Workplace wellbeing initiatives like meditation apps, subsidised gym memberships, yoga and free lunches, are a waste of employers’ time and money, according to new research. After the pandemic and working from home, staff are returning to the office. Wellbeing initiatives are a waste. Employees prefer to pursue happiness in their own way, with the employer responsible for providing sufficient work-life balance and decent pay.
“Employers should focus more on reducing negative aspects of the workplace such as bullying, favouritism, burnout and lack of career progression” say researchers at London School of Economics’ (LSE) The Inclusion Initiative (TII) who interviewed 100 people across banking, finance and professional services in the UK and created the Beyond Workplace Wellbeing Framework to advise employers.
“If employers want happy and healthy employees, they need to focus on minimising ill-being”, says lead author, Dr Jasmine Virhia, Behavioural Scientist at TII.
“Not one of the interviewees was in favour of workplace wellbeing initiatives”, their report says.
“One third of employees reported that the demands of their job, a lack of flexibility regarding the way in which they fulfilled their responsibilities and the way they were treated significantly exacerbated mental and physical health conditions, therefore suggesting that organisational wellbeing initiatives might be redundant.”
Instead, 51% of employees highlighted the benefits of autonomous working conditions, where they had decision making power over how, when, and where they completed their work. Autonomy allowed employees to create a workday that enabled them to be both productive and enhance their own wellbeing. Autonomy was also linked to greater work-life balance for a third of employees.
“Employers should therefore minimise ‘ill-being’ caused by the workplace and focus on creating ‘psychologically safe’ work environments.”
The researchers advocate for autonomous working conditions—raised by the majority of interviewees—allowing employees to create a workday that enables them to be both productive and enhance their own wellbeing.
“When employees are granted autonomy and trust by their employer, the majority of those interviewed said they acted with volition to plan and utilise their time in line with business aims and job demands.”
“Overall, the Beyond Workplace Wellbeing Framework re-frames the employer’s responsibilities and provides clearer lines of how the employer is accountable to their employees.”
The researchers also endorse a work model that encourages employers to transition from a paternalistic approach to one based on trust, wherein employees are responsible for their personal well-being without compromising the productivity necessary to fulfil their roles.
Co-author, Dr Grace Lordan, Director of TII and associate professor at LSE, said “Employers should not be expected to take responsibility for employee happiness, simply because what makes a person happy is personal. Instead, they need to deal with the bad things that happen in the workplace head-on”.
An increasing number of companies have introduced rules for how staffers have to work more from the office now when covid is no longer considered a global health emergency by the WHO. Even Zoom, a symbol for remote work during the pandemic, has said staff should be at the office at least two days per week. But despite what CEOs say pushing for working from the office, they think remote work will keep growing, according to a new US survey presented by researchers writing in Harvard Business Review.