Where Wellness Programs Fail


Wellness is relevant, noble and purposeful in workplaces all over the world. Yet, as we see it today, where do wellness programs fail? These are personal observations from my years of exposure to engagement and wellness programs in the workplace. To be fair, it has come a long way from being treated as an isolated, one-off fun event to one which is central to HR strategies. Be that as it may, it still holds a vast potential if it is to truly make a positive dent on employee retention and engagement.

Here are my observations:

Leaders Thinking Wellness is Wholly an Individual Responsibility

While true, you can check out this article for instance – Prioritize Mental Health and Well-being, workplace and its leaders should also act as an enabler so employees can take care of their wellness. Think of a car. Take Porsche for example, with top speed 230MPH at 887 HP. Now, imagine this same car running, if at all, on EDSA. To be more specific, EDSA, 8AM one fine December morning. For the Filipinos working in Metro Manila, you know what I mean. For the rest, know that it is a bumper-to-bumper stand still situation. Others liken EDSA to a huge parking space during the -ber-month-rush-hour-traffic. While employees should do their part, leaders and employers cannot simply say that this is an individual responsibility alone. Workplaces should have programs or structures (figurative or literal) in place to make this possible.

It is Nobody’s Responsibility

Raise your hand if in your organization, wellness is run by a group of volunteers. You are not alone. This is true in most organizations. However, if they say that this is important for them as organizations, how come it’s nobody’s responsibility? Or if there are a few, they are often in HQ only, far from the ground. Yet, on the ground are the majority of the employees working on the frontlines badly needing wellness. Nevertheless, if you advocate wellness, please do not let this stop you from championing this cause. A lot of people need wellness programs and need a support group. I think we all need support systems and whenever we can be of support for others, then by all means.

Well-being is Isolated from Operations

Wellness is seen as an activity or set of learning sessions. When they go back to operations, wellness seems to have been left out the proverbial door. Whereas, whatever employees learned from the wellness sessions, they are supposed to apply to their day-to-day lives and that is the only way it will truly work. For example, from one the mental health webinars, employees learned the importance of building relationships and communications as part of social and mental wellness. Yet, at work, the only time they have connections with their team leaders and managers are when they did something wrong or when something is needed from them. Or in the area of physical wellness, they learned the importance of eating healthy and on time. Yet, they have meetings throughout the day including lunchbreaks. So, this takes us back to our first point.

Thanks to @lizandmollie for the brilliant illustration on the contribution of wellness to productivity. Indeed, as we fix areas where wellness programs fail, we will see more and more of its fruits and true benefits.