The UK’s wellbeing crisis – how business can meet the challenge today

In the past, workplace health was mainly about the physical – the avoidance of injuries and so on. Then people started introducing a more holistic approach with free fruit, nutritional advice, gym memberships and even in-office massage. Today though, we need to get really serious and go beyond these good, though fragmented, interventions, to proper, practical support for each and every employee.

Even before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, the number of UK workdays lost to stress had increased by 24% over the last six years, yet a woefully low 39% of UK managers believe that senior management are committed to employee health (Simply Health UK). According to ONS, over half of adults in the UK (53.1%) say Covid-19 has affected their well-being and nearly half of UK adults (46.9%) report high levels of anxiety. Apart from the moral obligation employers have to care for the wellbeing of their people, there are business benefits such as the inextricable link between health and wellbeing and employee engagement. It stands to reason that if a person is healthy in all aspects, they will be firing on all cylinders when it comes to their work. High engagement and low wellbeing = burnout; low engagement and high wellbeing = disconnect; a balance therefore must be struck. A happy, healthy employee is obviously going to be more productive, creative, enthusiastic and team-oriented than an unhappy, unwell one. Business In The Community’s 'Workwell model’ explains this integration succinctly here.

Many organisations have made a start by training mental health first aiders, encouraging healthy eating and exercise, and investing in solutions such as mindfulness apps. Some have invested in employee assistance programmes, which is a great start. However, the solutions often come before the diagnostic. And generally, there’s a ‘one size fits all’ approach that could be counterproductive. For example, if you’re suffering from depression, the last thing you might feel like doing is throwing yourself into the current company fitness initiative or having to summon up the courage to ask someone for help.

Many employers are unsure how and where to find the help their people need. The CIPD recommend that employers should “offer support on well-being”. However, aside from communication around employee assistance programmes, there’s a lack of practical advice on how to uncover people’s main concerns and how to address them. They go on to advise that “individuals should ask for support when needed, speak out when you need assistance, further training or support. Your manager, colleagues and you are part of a team and should be supporting each other, especially remotely”. Easier said than done.

With such an important and time-consuming issue, is it any wonder that many employers don’t really know where to start? According to MIND, 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve employee wellbeing though lack the right training or guidance. And then there are the 30% of employees who do not feel able to talk openly with their line manager if feeling stressed.

Since you employ individuals with their own circumstances and needs, it is important that an individual approach to wellbeing is firmly in place. And that they can easily find support whenever they need it, without adding to possible stress and discomfort. This is not a time for ‘sheep-dipping’ and hoping that it will work. Forcing stuff on people who don’t want it can do more harm than good, especially if this consists of a number of separate initiatives and resources that can confuse and overwhelm, thus having a counter-productive effect. 

This is why we’re launching Wellbee. Combining almost 20 years of practical workplace expertise with the know how to develop common-sense, user-friendly and successful technology, we came up with a tool that will enable every individual to safely and securely assess their own mental and physical wellbeing. Whenever they want to. And then, using AI and machine learning, Wellbee provides personalised recommendations and resources so that each person can find exactly the right advice and support whenever they need it.

For organisations, this means that the approach to wellbeing is clear and transparent, fair, individualised, tracked, recorded and evolving. They can see exactly where resource is needed and how the wellbeing of their workforces is developing over time.

You can try Wellbee for free today for up to 15 people – no strings attached…