From meditation sessions to stress-management workshops and relaxation programmes, many companies worldwide are sparing no effort to improve their employees’ wellbeing. The problem is that these individual-level interventions might not be having the desired effect, according to a recent study of over 46,000 British workers.
The pandemic has completely reshaped the world of work, with workers becoming increasingly keen on the idea of ultra-flexibility, and a growing desire to prioritise wellbeing – sometimes to the detriment of performance.
Many studies have shown that productivity is increasingly correlated with happiness or wellbeing at work. And employers have not taken this information lightly, unleashing a whole arsenal of programmes designed to improve employees’ mental health.
But what are these wellness programmes really worth? That’s the question that a researcher from the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University in the United Kingdom set out to answer.
The study analysed the data and responses of 46,336 workers from 233 British organisations offering such programmes. In all, no fewer than 90 wellness interventions of all kinds were examined, including mindfulness, resilience and stress-management courses, massage and relaxation workshops, sleep interventions, workload-management training, and volunteering.
Published in the Industrial Relations Journal, the study suggests that individual-level mental wellbeing interventions are not effective – or at least, the study findings do not demonstrate the benefits for employees.
“There’s growing consensus that organisations have to change the workplace and not just the worker. This research investigates wellbeing interventions across hundreds of workplaces, supplementing trials that often take place in single organisations; and the lack of any benefit suggests we need more ambition when it comes to improving employee wellbeing.
“I hope these results can spur on further research and employer action,” said study author Dr William Fleming.
In detail, the study shows no difference in wellbeing between employees who took part in relaxation, time -management, coaching and other wellness programmes, and those who did not.
The research notes, however, that volunteering is the only type of intervention that could prove effective for the wellbeing of those involved. Even so, it points out that “the estimated effects are small”, especially as these interventions are not usually part of programmes set up to improve wellbeing at work.
“I concur with reviewers of the field that organisational interventions, such as changes to scheduling, management practices, staff resources, performance review or job design, appear more beneficial for improving wellbeing,” Fleming thus concluded.