Wellness is a Game-Changer for the Post-COVID Workplace | EAPA-SA

The future has landed. In the last 30 months, workplaces have taken a quantum leap forward, compelling employees to re-evaluate their work and life purposes. As employees navigate the complexities of the ‘future of work’, thrust into ‘today’ by COVID-19, it is essential for organisations to provide their workforce with a constructive work environment and truly useful resources, complemented by personal growth and development opportunities. It is in this context that health and wellness Programmes (HWP) are a game-changer within the post-COVID workplace.

“Spurred on by the pandemic, the term ‘employee wellness’ is being superseded by the term ‘employee wellbeing’ as better incorporating employees as a ‘whole’ person..”

What is employee wellness?

Spurred on by the pandemic, the term ‘employee wellness’ is being superseded by the term ‘employee wellbeing’ as better incorporating employees as a ‘whole’ person.  It can be said that employee wellbeing encompasses physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, social wellbeing and financial wellbeing – inside and outside of work. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Physical wellbeing

With the term ‘comorbidity’ tossed around, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of physical health, so that when this is approached with the right mind-set and toolbox, supporting workers’ physical health can be turned into an organisational opportunity. By offering employees cutting-edge health education and resources, organisations can help employees prevent or reverse a number of chronic health conditions prevalent in South Africa, with a chain reaction of benefits that include:

  • easing the impact of long-haul symptoms of COVID-19 by supporting employees who are experiencing longer-term physical effects. This helps employees feel valued and supported;
  • preparing employees for any future pandemics. This helps employees to feel more in control of their world;   
  • improving the physical quality of life for employees. This helps to cultivate employee loyalty and helps to foster employee engagement.

Which chronic diseases ultimately cause the most deaths in South Africa?

Sources: https://www.healthdata.org/south-africa (2019)


Mental and emotional wellbeing

In their State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, Gallup reported that about 60% of employees felt emotionally detached from their jobs in 2021, while almost 20% described their time at work as miserable. According to the World Economic Forum (WEC), these results have “reinforced calls for employers to rethink their approach to employee wellbeing, especially after the pandemic exposed the physical and emotional vulnerabilities the modern workplace presents”.

With these findings in mind, here are three ways to support employee mental wellbeing:

  • Understand how mental wellbeing is impacting your employees

Here are some practical steps toward understanding and assessing your employees’ mental health:

    • Start at the top and make mental health education compulsory for leaders to help them become more aware of, and invested in, this aspect of their employees’ wellbeing.
    • Train managers on what to do if they see signs of emotional distress or substance abuse.
    • Ask your Health & Wellness service provider to utilise a confidential survey to provide a snapshot on your employees’ current health and how stress and anxiety levels may be affecting their productivity. 


  • Include an Employee Assistance Programme as part of your employee healthcare plan

Avoid Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that offer token mental health coverage. Before choosing a service provider, ascertain their size, reach and how many psychologists and psychiatrists are in their network. To encourage employees to use the EAP, management can:

    • Actively promote that the EAP can be accessed confidentially and free of charge.
    • Use communication to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health resources.
    • Make it easy for employees to know where to go and who to talk to, to access mental health resources. 
    • Provide direct access to mental health professionals online, via their phone or in-person.
    • Offer this resource to employees as well as to their immediate family members.
  • Support mental and emotional wellbeing

Beyond rolling out a comprehensive Health & Wellness Programme: 

    • Build as much flexibility as possible into all employees’ work schedules.
    • Encourage employees to use their vacation time. Some organisations support this by limiting the amount of vacation employees can roll over into the following year. 
    • Develop a return-to-work programme, so that employees who need to take a leave of absence due to a mental health issue feel supported when they come back.

Social wellbeing

Social wellbeing is a key pillar of wellbeing in a workplace context. It encompasses a sense of belonging and inclusivity, an alignment with organisational values, lots of social interaction and strong relationships with superiors and colleagues. Here are three steps toward nurturing social wellbeing:

  • Actively pursue diversity

True diversity is more than an organisation hiring people in minority groups. An organisation demonstrates diversity (as well as modelling it to employees) when it can show its workers that they matter to the organisation, regardless of their differences, personality, race, age, gender, and identity.

  • Create a sense of inclusion

Employees who have strong, trusting relationships feel secure and that they belong. To help employees feel secure, accepted and supported, leaders must plan enough time to really get to know and connect with their team members. 

  • Foster open communication

Organisations can also show an inclusive company culture by creating an environment that encourages employees to speak up. Allowing your employees to respectfully bring up any issues can help address problems that they notice in the company structure or culture. It can help management to nip problems in the bud, provide solutions and nurture stronger leadership and teams. 

Financial wellbeing

When your employees are anxious about paying the bills or other financial burdens, their overall wellbeing is affected. This can lead to mental health problems and work performance issues. When designing an employee financial wellness programme it helps to focus on two key areas: 

  • What financial literacy training can the organisation provide? 
  • What employee benefits can the organisation offer? 

“When your employees are anxious about paying the bills or other financial burdens, their overall wellbeing is affected.”

When it comes to training your employees, here are five core aspects of financial literacy that can advance their financial wellbeing through providing know-how and help in putting a solid financial plan in place: 

  • Learning how to budget:  Grow your employees’ financial wellness by giving them the training and tools to design a strong budget plan and learning how to stick to it
  • Setting achievable financial goals:  Having motivation and the means to save toward and achieve particular goals rather than going into debt is an important way to grow financial wellness.
  • Managing and getting rid of debt: Debt isn’t all bad, but it can be a major cause of stress if it’s not utilised and managed properly.
  • Practicing saving principals:  Educate employees on the benefits of saving a realistic amount each month. This will lead to a growing sense of security.
  • Understanding your pension plan:  Over the years, the world of pension planning has become much more complex and can be overwhelming. Help employees navigate the different options at their disposal and the importance of investing toward a retirement.