Are work wellness programs doing anything?

Warning: If you are an HR manager implementing wellness initiatives at your workplace, this story contains content that you may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

Driving the news: A new study on the effectiveness of work wellness programs came away with a shocking conclusion: All those apps, courses, and puppy yoga classes aren’t doing anything to improve workers’ mental health. 

  • In fact, workers taking resilience and stress management programs through work actually appeared to be worse off.

  • The only wellness intervention that improved well-being was charity work — truly the only way to wash away the horrors of four-hour meetings you don’t need to be in.

Yes, but: Wellness advocates have criticized the study’s methodology, as it didn’t measure employee well-being before and after the programs. The study’s author also acknowledged the possibility that those who seek out certain programs maybe aren’t doin’ too well to start.

Why it matters: A Future Skills Centre study found that mental well-being is generally on a decline because of, ya know, *gestures vaguely* everything. Of the over 500 workers surveyed, 38% had taken time off work in the past five years due to mental health issues. 

  • That’s a sad statistic and a pricey one, as mental health absences and disabilities are estimated to cost the Canadian economy $50 billion annually. 

Big picture: The study could give companies another reason to slash wellness spending. While wellness industry revenue hit US$5.6 trillion in 2022, per the Global Wellness Institute, the workplace wellness sector shrunk as companies cut costs and WFH persisted.—QH