This science-based model helps you develop a sustainable wellbeing policy
The increased attention to wellbeing has created a new challenge. There is a real risk that this concept is oversimplified even though a sustainable wellbeing policy is crucial for your organisation’s continuity. Read on to find out why and how to take a science-based approach.
The house is on fire
Let’s start by taking a closer look at the current health status of the working population in Belgium. Research by Sciensano indicates that more than 70% of this group fails to meet the WHO recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week. There is also a lot of margins for improvement in terms of food habits. We consume too much sugar and not enough fruit and vegetables. As a result, more than 55% of all Belgians is overweight or obese. Another 25% of the population suffer from chronic diseases such as asthma and type 2 diabetes.
Our mental health scores are not any better. An estimated 10 to 15% of Belgium’s working population have experienced mental health issues, such as anxiety, burn-out and even depression. According to the latest figures from Belgium’s National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, at the end of 2021, an incredible 485,435 employees, self-employed and job seekers had not searched for work or worked for more than a year because they were unfit for work. A 25% increase in just five years! The growth is mainly due to depression and burn-out.
Companies only invest in fire-extinguishing measures, in the form of one-off workshops or training programmes after the situation has already escalated when in fact they should be investing in fire alarms.
These figures are all the more alarming for companies given that they are struggling with the war for retention and high absenteeism figures. The situation is very similar to a house that is on fire. Companies only invest in fire-extinguishing measures, in the form of one-off workshops or training programmes after the situation has already escalated when in fact they should be investing in fire alarms. Obviously, these must be installed in all the right places, which means you need to identify these places. The situation is no different for wellbeing: you need reliable data to gain a good insight into the current wellbeing needs.
In other words: a preventive, data-driven approach for mental and physical wellbeing is not enough of a priority in most companies. The lack of preventive measures is exemplary of the short-term approach in most companies today: too many of them merely focus on quick wins.
The importance of a sustainable vision on wellbeing
Nonetheless, you can achieve successes and create positive experiences within a short time frame. Better yet, you need this to create lasting support, on the employee and the employer side. But a wellbeing policy mainly serves a greater purpose in the long term.
The majority of the effects of investments in wellbeing only become visible for both parties after a few months. A sustainable policy is necessary to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity on the one hand, and promote physical, mental and social health on the other. This kind of approach paves the way for a good return on investment (ROI), as well as value on investment (VOI).
Any good wellbeing policy always starts by asking what wellbeing entails. We looked to science for answers, partnering with The VIGOR Unit (a Ghent University spin-off that helps organisations make evidence-based HR decisions based on literature research, data analysis, and so on).
The essence and explanation of our science-based wellbeing model
Based on models such as the Job Characteristics Model, the Conservations of Resources Theory and the Job-Demands-Control Model, The VIGOR Unit was able to define the essence of wellbeing: wellbeing is the general quality of the employee’s experience and functioning at work. In addition to taking factors that influence wellbeing into account, we must also reflect on success factors that can promote the implementation of a health and wellbeing policy.
In addition to taking factors that influence wellbeing into account, we must also reflect on success factors that can promote the implementation of a health and wellbeing policy.
Our wellbeing model, in the form of eyeglasses, distinguishes between the two.
In the centre of the left eyeglass, we see the employee who has the required skills for the job. This employee strives for balance between three different dimensions of wellbeing: physical, mental and social. An employee achieves an optimum state of mental wellbeing when he/she does not have any or very few physical issues and also functions well at work. But the employee must also feel that he/she is able to cope with minor or major stressful events. Our My Health Partner wellbeing platform uses an annual interactive action plan, that encompasses all aspects of wellbeing. Every three months, we discuss a specific aspect of wellbeing, with a monthly focus on a specific topic and an online workshop!
The right eyeglass features elements that are instrumental in the successful implementation of a health and wellbeing policy. We start by raising awareness within organisations. At every level, from management down to the most vulnerable profiles! Employees must then be given a chance to map out their own wellbeing, during various screenings. Ideally this should be done according to the stepped care principle, with a custom approach for everyone. An employee who runs a high risk of burn-out requires a more personalised approach, for example, rather than group sessions. Ultimately the aim is to achieve behavioural change. We do this through nudging and with an emphasis on active learning. How do you put all this into practice? With Wellbeing as a Service (WaaS)! This model is founded on three pillars: the wellbeing manager as the human pillar, a digital platform like My Health Partner as the digital pillar, and in-depth reporting as the analytical pillar.
The result? Your wellbeing policy is much more cost-efficient because the health budget is managed in a scientifically proven way, based on actual needs.
An example of a simplified annual action plan
There is no doubt that investing in employee wellbeing has a positive impact on productivity, job satisfaction and so much more! As long as you remember that the calculation of your ROI depends on the selected results (absenteeism, productivity, employee turnover...), impact reporting (business parameters, surveys...), the population (employees, workers...) and the type of initiatives (individual or company-wide)!