brick wall in the shape of a question mark.(illustration series)

In the realm of corporate promises, the efficacy of health and wellbeing initiatives sometimes seems to falter. Despite the best intentions, certain pervasive issues contribute to their inability to bring about lasting change. In this article, I explore some of the common pitfalls that hinder the success of these initiatives, shedding light on the need for comprehensive and sustained efforts.

The ‘Tick Box’ Exercise:

A prevalent issue arises when companies participate in what can be characterised as a perfunctory “tick box exercise.” An individual within the organisation thinks it’s a good idea to conduct a stress survey, and it might well be. The surveys are thoughtfully crafted and disseminated, prompting employees to invest time and effort in expressing their opinions. Unfortunately, in numerous instances, there is a lack of
feedback. This results in elevated expectations being met with disappointment simultaneously. Consequently, when the next survey is requested, employees may dismiss it, contributing to a cycle of disillusionment and disengagement.

Whimsical Wellbeing Investments:

Sometimes, companies allocate funds for stress management or mental health training as an occasional, one-time initiative. While beneficial for participants in the short term, these investments rarely stand the test of time. Such sporadic expenditures may stem from financial considerations, with companies looking to spend leftover budget at the end of the fiscal year to secure similar allocations in the future.

Unfortunately, without ongoing commitment, these efforts prove fleeting and fail to create lasting change.

Top-Down Endorsement:

One crucial factor contributing to the success of health and wellbeing initiatives is top-down endorsement. For these initiatives to take root and flourish, the C-suite leadership must not only vocally support them but actively participate as well. Acting as role models, they should openly express their commitment to stress reduction and the improvement of overall health and wellbeing. Such endorsement communicates a genuine value for each individual within the company, fostering a culture that prioritises employee welfare.

Unrealistic Expectations of Management:

A considerable burden often falls on management to implement and sustain health and wellbeing initiatives successfully. However, we frequently overlook the fact that managing people is a complex task that demands a unique set of skills. Many managers are expected to learn essential Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills on the job, but the question arises: at whose expense? Adequate training and support are necessary to equip managers with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of people management within the workplace.

In Conclusion:

When confronting the challenges associated with health and well-being initiatives, it becomes apparent that a comprehensive and enduring approach is paramount. Merely engaging in superficial gestures and short-term investments proves inadequate. Instead, companies must prioritise the integration of supportive measures that become intrinsic to the organisational fabric.

Achieving success in fostering a culture of health and well-being necessitates not only top-down endorsement but also a realistic comprehension of the challenges faced by management. By embracing this approach, businesses can cultivate an environment where health and well-being initiatives not only function but thrive in the long run, contributing to the sustained welfare of their workforce.

About the author:

Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK, founded International Stress Awareness Week, and is a sought-after motivational speaker, frequently addressing global audiences on stress reduction, mental health and wellbeing.

Carole’s credibility is rooted in 25 years success as CEO of a leading UK Stress Management Consultancy, Carole Spiers Group, working with equal success both in the UK and the Gulf. She is a well-respected authority on building resilience and communication skills, a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and author of ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’

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