Doing wellbeing well needs more than
an app or a policy

COVID-19 has surfaced underlying issues about employee wellbeing for some businesses, yet it’s also been an opportunity to drive innovation and accelerate good practice. Weary of ‘well-washing’ and shallow badges of corporate purpose, employees want a more holistic approach to their wellbeing. The Adecco Foundation has developed a new methodology with a detailed guide on what to do and where to start.  

Faced with the challenges of returning to work, many employees are struggling with how to hold it together physically, mentally, and socially when so much of the previous infrastructure has changed overnight. New workplace practices are being put in place, and for some, major change is on the horizon, yet we still need to carry on with business as usual in the face of so much disruption. It’s no surprise that employee wellbeing is high on the agenda for workers in the post COVID-19 workplace.

According to our Resetting Normal research the most important elements of working life after the pandemic will be work / life balance (85%), job security (82%), being trusted to get the job done (82%), maintaining physical health (77%), flexibility over hours / schedule (76%) and having the right support available for mental wellbeing (73%). These factors put employee wellbeing high on the agenda, but could we be doing it better?

Why is evidence for wellbeing programmes lacking?

In recent months, there has been a proliferation of conferences, blogs, books, and podcasts on wellbeing. This proves that the topic is urgent, yet employers continue to struggle to address wellbeing in the current context. Our previous research in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that while employers and workers value health and wellbeing programmes, evidence for their impact is mixed. Plus, a lack of data is holding wellbeing strategies back from demonstrating a positive impact according to the Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA).

Over the past 18 months, The Adecco Foundation has been developing a new approach to wellbeing. The starting point was our EIU research that showed most companies offer programmes orientated towards physical and mental wellbeing only, and significantly, they offer them in isolation from each other. We saw that businesses often invest in convenience-based services such as on-site facilities and distractions such as gyms or ping pong tables. Could this be so that they can drive productivity while making sure workers spend as much time at work as possible?

The new Workforce Vitality Model

We decided to start with a new bottom-up approach that is needs-driven.  The model came from the Adecco Group’s own need to adopt a more holistic approach to wellbeing, moving beyond programmes for physical and mental health. Purpose is the element that we found missing in most models. In the current context, a sense of purpose and contributing to the greater good is vital to staying connected, motivated and stable.

Our unique and simple framework is explained through our Workforce Vitality Model:

  • Physical: How physical state and lifestyle choices impact the health of our bodies and our ability to realise our full potential.
  • Mental: How our state of mind shapes our thoughts, perceptions and identity, and influences our behaviour.
  • Social: How we connect with and engage with others – from a sense of belonging and the richness of relationships, to the extent to which we exhibit empathy, exercise responsibility and express respect.
  • Purpose: How our beliefs, principles and preferences motivate us to invest time and energy beyond our basic needs in the service of others.

Wellbeing that sticks

The model is not an app, not a platform, but a combination of policy, practice, culture, environment, technology and tools to create stickiness. In sharing our model and methodology, we hope that others will be able to adapt it to their own contexts. Our vision is that in the future, health and wellbeing will be a seamless, nearly invisibly integrated part of what employers offer and will be seen as essential to doing business.