As we enter 2023, the focus on employee well-being has become a top priority for many organizations. To achieve this goal, some organizations are adopting a "well-being approach," while others are implementing wellness programs. This has sparked a debate on which method is more effective in promoting employee well-being. In this context, this article aims to explore the trends of 2023 and compare the well-being approach with wellness programs to determine which strategy is more suitable for the modern workplace.
Although designing a workplace with purpose is crucial, it's equally important to prioritize the health and well-being of its occupants. Despite this, many companies have yet to adopt this highly-valued approach, possibly due to the plethora of conflicting and overwhelming information, research, and data that has emerged since 2020. This has left many organizations uncertain of how to proceed, and some are hesitant due to the fear of making the wrong decision. However, implementing a workplace well-being approach can serve as a compelling incentive for employees to return to the office.
Improving Working Conditions for Increased Productivity and Reduced Stress
In the wake of the pandemic, employees have come to the realization that certain job elements can harm their overall well-being. The rapid pace of the contemporary digital world compels individuals to constantly switch from one task to another, leading to mental blocks, cognitive overload, and burnout due to digital and human interruptions that hinder focus. These factors create a more stressful working environment that can reduce a person’s productivity by as much as 40%, as per the American Psychological Association.
Employees that are disengaged are less productive and more likely to incur additional costs for the organization due to health issues resulting from stress. Poor employee health can impact a company's bottom line in various ways, including high healthcare and insurance costs, and reduced employee engagement, productivity, and performance. Conversely, employees with better health and well-being are more productive and miss fewer workdays. According to a MillerKnoll survey, well-being is one of the biggest factors considered by employees when deciding whether to go to the office. By incorporating wellness into all aspects of the business, companies can show that they care for their employees, leading to trust-building across the organization.
Many millennials no longer view work and life as separate entities, so support for well-being at work is now one of the most critical aspects of a job. As per a recent Gallup poll, 65% of millennials and 58% of older generations view better work-life balance and improved personal well-being as crucial when considering a new job. Since people make up around 80% of business costs, providing a working environment where employees feel their well-being is taken into account is good for business.
Comparing the Well-Being Approach and Wellness Programs
While the terms "wellness" and "well-being" are often used interchangeably, it's important to note that they have distinct meanings. Wellness is concerned primarily with physical health, whereas well-being encompasses a broader range of factors, including mental and psychological health. Despite the clear benefits of a holistic approach to employee well-being, few companies have implemented comprehensive wellness programs that address all of these areas.
Merely providing a workplace wellness program does not ensure that employees' well-being will improve. Focusing solely on physical wellness may neglect the underlying reasons for poor health habits and outcomes. Gallup research indicates that although over 85% of large employers offer wellness programs, only 60% of employees are aware of them, and only 40% actively participate. Therefore, companies should invest in promoting their employees' overall health and well-being through various means, such as policies (including hybrid and remote work policies), employee benefits, resources, and business goals, as well as enhancing the built space experience. To ensure a holistic approach, all aspects of the organization, particularly human resources, should be extensively coordinated and integrated. The office can act as a level playing field by providing equal conditions, amenities, and resources for everyone and facilitating the restoration of company culture. Including wellness features in a new hybrid workplace is an excellent way to offer substantial rewards with minimal expenses.
Investing in the comprehensive health and well-being of employees can be achieved by companies through various means, such as policies (including hybrid and remote work policies), employee benefits, resources, mission statements, and the overall built space experience.
We have created a checklist of ideas and topics to assist businesses in promoting wellness and well-being in their organizations, using the WELL Building Standard as a guide. Our advocacy for this 'trend' lies in the belief that it should become the new design standard, representing a progressive shift toward sustainability, equity, and accessibility initiatives on equal footing. When developing a comprehensive approach to well-being, all aspects, including Body, Mind, and Environment, should be taken into consideration. Please refer to the breakdown below.