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Why Corporate Well-Being Initiatives Fail

Corporate well-being and wellness programs are on the rise, but unfortunately, for most organisations it’s purely lip-service. The right intention is there. Organisations DO want their employees to become healthier, happier, more resilient versions of themselves and adopt a high-performance mindset, yet for most it is the HOW rather than the WHAT and the WHY that is letting them down.

Leaders consistently claim to support new ways of doing things, however, their actions often remain firmly planted in old behaviours (and old budgets). Well-being programs are a prime example; they’re being launched within organisations globally, tellingly however, for the most part they are failing. The problem lies in the fact that organisations feel that offering gym memberships, yoga and mindfulness programs, 'wearables' and the like, are a suitable approach, and whilst these initiatives do offer benefits, unless the values of well-being are championed throughout the culture, the initiative will ultimately fail.

Leaders across all business units need to campaign for building a culture of well-being, they need to develop a strategy for well-being (rather than just a once-off initiative), and they need to take every opportunity to make well-being a priority for themselves.

“All too often C-suite executives will conceptually agree that well-being is important, but give preference to other priorities that seem to have more immediate impact on the business.” SAP

What are the first steps that you can take to make well-being a part of your culture?

1. Consider well-being an investment, not an expense. Evidence tells us that for every $1.00 invested into well-being, organisations can expect to see a $5 ROI (Rath & Harter, 2010); truth be told, it’s well beyond financial returns. Happier, healthier employees are more engaged, more productive and perform better. (Lyubomirsky, King & Diener, 2005; Page & Vella-Broderick, 2009; Wright & Staw,1999).

2. Provide adequate resources. Budget appears to be the initial barrier in all well-being initiatives. Organisations claim that it’s a priority, place it on a list of imperatives, charge an individual or a project team with the responsibility of carrying it through, but then neglect to secure its' success with the provision of an actual budget.

3. Raise awareness. Take the mentality that it takes a village to raise a culture of well-being. A well-being lead with well-being champions and communications throughout all facets of the business will surely engender positive change.

4. Equip your people-leaders with well-being know-how. It’s necessary that the leaders of your teams are aware of the reasons behind well-being and are comfortable not only having conversations with their teams, but are adopting a well-being mindset themselves.

5. Make well-being a component of talent development plans. This demonstrates to talent across the business that well-being IS a priority and it also encourages talent to talk about their own well-being and make it a non-negotiable.

6. Seek external support. It seems that everyone and their dog is on a ‘project team’ for well-being however, getting an expert in to support the adoption of a well-being culture will not only expedite the process, but it will also offer a measurable, sustainable solution. A proper well-being program incorporates social, psychological and physical components and an expert can help drive implementation across each of these elements, helping to embed lasting change.

Above all else, as leaders, it’s crucial to embrace the behaviours associated with well-being. Put forth the effort to bring well-being to the forefront of not only your strategic imperatives, but make it your personal responsibility.

Leaders can personally champion well-being by: (SAP, 2018)
  • Making time for exercise and healthy eating in their personal lives

  • Holding walking meetings and avoid scheduling meetings during the lunch hour

  • Showing active care and flexibility to employees who are struggling with work and life demands

  • Integrating well-being into their conversations with employees

  • Prioritising healthy working hours over deadlines

  • Emphasising safety over productivity when setting operational goals

The costs associated with poor and neglected well-being in the workplace are insurmountable. Make well-being a part of your company culture, campaign for positive change through well-being and you’ll soon revel in the return on your investment!

Kirsten works with individuals, teams & organisations on improving overall well-being through utilising measurable, evidence-based, sustainable solutions. Contact her today to tap into the potential of your organisation.


Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803.

Page, K. M., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2009). The ‘what’,‘why’and ‘how’of employee well-being: A new model. Social indicators research, 90(3), 441-458.

Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). The economics of wellbeing. Omaha, NE: Gallup Press. Retreived from http://www. ofyp. umn. edu/ofypmedia/focusfy/The_Economics_of_ Wellbeing. pdf.

SAP White Paper: Creating Resilient Cultures

Wright, T. A., & Staw, B. B. (1999). Affect and favorable work outcomes: Two longitudinal tests of the happy-productive worker thesis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20, 1–23.

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