Avoiding the pitfalls of the 'workplace happiness' trend

Jun 02, 2015

Without an integrated approach that looks at underlying policies and business culture, efforts to improve employee wellbeing fall flat and can often be dismissed as 'window dressing'.

Ping pong tables, bean bags, pets roaming the office - they're all part of the feel-good measures being introduced by companies to try and improve employee engagement and wellbeing.

Championed by global tech heavyweights like Google and Facebook, this trend has strong evidence to support it - employees who have fun in the office are happier and healthier, both physically and mentally. But as this article in The Sydney Morning Herald highlights, without a proper framework for change and supporting policies in place, installing a pool table or coffee machine in your workplace is likely to come off as gimmicky at best. If companies are serious about putting employee wellbeing at the centre of their approach, "the changes must extend to a top-to-toe overhaul of corporate culture."

Focusing on core issues

Reinforcing this point, London-based research consultant Henry Stewart said: "It's not the trivial stuff, it's the core of 'how do you do your job, do you feel good about yourself and, crucially, do you have freedom in choosing how to do that job?'. In all our research we find that is the biggest difference [for wellbeing] and also the biggest difference for productivity. There's got to be a real coherence."

In a survey released last year, Bupa Australia reported on poor employer engagement with the health and wellbeing of staff. Bupa national medical director Dr Rob Grenfell says: "More than a third [of employees] said they found work had a negative impact on both physical and mental health. And over half are happy for their company to take a role in promoting health and wellbeing."

Take action today with our 10 tips for small and medium/large businesses

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