Siân Harrington, editorial director and co-founder of The People Space, talks to Nick McClelland, partner and UK growth leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, about why so many employee wellbeing strategies fail, how personalisation can evolve to individualisation and how technology can enable real behaviour change
Employee wellbeing has been high on employers' agendas for a decade now but the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust it firmly into the spotlight. Even before the pandemic, research from Mercer Marsh Benefits showed that employee wellbeing was one of the top two objectives for employers, with 68% of respondents saying it was a really high priority. Yet a report by the Lancet Commission said that mental health disorders are on the rise in every single country in the world and they will cost the global economy $16 trillion by 2030.
Yet, while wellbeing initiatives are a regular on the HR 'to-do' list, there is little evidence of real behaviour change among employees. In fact, sometimes it feels as if wellbeing is just another tickbox rather than something that is embedded in the organisational culture. And that is perhaps not a surprise given that organisations face three core wellbeing challenges:
• Employee engagement: It’s more difficult than ever to get people’s attention in the workplace, with more and more information and communications being received through digital channels. Engagement levels with corporate benefit platforms and wellbeing initiatives are far from the levels of engagement achieved with health and wellbeing apps in the consumer space. And those who do engage with wellbeing are often those already motivated to do so and who already look after themselves well already. There needs to be more focus on the bigger percentage who aren’t engaging at all.
• No change in employee behaviours: Many companies appear to have solid wellbeing initiatives and strategies in place but most are not seeing any significant shift in employee behaviours as a result. Not only do employees have to maintain engagement with these, but they must also fundamentally change their lifestyle habits in order to drive the sustainable wellbeing behaviour change needed in order to see real results.
• Too much noise: People are becoming overwhelmed with the amount of wellbeing services and desperate point solutions in the market. Employees do not have the time or attention span to sift through everything available to find what may be relevant to them. What they need is everything in one place, personalised to their needs and covering all areas of wellbeing – physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing.
Why this tech is different
We like the Ondo app as it takes an innovative, human-centric approach to wellbeing. The user experience drives employee engagement to deliver more sustainable wellbeing change. By making wellbeing social, fun and individualised, Ondo helps employees develop healthy habits.
The app is based around communities so employees can help each other. This also gives a feel of authenticity and enables people to feel supported by their peers as they improve their wellbeing together. Moreover, it helps with the data issue as there is an implicit trust there as people share information between themselves rather than it all coming top-down from the employer. By adding in the element of fun through games, rewards and recognition, the experience is more motivating than your typical employee wellbeing programme and encourages collaboration between your people.
We particularly like the nudges and notifications that help remind you to take an action. As we know here at The People Space, it is easy to start a wellbeing journey with great gusto and enthusiasm but it doesn't take long for old habits to settle back in and for other elements of your life to take over. By prompting regular action and rewarding positive wellbeing behaviours, the Ondo app gives you a timely reminder to keep going. Couple this with the individualised communications based on personality type and health risk factors, and you have something more engaging and more focused on your individual needs and behaviours than many of the 'personalised' approaches to wellbeing we have seen over the past few years. It may be cliched, but think of it like Amazon and Netflix, with recommendations based on your personal preferences and behaviours and how you interact with the service rather than the wider segmentation found in flexible benefits.
The application is easy to use and brings together physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing in one solution, rather than viewing them as four separate pillars. Given the isolation many people have been feeling during the pandemic as they work from home or are in lockdown, we like the fact Ondo focuses on these social and human connections as well as the more traditional areas of wellbeing.
And it is all underpinned by Mercer’s wellbeing ecosystem, which provides relevant resources to support employees in their wellbeing journey including: insights and thought leadership covering health, finances and career; curated content from benefit and wellbeing partners and frictionless links to carefully selected platforms using the latest technology. All in all, a simple, easy to use and fun approach to improving your wellbeing.
Benefits for HR
The benefits of having a healthier workforce are well documented, including productivity improvements, higher engagement, lower absenteeism and presenteeism and higher talent retention and attraction. Where the Ondo app adds real value is that it takes a wider definition of wellbeing so your people are supported across all dimensions, be it mental or financial, physical or social wellbeing. As an HR professional you gain real-time insights to enable you to improve your wellbeing strategy and build a stronger culture of health.
By making the app easy to use and fun, employees are more likely to engage with it and can build social connections along the way. Plus they are able to integrate and share achievements from other health apps and wearables they may have, again encouraging that peer support and recognition.
One healthcare company implemented Ondo during summer 2020 and has seen the following results so far: Over 12,000 sessions by users since launch, 94% of users are active on Ondo weekly, 11.6 sessions per user per week and 2,483 ‘kudos’ awarded between users since launch. Interestingly, the highest number of tagged posts are linked to mental wellbeing, which shows how crucial it is for employers to have awareness of this issue and a good strategy for supporting employees at this time.
If you want to motivate your people to cultivate healthy habits, wellbeing apps that utilise tactics more typically associated with social media could be the key to success
Dr Wolfgang Seidl
We are seeing a defining moment for the future of wellbeing and have been reminded that what really matters is health and compassion
Resilience will be the defining characteristic of the successful post-pandemic workplace, with digital wellbeing tools creating new opportunities to help people stay healthy under pressure
Ondo is a very different approach to wellbeing that focuses on the individual and harnesses the power of social communities. The app focuses on helping employees create and sustain positive behaviour changes to achieve their wellbeing goals. We believe this is the start of a journey that will help your business truly benefit from happier and healthier employees, whilst creating a strong, positive wellbeing culture.
The app uses cutting edge techniques to truly engage your people with wellbeing including gamification, individual nudges and insights based on their personality and behaviour data. It also connects colleagues through a company social network, further encouraging workforce participation and positive engagement. This feature is particularly important in helping you and your employees to maintain social interaction and focus on sustainable wellbeing at a time when it matters more than ever.
The People Space is on a mission to make HR and people leaders excited, positive and inspired by the changes taking place in work so they can seize and shape the future of work.
We promote the value created by your people in this digitally disruptive age when increasingly humans will work alongside machines. It's HR but with robots too