Employee wellbeing initiatives – do the ‘one-size fits all’ strategies work?

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As we work to re-create a working world that better embraces the differences between us, how can this produce employee well-being initiatives that empower ALL of us?

It is clear many of us are still feeling the shockwaves of a turbulent historical period. In the UK alone, the Centre of Mental Health’s forecasting model predicts that up to 10 million people will require treatment for their mental illness. 1.3 million people who had not suffered from mental illness previously will now expect treatment for moderate to severe anxiety.

Looking over to the mental health pandemic in America, 32% of consumers reported that they have experienced both depression and anxiety as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

“Within this survey, we discovered that 43% of health provider executives said they were offering mental health services within their telehealth strategies and a further 58% reported that digital psychiatric services were in their 2021 pipeline.”

If a growing proportion of the working population is suffering mentally as a result of COVID-19, then it is only right that business leaders review their corporate well-being plans. But, do conventional initiatives work for everyone?

Does a ‘one-size fits all’ company well-being program work?

Our perceptions and feelings towards certain triggers remain unique to each individual. This is precisely why corporate health and wellness programs at work often fail to address that many employees have particular needs. Each employee is given the same information in hopes that something will resonate and facilitate actionable change.

In terms of workplace well-being programs related to promoting physical health; such as eating healthy and exercising; studies have shown it is more cost-effective to tailor these programs to specific occupational groups, rather than simply generalising over various working characteristics (i.e. sedentary work and long hours). This is why, at Wemby, we specialize in different sectors, it is clear that different occupations have different needs.

Even employees within the same occupations need different strategies in approaching workplace wellbeing. This can depend on their level of management if they are looking for a career switch or approaching retirement. An old but gold model of the three dimensions of workplace stressors states that this originates from high demand, low control, and low support. These pillars will be based on the culture of the workplace — how comfortable employees are in addressing their burnout

While it is crucial to create a working environment that is transparent about work-life balance, there is no harm in addressing that it is often easier to talk through mental struggles with someone who is outside of our work and personal lives.

Building personalized employee well-being initiatives

Investing in workplace mental health is a no-brainer – people who are less stressed are more productive. When we implement these initiatives, instead of assuming everyone will respond in the same way, these programs could instead account for three types of people:

  • Person 1: A ‘non-intender’ — someone who is currently unmotivated to develop towards a mental wellbeing goal.
  • Person 2: An ‘intender’ — someone who is motivated to develop their mental wellbeing but has not taken action yet.
  • Person 3: An ‘actor’ — someone who is actively implementing better mental wellbeing into their life.

Research into 1269 employees shows that programs that are matched to each employee’s state of behavioral change are more effective than the typical one-size-fits-all programs.

Employees that completed a multi-behavioral digital program that addressed these behavioral states outperformed the employees who underwent a program with generic information for a healthier lifestyle. These results indicate that when we invest in workplace mental health, we should approach this in a one size fits one case.

The Wemby Expertise

Teresa Salgado, one of Wemby’s clinical psychologists, believes that these one-size-fits-all programs fail to live up to expectations because they do not consider that, “each person is unique and special with different genetics, vital learning process’, and personality types.” She goes on to say, “Thinking that the same book, technique, or manual is valid for everyone, is similar to producing a shoe that is only one size and hoping that it will fit everyone. Some people will fit in those shoes, others will try to squeeze and hurt themselves, and for some, they will be so big that they get lost.”

“Humanistic therapies, acceptance, and commitment are the guiding principles that are currently succeeding precisely because they focus on the person in front of them in a holistic and comprehensive way, that takes into account the individuality of each person. Remember that you are the expert in your own life and that there are professionals who can guide and accompany you in a part of your life path, adapting all their training and professional and personal background to you.”

“Thinking that the same book, technique, or manual is valid for everyone, is similar to producing a shoe that is only one size and hoping that it will fit everyone".

Shedding light on these recent trends in mental health intervention, Teresa Salgado reminds us that the most important aspect of treatment is the individual.

To this end, the responsibility ultimately falls on mental health professionals who must be broadly trained in order to understand the common basis of many different types of triggers, stressors, and concerns that people encounter in their daily lives.

The Bottom Line

The pandemic has given us a lot to consider in our lives, especially when it comes to our mental health. One thing is for certain, our society does not do enough to promote mental health services in our communities. This is no different, when it comes to corporate health and wellness programs. 

While it may be nice that companies are starting to realize the impact of poor employee mental health on business, these programs often only scratch the surface of the problem, as they lack a tailor approach to each individual. This traditional one-size-fits-all approach to employee well-being is ineffective because it places a curriculum over trying to understand each person’s unique feelings and experiences. We do it uniquely and differently at Wemby

Wemby provides online therapy and wellbeing services delivered by experienced psychologists. Our team is here to help you start building your balance and emotional wellbeing today.

Download the app, complete a matching questionnaire and get paired with a therapist with the best licensed professional to match your needs.

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