MONTHLY BAROMETER – WELLNESS EDITION
Two key developments in workplace wellness:
1) Unwellness at work is becoming one of the big elephants in the corporate boardroom.
As a revealing example, in 2017–2018 in the UK, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for more than half (57 percent) of total working days lost due to ill health. The issue of mental health in the workplace seems to be continuously getting worse, which begs the question of what to do and the relevance of workplace wellness initiatives.
A new, comprehensive report from Deloitte UK sheds interesting light on corporate investment in employees’ mental health and how it helps to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism (as well as staff turnover).
The results of their return on investment analysis show a complex but positive case for employers to invest in the mental health of their employees, with an average return of £5 for every £1 spent (hence a 400 percent return). However, potential returns are subject to a large spread, ranging from 0.4-to-1 to nearly 11-to-1. Interventions with the highest returns are those that focus on large-scale preventive initiatives and on using diagnostics and technology to tailor support for those most in need.
2) An increasing number of companies are offering mindfulness and meditation apps to their employees in an effort to counter the epidemic of stress, depression and anxiety that is affecting so many within their workforce. The meditation market is growing particularly fast. In the US, it was estimated to be $1.21 billion in 2018 and is forecast to rise to $2.08 billion by 2022 (according to Marketdata Enterprises). In the digital sphere, Calm—the first mental health unicorn—and Headspace are ahead of their competitors (most notably Reflectly, Meditopia and Breethe).
How effective are these apps? It’s hard and too early to tell, but they seem to have some benefits over “real” mindfulness and meditation sessions, particularly in terms of quality and consistency. The reason: The mindfulness and meditation market is overcrowded with very low or non-existent barriers to entry; as a result, many consultants are at best not up to the job or at worst charlatans.
This being said, offering an app is not a guaranteed panacea. First, any piecemeal approach to mental wellbeing is bound to fail because only a holistic solution can deal with the complexity of human beings’ needs and motivations—therefore “just buying some stuff” won’t fix the problem.
Second, mindfulness and meditation serve no purpose whatsoever in a workplace polluted by a toxic culture. As an example, those global companies known to impose unrealistic performance targets upon their employees and characterized by an “always-on” culture won’t solve the problem of misery at work by offering a meditation app. It simply won’t work! This raises the issue of the over-commoditization of mindfulness—too often being seen as just something else to sell with little or no regard for its genuine contribution to client wellbeing. The most ludicrous but illustrative example: a meditation app to download on our phone that tells us to put down our phone…