Who moved my Workplace Wellbeing: The Month That Was


It's been a crazy few weeks, I must confess. Actualizing your potential (Abraham Maslow gave us that term with one of the most popular theories in psychology –The Hierarchy of Needs) at work, wading through domestic chores, caregiving to your loved ones, managing kids’ studies (now that schools have come into our homes) while staying sane is akin to a ropewalk, albeit on a micro-thin wire. One misstep and you are headed for a disaster.

As for millions of employees displaced by the coronavirus pandemic – both in terms of their workplace and job safety, juggling balls in the air has become another new normal. Our minds and bodies, which have not exactly been able to keep up with the pace of technological and lifestyle evolution, are taking a beating every minute of every day, pronounced even more with covid-19 induced anxiety, habit change and anti-socializing.

While we are going against the very grain of being a human and are altering the social fabric of our community, what needs to be addressed on priority is the impact of these changes on the employees, who are now shared resources with the family and, in turn, their impact on work and life.

Personal & Workplace Wellbeing

“Can you fill in for me at the PTM today at 3PM?” I say in a rushed voice to the hubby.

“Oh sure,” he says glancing at his watch almost to express the oddity of the timing.

“I have got a session to attend on Sleep and Nutrition for immunity boosting,” I say almost as quickly as the surprise on his face turns into a disbelief.

“Wait, what?” he exclaims.

“My company has initiated a Wellness Wednesday program to address various aspects of wellness and wellbeing”, I try to explain.

Before he can counter with how he needs a time-out from his schedule too, I dash into another room. Securely closing the door behind and settling in, I get ready to equip myself with much needed info and tips to cope with stress of doing-it-all.

The shift over the last few decades to a knowledge economy has resulted in increased sedentary lifestyles, greater inactivity and less time spent outside. While the increase of social media (the percentage of US adults who use social media increased from 5% in 2005 to 79% in 2019) has replaced human-to-human conversations and interactions with filtered (pun intended) and disparate ones in a virtual setup. As if on cue, to demonstrate the ill-effects of our modern lifestyle on our mental health and physical wellbeing, the pandemic has kept us locked us inside our houses taking away our access to the world and fueling us with fear.

According to one news article on BBC News, “At the height of the pandemic, a health board in north Wales wrongly discharged almost 1,700 patients from mental health support services.It had estimated between 200 and 300 patients were affected but it later emerged the true figure was 1,694.”

One study found increased rates of psychological distress among US adults in April, 2020, compared with those in 2018, and that the increase was greatest in young people aged 18–24 years and women.

The same sentiment was felt on the other side of the world too, as in India, the observation by Dr. Kallivayalil was, “It is evident that the pandemic, besides leading to severe morbidity and mortality, has serious emotional, social and economic consequences which could worsen further at a later stage”, as per his quote in The Hindu.

Overall, mental health has been a growing concern among workers as the pandemic has worn on. About 41% of employees feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work, according to SHRM. Additionally, nearly one in four employees report frequently feeling down, depressed, or hopeless — yet more than one in three employees reported having done nothing to cope with these feelings.

Without improved treatment, the world will lose 12 billion workdays to depression and anxiety disorders alone by 2030, according to World Health Organization estimates.

It’s no surprise then that workplace wellbeing was the top-ranked element in a place of employment, with 72% of workers saying it is extremely important to them, according to social researcher Ashley Fell.

Training to the rescue

Research has repeatedly shown that having the right support structures implemented reduces presenteeism and absenteeism, and creates an organizational culture of openness and awareness. However, the below graph from Workplace Options paints a sorry state of wellness programs, or the lack of, at the workplace.

employee mental health stats

But the tide is changing slowly but surely in favor of workplace wellbeing through training interventions and support.

Starbucks will be offering its mental health training, called Mental Health Fundamentals, for U.S. assistant store managers, store managers and above, and all non-retail partners. The two-hour training program includes four, 30-minute modules focused on effective listening, providing encouragement and reassurance, offering informational resources and the importance of self-care.

International maritime welfare charity Sailors’ Society is providing free mental health and wellbeing support to crew on board more than 1,000 ships through its Wellness at Sea Awareness Campaign.

Richmond Foundation has launched ‘Healthy Minds Work’, a new service, created in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting and supported by the Deloitte Foundation, which will be offering new options for the wellbeing of management and employees.

UpsideLMS has taken steps to support employees by providing online fitness, health, nutrition and financial advice every week. The sessions conducted by professionals are designed to not only equip everyone with the tools and approaches for incorporating wellness and wellbeing into their everyday work and life, but to also clear all doubts and questions through a Q&A session with the experts themselves.

UpsideLMS | Workplace wellbeing programs

For businesses struggling with the logistics of delivery platform and training content, Plethora Learning offers a host of ready-to-use courses and videos on wellness and wellbeing which are shipped with a learning management platform.

In fact, every £1 spent on workplace health initiatives results in a return on investment of between 2x and 34x. A healthy workplace and work culture helps improve both the health and wellbeing of employees, creating a happy, healthy and productive office.

And it’s not just employees who can benefit from the training.

Independent Health has partnered with a mental health awareness patient advocacy organization to help teach employers how to identify workforce mental health conditions and directly affected individuals to treatment.

But the bigger discussion is on balancing the rights and responsibilities of employee wellbeing. As Nathan Berkley questions in his article, “As we see employers provide increasingly hyper-personalized health and wellbeing solutions for employees, where does the burden of responsibility lie? Is it down to the employer to identify those who are vulnerable to infection and to protect them with home working? Or does the employee have a right to take a calculated risk and come to the workplace despite knowing they are potentially putting themselves and others in danger?”

Wherever the buck stops, one thing is clear. Workplaces need to undergo a massive transformation in a way that embraces the personal, vocational, interpersonal and financial wellbeing of its employees.

‘The month that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in the eLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light, easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and the Learning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views, it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with a one-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlights as a wife and a mother.


UpsideLMS | Podcast