Why Do Organisations’ Wellbeing Strategies Fail?

by | Feb 9, 2022 | Health & Wellbeing | 0 comments

Even with the best of intentions, so many organisations will fall prey to the detrimental impact of poor wellbeing strategies.

With so much emphasis on wellbeing, there might be the assumption that any effort is good enough…

But is it?

Let’s take a look at why so many organisations have wellbeing strategies that have room for improvement. 

It’s just toxic positivity dressed as a wellbeing initiative

‘Keep smiling’, ‘Pushing through’ and ‘being well’ are the mantras of toxic positivity in the workplace.

In essence, it’s bad practice dressed up as encouragement. When faced with a workplace that’s overly positive, being the person that isn’t can make people stand out and reinforce an opinion that it’s them that’s the issue rather than the environment they find themselves in.

Rather than providing support for the deep-rooted problems that can exist in the workplace and work against employee wellbeing, it’s a simple pat on the back ‘get on with it’ approach.

After all, if the general consensus in the workplace is that of a ‘it’s always hectic here’, how is employee burnout going to be addressed or managed?

What many businesses need to remember is that to address wellbeing, they also need to acknowledge that it is perfectly normal not to feel fine all of the time, and therefore, that it can have an impact on an employee’s ability to work.

The last thing any workplace wants to convey to employees is that they are dismissive.

Toxic positivity can lead to a potential lack of trust between the employee and the employer, and with employees who trust their employer experiencing 74% less stress and 40% less burnout1… Can you really afford to be dismissive? 

Our top tip: communication is key here. Fostering a culture of open communication will ensure that employees don’t feel ‘forced’ to only share the positives, and will seek help if needed – line managers are integral to this, as employees will often seek their advice first. 

Setting unrealistic standards

The best wellbeing strategy in the world will be powerless against unrealistic standards.

24/7 productivity, overworking, overconnectivity, and unrealistic output expectations all point towards standards that employees will be unable to meet without sacrificing their health to do so.

A good wellbeing strategy focuses not just on the individual, but also the systems that they are operating in.

External factors such as overworking are hardly going to positively contribute, which is why creating a culture that empowers your strategy, rather than actively works against it, is so essential.

An environment that thrives and operates on stress is not an environment in which a wellbeing strategy can thrive. Reinforcing the work/life balance expectations goes a long way to achieving this. 

Our top tip: take a look at your processes and ask for employee and line manager feedback where possible to spot which areas are contributing towards potential fatigue and burnout. Put in place clear boundaries that managers and senior staff can lead by example with, e.g., not sending emails out of hours. 

Addressing only one facet of wellbeing

We’ve spoken before about the varying dimensions of wellbeing and how to measure them.

It comes as no surprise that many workplaces value just one or two facets of wellbeing, and as a result, can find the results underwhelming as a result.

For example, many organisations value physical wellbeing: cycle to work schemes, fitness challenges, yoga, healthy snack options.

Alternatively, organisations believe that they can “outsource” wellbeing and simply provide a phone number or online access to a company that manages their staff’s wellbeing for them. Nothing promotes employee engagement like sending them outside of an organisation to talk about their issues with no feedback loop to ensure lessons are learned internally, is there!

Given that physical wellbeing was one of the first dimensions of wellbeing to be addressed in the workplace, it’s unsurprising that it can still be predominant.

However, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, financial, and occupational/vocational wellbeing all make up ‘wellbeing’.

Whilst organisations might consider this to be a monumental task to address, in actuality, it just requires a simple restructuring of priorities that can be informed by employee feedback and built upon over time. 

Our top tip: organisations do not have to address all dimensions of wellbeing in their strategies in-house – outsourcing to occupational health and other wellbeing providers and resources can go a long way! The important distinction here is that the best organisations understand that outsourcing does not mean handing over everything to someone else, but instead, having outsourcing as part of a larger strategy. Inhouse and external support work with, rather than against, each other. 

Awareness is only the beginning

It’s fundamental to raise awareness around wellbeing in the workplace, but it should be more of a stepping-stone than anything else.

Whilst awareness does lead to greater understanding and knowledge, and can help to reduce stigma around seeking help, this is one aspect of a wellbeing strategy.

Awareness opens the door to a culture that can catalyse a good strategy – one empowers the other – but you need both to fully benefit.

Otherwise, it’s kind of like having a BLT without the B… you’ve missed out the best bit. 

Our top tip: you don’t have to start large when it comes to taking action after you’ve raised awareness. Line manager mental health training, flexi-time, and an online portal with wellbeing resources and signposting are all cheaper, accessible options! 

It’s perfectly normal for organisations to encounter these common pitfalls, most of which can be solved rather easily with some commitment,acknowledgement, and most importantly, engagement with the people that work for you.

Wellbeing strategies rely for the most part on a workplace culture that prioritises wellbeing at all levels, rather than simply signposting and calling it a day whilst employees continue to operate in less than ideal conditions.

Now that you know why some wellbeing strategies fail, you’ll know exactly what you should do instead. 


1 https://risepeople.com/blog/toxic-positivity-at-work/



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