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Why Workplace Well-Being Programs Could Be Wasting Money

The three most common mistakes workplaces are making.

Key points

  • New research found that most workplaces are continuing to invest in the least effective well-being tools for workers.
  • Employee assistance programs are frequently provided but are often ineffective at improving workers' well-being.
  • The most effective forms of workplace well-being support include well-being apps, workshops, and coaching.
 RichVintage/iStock
Source: RichVintage/iStock

With 98% of workers recently reporting that their physical, emotional, and mental well-being is just as important to them as their pay, the pressure is on for workplace well-being programs to deliver what workers want. Unfortunately, new research released today by The Wellbeing Lab and The Australian HR Institute, Growth Faculty, NeuroPower Group, and Pioneera has found that most workplaces are continuing to invest in the least effective well-being tools for workers.

The research surveyed 1,009 randomly selected workers representative of the Australian workforce during September, and found three common mistakes being made by many workplace well-being programs:

  1. Promote well-being, don’t just protect mental health. Almost one-third of workers reported feeling uncomfortable talking about mental health (31.9%) or accessing mental health programs (33.1%) at work, compared to feeling comfortable talking about wellbeing (76.2%) and accessing wellbeing programs (73.5%). Notably, workplaces that were often providing well-being programs and occasionally providing mental health programs were statistically more likely to have higher levels of worker job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psychological safety, and performance.

    How does your workplace well-being strategy normalize moments of thriving and struggle? Is this part of your everyday well-being language?

  2. Invest in well-being tools that work for everyone, don’t just mitigate risks. Employee assistance programs (EAP) remain the most frequently provided support in Australian workplaces (38.2%, up from 29.8% in 2021). Unfortunately, workers continue to report that EAPs are the least utilized support. EAPs are also the least effective form of support for amplifying workers’ levels of well-being ability, motivation, and psychological safety. In fact, EAPs were only slightly better than providing nothing.

    What were the most effective forms of workplace well-being support? Well-being artificial intelligence bots, well-being apps, well-being workshops, and well-being coaching led the way. Unfortunately, despite being no more expensive than EAP services, these forms of well-being support are provided far less frequently.

    How are you balancing your workers’ preferences for mental health and well-being tools and support at work?

  3. Take a systems approach, don’t just expect self-care. More than two-thirds of workers (68.5%) felt like they were burning out at work. This is impacting workers’ levels of performance, job satisfaction, and commitment. And while many workplaces have tried to increase support for self-care, preventing burnout is an issue that needs to be addressed by leaders and workplaces.

    For example, workers who often felt like they were burning out reported most frequently experiencing unachievable job demands (93.5%), poor workplace relationships (90.6%), and harassment (87.9%) in their workplaces. Leaders and workplaces need to support each other in addressing these psychosocial hazards if they want to see the levels of burnout decline.

    Does your workplace strategy take a systems lens to caring for well-being? How are you addressing the psychosocial hazard requirements in your workplace?

References

For a full copy of the research report, click here.

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