The Case for Investing in Employee Wellbeing Beyond the Pandemic | EAPA-SA

Research has shown, beyond doubt, that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a surge in health and wellbeing challenges that cover a broad spectrum and will have an adverse impact for many people for years to come. Some individuals and industries have been more affected than others. For example, people with caring responsibilities and key employees in the healthcare sector have been especially badly affected. In the new world of work, with employees differing circumstances and backgrounds in mind, it is important that employers understand the specific wellbeing needs of diverse groups within their workforce and offer targeted support accordingly.

“…it is important that employers understand the specific wellbeing needs of diverse groups within their workforce and offer targeted support accordingly.” 

“Wellbeing is complex and multi-faceted. While physical health is essential, wellbeing is about much more than that.”

Wellbeing is complex and multi-faceted. While physical health is essential, wellbeing is about much more than that. For example, some people may have excellent physical health but struggle with a lack of financial wellbeing. Others may be thriving financially while suffering mentally.

  • What is mental wellbeing?

UK mental health support organisation, Mind, defines wellbeing as a dynamic mental state where individuals with good mental wellbeing are able to:

  • feel relatively confident in themselves and have positive self-esteem
  • feel and express a range of emotions
  • build and maintain good relationships with others
  • feel engaged with the world in general 
  • live and work productively
  • cope with the stresses of daily life, including work stress
  • adapt and manage in times of change and uncertainty
  • What is physical wellbeing?

Physical wellbeing is the ability to maintain a sufficiently healthy quality of life that allows us to get the most out of our daily activities, either work or personal, without undue fatigue or physical discomfort. 

  • What is social wellbeing?

There is more to social wellbeing than positive relationships (with friends, family or a romantic partner). It also encompasses positive relationships with communities and social structures.

  • What is financial wellbeing?

Financial wellbeing is a state of being where an individual can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future and, on this basis, is able to make choices that allow them to enjoy life.


Wellbeing can mean different things to different people

Being well is not the same for everyone. It depends, in many ways, on each person’s values, desires, goals, their resilience and their views on what wellbeing means to them. Employees bring a variety of backgrounds and needs into the workplace. These are informed by varying factors such as age and gender. For an organisation’s wellness programme to succeed, it must be relevant to all employees, across the whole spectrum of their situations, experiences and expectations. How can employers accommodate the mental, physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of a diverse workforce, in a holistic manner? 

Here are four areas in which to diversify your employee wellness programme:

  • Emphasise diversity as a central component of the wellness programme

To ensure that your organisation’s wellness programme is inclusive, start by announcing diversity as a critical component. While this step may appear unnecessary to some employees, it invites everyone to participate. To further ensure that all interests are represented, create a diversity and inclusion committee. Doing so will provide a common space for multiple voices, with differing standpoints to give input. This committee can then better inform the needs of the organisation’s wellness programming and suggest initiatives.

  • Take environmental determinants into account

To design a programme that better addresses the needs of all employees consider the social determinants of good health. This term refers to the environmental conditions that influence each of us. The Centre for Disease Control breaks them into built-environment, health/healthcare, education, economic stability, and social/community contexts. These conditions have major impacts on the health and world-views of individuals. For example: many workplaces have employees with different literacy levels or language barriers. Thus, an organisation-wide book club may not be a viable option for all workers, but hosting  language lessons may be an excellent idea. 

  • Deliver wellness offerings in different languages

In the same vein as above, lies the importance of appropriate wellness implementation. Offering programme options in multiple languages is an example of smart implementation. Consider how to make wellness options multilingual. Programmes and materials should be available in English and other official languages depending on your organisation’s geographic location. Again, inter-office language lessons could help employees cross language barriers.

  • Apply a multi-generational mind-set

While physical and mental health concerns remain at the core of wellness programs, further facets also exist. Other dimensions of wellness include intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental, and occupational. And, different generations of people prioritise these elements differently. For example, it has been found that Baby Boomers tend toward choosing physical wellness offerings, while Millennials prefer social and mental offerings. Furthermore, each generation’s needs evolve as their family and financial situations change. As an employer, it is important to balance all of these wants and needs in your wellness program offering.