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Brain circuits

Four questions to evaluate your company’s wellbeing programs

Published 27 December 2022 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Wellbeing programs have spread rapidly throughout global workplaces in the last few years, with the pandemic giving organizations reasons to increase their attention to these efforts. These programs primarily focus on helping employees to look after their health and make them more resilient to workplace stress. 

Wellbeing initiatives are now expanding beyond employee health. Companies have set up physical training programs, from onsite gyms and fitness classes to weight management programs and offsite gym memberships. Some companies offer employee assistance programs for mental health, including counselling, stress management and meditation or mindfulness classes. Other initiatives may involve social activities aimed at building team spirit, such as workplace outings and parties for employees’ families. 

The impact of wellbeing initiatives must be calibrated to ensure their relevance. There is an obvious business benefit in improved performance and productivity, but also in reduced absenteeism, improved staff retention and lower health insurance costs. But how do you determine if the programs you are putting in place are effective?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a connection between our purpose and strategy and our portfolio of wellbeing initiatives?

 It’s important to link these initiatives. For instance, if you state part of your purpose is to help maintain a healthy work-life balance, do you have programs to help parents or promote flexible hours?

Are we implementing these programs effectively?

 Like any other initiative your organization embraces, there needs to be an implementation plan in place. Things should not be thrown together ad hoc. Who will be responsible for oversight of the programs? What sort of monitoring will be in place?

Are you tracking impact?

It’s important to follow how these programs are affecting people. What works and what doesn’t? If you have a relaxation room at your office and it’s always empty or being used by people to have meetings, is it really meeting your objectives?

Does your company culture support actual use of these programs?

Some companies boast long lists of initiatives, but in actuality no one takes advantage of them, making them empty marketing tools. Remember, if it’s used in recruitment, people will be disappointed to find a culture that doesn’t really support the use of these programs.

Are you maintaining a healthy skepticism about these programs?

It’s easy to be enthusiastic about something that is supposed to make people happy, but it is important to be sensitive to overblown claims of impact.

The expansion of corporate wellbeing programs is likely to be one major legacy of the pandemic. To ensure that it is a meaningful one, companies need to be thoughtful and sincere about the type of initiatives offered – and how they are delivered.

Further reading: 

$66 billion burnout buster by Anand Narasimhan


Anand Narasimhan - IMD Professor

Anand Narasimhan

Anand Narasimhan serves as Shell Professor of Global Leadership and Dean of Faculty and Research at IMD. He is also Director of the Team Dynamics Training for Boards program. He is an expert in leadership development for senior executive teams and boards, and his research focuses on institutional change, organization design, social networks, and emotions in the workplace.


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