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Meditating at work AccountingWEB Do employee wellness programs improve wellbeing?

Do employee wellness programmes improve wellbeing?


A study has questioned the effectiveness of common workplace wellbeing programmes, arguing that individual-level interventions do not increase mental wellbeing. Companies instead should focus on organisational change and addressing working conditions. 

11th Mar 2024
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A recent study by William J Fleming looked at employee wellbeing initiatives, asking: “Do participants in individual-level mental wellbeing interventions at work have higher wellbeing?”

Fleming looked at the impact that individual-level interventions, such as mindfulness, resilience, stress-management training, time management, wellbeing apps and volunteering opportunities, had on employees. 

Workplace wellbeing practices either focus on seeking change in the individual, as shown above, or in the organisation. The most common approach is individual change. 

Fleming concluded that those who participated in individual-level interventions were “no better off”.

“Disagreement is increasing because of concerns that individual-level interventions do not engage with working conditions,” Fleming said. 

He continued, “Overall, results suggest interventions are not providing additional or appropriate resources in response to job demands.”

Fleming advised that companies instead need to focus on engaging with working conditions and “more emphasis must be placed on the greater benefits of organisational rather than individual change, as well as on the importance of high-quality intervention implementation”.

Support your employees in a multitude of ways 

In response to using both approaches, Fleming said: “Future research ought to evaluate if individual-level interventions are effective alongside organisational change, or whether improvements in working conditions are a superior alternative.”

AccountingWEB spoke to Chris Maslin, founder of Maslins Limited about how his company promotes employee wellbeing that extends beyond individual-level interventions. 

He discussed Maslins distinctive approach, which involved employee ownership. Maslin said that the method is meant to help secure jobs and the legacy of the company, “as well as enabling staff to benefit directly from their hard work going forward”. 

When asked how this works in promoting employee wellbeing, he said: “It means staff know if they work hard, they’ll be the ones to benefit, not some fat cat at the top. It also means if they might be inclined to slack off, they know it’ll be their peers (as well as themselves) it hurts, not some rich shareholder. So it hopefully does encourage a healthy team dynamic, of supporting each other.”

However, this isn’t just the only strategy that the company has in making sure that employees are supported. The company does offer individual-level interventions but they ensure it is followed by organisation change.

“We have a few, what might be deemed gimmicky things, to help with wellness. For example, a masseuse comes in for a morning a week to give any staff who wants it a massage. On another day we have a communal lunch. Plus we’re trying to get socials back on track after the awkwardness of Covid. But if there’s an underlying problem, the above won’t magically improve staff wellness.”

Maslin understood the importance of having a mix of both – allowing those who enjoy the individual-level initiatives to make use of them while also ensuring that change is happening within the company. 

Maslin explained a few key things that have been implemented.

• Making sure the employees know their manager/team has their back

“We all have bad days and make mistakes. If when that happens you’re scapegoated, it’s terrible for morale. Everyone will live in fear. When people trip up, don’t kick them when they’re down – pick them back up!”

• Keeping workload in check 

“We all have busy times but focus on knowing what’s up ahead. If it looks like more than you can cope with, tell someone.

“For managers, find a way of seeing people’s workloads. If anyone has a lot on their plate, what can you do to alleviate it? Sometimes just listening and showing you care can make a huge difference, even if you can’t actually reduce the workload.”

• Having employees know what the purpose is 

“I don’t mean preparing accounts/tax returns, I mean the bigger picture. What is the reason our business exists? What’s the larger problem we’re solving? Getting people on board with that can not only help their job have meaning leading to them caring more, but it can help them make better decisions when their judgment is required, as they’ll be aligning their options with the business goals.”

What do you do to support your employees? Are you guilty of just offering a mindfulness class or do you focus on changing working conditions? Let us know in the comments below.

Replies (7)

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By FactChecker
11th Mar 2024 12:16

“.. individual-level interventions do not engage with working conditions” ... well quelle surprise!

Those that buy/rely on "individual-level interventions" are at best missing the point in that:
- if the individual's needs are caused/aggravated by working conditions, then it is the cause that first needs to be addressed (otherwise it's like handing out bandages rather than stopping the machine causing injuries);
- if the individual really needs individual help, then that need is driven by wider factors than just the workplace and needs to be addressed outwith the workplace framework (else incorrect assumptions and dependencies may arise).
[And the cynic in me suspects that, in many cases at least, those taking this approach aren't really interesting in the wellbeing of their staff - for employers it's a potential tick-box activity with no need to engage, and for providers it's easy money.]

Of course, once you strip away the trendy labels, it'd be nice if bosses (with sufficiently deep pockets as well as a moral compass) cared enough about their staff to provide them with access to relevant medical support (without getting into the concern over whether those support services exist in sufficient quantity to be 'available') ... BUT that concern would be better expressed (for staff and indeed for profitability if those bosses truly engaged with a mind open to changing any aspect of the working environment/procedures and listened to staff.

Thanks (4)
Replying to FactChecker:
By Rob Swan
12th Mar 2024 20:05

I've lost count of the number of online posts/interviews I've seen in last few weeks where leaders/officials from leading nations have justified corporate/billionaire greed at the expense of minimum wage slavery in the name of (good) 'capitalism'. A wage on which you can reasonably live - not the same as 'Living Wage'! - and enouogh left over for a little hobby/relaxation when reasonable working hours allow would solve a lot of today's workplace 'wellness' problems.
But... Hey Ho...
Now get back to work you....!

Thanks (1)
By Paul Crowley
11th Mar 2024 15:40

Anna Kournikova
Looks good, never wins.
A Poker term for all this wellness gravy train timewasting twaddle.
If someone is floudering or needs help, help them.

I would consider a wellness day as a kick in the teeth if I was struggling.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
By Rob Swan
13th Mar 2024 11:57

Mr. Crowley,
Sounds like you need a wellness day.

Thanks (1)
By Rob Swan
12th Mar 2024 19:55

I remember wellness Programmes back in the '80s. Everyone was invited, worked a treat, solved problems and improved morale enormously. It was called "Going to the pub together on a Friday lunch time". Would still work today only... no pubs left, and if you can find one it's probably too expensive :(
Just in case - mines a pint of Tetleys and I'll have the steak pie with chips and peas!
Thank you.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Rob Swan:
By Paul Crowley
13th Mar 2024 14:33

We have wellness Wednesday
Pub meal and a couple (as in two) drinks each Wednesday

I take a copy of taxation and laugh at the daft FTT results
We did not call it that, but it will be from here on in and really should be compulsory attendance.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
By Rob Swan
13th Mar 2024 19:14

Sign me up!! :D

Thanks (1)