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Oct 5, 2020

As more companies and organizations continue to realize the importance of people first strategies, and especially moving from talk to action, WeBridge has been privileged to witness the impact first hand. This article highlights some trends in the corporate wellness industry and summarizes more specific findings of our research data from 2018.

The constant growth of the corporate wellness sector has continued, partly due to the strong correlation between productivity and wellbeing, as well as the following underlying reasons. First, Studies from both North America and Europe show that whilst the average number of hours worked has consistently increased over the past 5 years, the level of productivity has remained stagnant. Secondly, competition for skilled employees continue to grow at high rates. Recruiters have struggled in getting skilled employees to new positions while employers and especially HR executives have lamented the hardships of keeping talented staff. Thirdly, since the financial crisis of 2009, there has been a rather steady growth in output and GDP. This has permitted organizations to spend more on employee wellbeing services. These realizations have therefore led to an increase in search for new tools that improve employee engagement, productivity and retention.

The above factors have contributed significantly towards the growth of the corporate wellness industry, with focus on human capital management, and has allowed WeBridge and other companies to help improve the working lives of employees. Growth has also meant an increase in the number and types of service providers. However, this growth has complicated the work of HR executives especially in deciding which service providers to use and why. The low employee participation rates in employee wellness programs, which on the average stands at 24%, means that this is not an easy task. A recent interview with a top HR executive summarizes this point: ‘’First they (employees) tell you they want yoga, and when you provide it, a quarter participate in the beginning and then the numbers continue to dwindle.” This is not a unique response, but a common one showing frustration on wasted resources. The WeBridge database and connecting methodology alleviates this problem by matching our clients with the most suitable service providers.

When dealing with employees, knowledge is only power when it is relevant and up to date. The annual employee surveys cannot anymore be the key tool that guides decision making. Business practices are changing at an increasing pace, and so too, are the priorities, needs and interests of employees. However, a vast majority of companies are still relying on long annual surveys. A much better approach, that many early adopters in Finland are already utilizing, is a more frequent survey with intelligent sensing and feedback. Some of these can be twice a year, focusing on the professional engagement whilst taking into consideration personal priorities. Tools like SIQNI are leading the way in this area. However, a more frequent pulse with a holistic approach that takes into account the internal and external drivers of productivity and growth is a crucial complement. This should incorporate both the work environment and what goes on outside of it, because what happens outside of work usually has an effect on your work and vice versa, even if that may not be obvious. The increased mobility of workplaces, taking into account flexible work environments (e.g. Tieto empathic building), working from home options, or office hotels, makes this holistic consideration even more poignant.

Hence the WeBridge 5Ps, which look at an individual’s professional life together with a sense of purpose in work and life, good mental and physical fitness, and building and maintaining personal relationships and hobbies. Knowledge of the 5Ps in real time, will help you personally identify the focus areas, and take action to reach sustainable high performance. The same applies on the company level, where the aggregated individual results help you target resources in the most efficient way.   In 2018, WeBridge research results were based on not only how people felt about their wellbeing, but more importantly, the priorities attached to different areas of their lives at different times. The following results highlight both the obvious and some interesting new findings.

1. The companies and organizations already offering the most activities and programs for their staff were more willing to work with WeBridge and introduce new targeted programs and measures. This was not a surprise this time, but in 2017 it was, because our first hypothesis was that companies who know they are lagging behind, would try to close the gap. Not so much. In fact, all our client companies were already running several activities, and recorded growths in the number of employees during the year.
2. The biggest strengths among our clients were “Professional Life” and “Purpose and Satisfaction”. More specifically, our client companies’ employees felt highly engaged in their work, and thought that the things they did in life were very much worthwhile.
3. Even though physical fitness in absolute terms was the #1 challenge, its importance to staff was generally relatively low. People in our research felt they needed to improve their physical fitness, but didn’t think it was as important in their lives as e.g. “Personal Time”.
4. “Personal Time” was the most common top priority, and because of its relatively low scores, it therefore became the top challenge. This was particularly true in the case of own hobbies. In a similar way, stress management became the second most common key challenge.

The above findings can be seen in the diagram below. As shown, the most common strengths were professional engagement and doing worthwhile things in life. At the other end, the most common challenges were spending time on hobbies and managing stress.

If we look further into the group struggling with their hobbies, many individuals in this group were also unhappy about their physical fitness, and were more likely to be stressed. On the other hand, most people struggling with hobbies, felt they do worthwhile things in life in general and were very engaged in their work.

The group that has stress management as the key challenge also in general struggled with their physical fitness and energy levels. Furthermore, this group also scored below average on the feeling of doing worthwhile things in their lives overall. In conclusion, during 2018 it became increasingly apparent that standard annual surveys and one-solution-fits-all-employees approaches are not working. Employers need to find more creative ways of providing support that goes past the professional confines, without invading the privacy of their employees. New approaches to HRM and employee engagement are finally moving towards nudges powered by artificial intelligence and real time sensing. The story is yet to be told on these practices, but companies like Humu and Spire Technologies are leading the way albeit focusing more on professional life.

What is needed is a holistic perspective where work and personal time are taken into consideration, coupled with the ability to see key strengths and challenges on a continuous basis. Having these, saves time and resources in clarifying actions individually, in specific groups and on the company level. WeBridge will be proud in supporting you in these areas, making it possible to find the best solutions and enabling growth also during 2019.