This sounds obvious, right? Except that it is becoming a trend and it is notable that some organisations are using wellness programmes to try to ameliorate the effects of overload.
However, even the best wellness programmes are not able to prevent burnout caused by long hours and high pressure.
Workplace wellness programmes are interventions designed to improve the health and wellbeing of an organisation. Their components can vary from fitness memberships to one-on-one counselling, and many are multifaceted. Numerous research studies have documented positive consequences of such interventions in terms of enhanced wellbeing and productivity, and some demonstrate positive financial returns on the investment. However, results are not always consistent.
One theme that is emerging is that those who are already mentally and physically healthy are most likely to sign up for the programmes – and that those who are not healthy do not participate. Citing his research, Iwan Barankay says ‘Ironically, the employees who benefit the most from wellness programs are the ones who are already healthy. They exercise regularly and see a doctor, so getting a voucher for the gym just rewards them for what they are doing anyway. And there’s no evidence to support that healthy people increase their healthy behaviours by participating in a wellness program. They’re simply registering in the program to get the benefits’ *
Unfortunately, those who need it most, tend not to participate. In the emotional fug of pending burnout, it may be difficult to see how you might find the extra time and energy needed to engage with a wellness programme.
A wellness programme cannot solve organisational problems. They certainly have their place, and they can be highly beneficial, but they won’t solve the problem of overload.
The key is to hire enough people to cover the workload in a reasonable time. Overstretched teams will battle with retention as people resign due to work-life balance concerns. This may not be easy to solve in an environment of a global skills shortage. But, if the barrier is budget and keeping the salary and wage bill down, it may be time for a rethink. The cost of hiring, the cost of mistakes and lower quality delivery might be higher. It might also be time to do the right thing and hire and train more people to perform in good, high quality jobs.