Employee wellness – a unique opportunity to bring about holistic value

24 February 2021

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic experts warned against chronic stress as the ‘disease of our time’. Constantly operating in heightened states of stress has amplified escalating rates of burnout – in particular in the professional services sector.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey prompting open-ended questions among 1,500 respondents from 46 countries. The results revealed that during the past year, many employees experiencing the strain of increased job demands, find that they receive limited support from their organisations. They experience burnout as a very real and frequent occurrence. These are just some of the main reasons why respondents noted a decline in their overall wellbeing.

The above might sound dramatic, but the data keeps stacking up. There has never been a better time for professional service organisations to re-examine their investment into their employee value proposition.

Combating burnout with wellness

Francois Kriel, director at Kriel & Co, has personally experienced the challenges associated with burnout in his early days of management consulting. Based on his experience he has committed to facilitate organisational culture differently at Kriel & Co – to fight the norms of overwork set by the management consulting industry. He argues that now more than ever before, investing into the wellness of employees is “the right thing to do”.

But moreover, it is a very important ethical consideration for organisations during the pandemic. When organisations use wellness as the cement that holds together their organisational culture, it sends a clear message that overwork and burnout is not a celebrated or rewarded cultural norm. 

This might seem like a big step for the management consulting industry to take, but collectively, Kriel believes that it will be worthwhile for the industry to invest in the professional and holistic well-being of its people.

Even pre-pandemic, as career demands grew in a work from home environment, employees experienced blurred boundaries between their personal and professional lives. The expectation to perform under strenuous circumstances has put unsustainable pressure on their overall wellbeing.

An expensive value proposition to overlook

Take the current work-from-home environment into consideration. Organisations that are overlooking the many elements of a wellness programme ingrained in organisational strategy runs the risk of potentially maintaining an expensive ship with crew that is run down or absent (physically and mentally). Because not only will employees’ productivity deteriorate along with their wellbeing – higher staff turnover is also an ever-increasing risk.

An organisational wellness programme should not be a new inclusion to the list of employee benefits. Instead, leaders in organisations need to make the shift from simply perceiving a wellness programme as ‘nice-to-have’ and shift to championing wellness as key to the team’s overall success and performance metrics. 

Let’s look at a few of the physical and mental aspects of wellness:

  • Employees’ physical workspaces at home might not be ergonomically optimised. This could be putting strain on their bodies. 
  • Having less time to cook nutritious meals might mean they are likely to opt for quick-fix and often unhealthy meal options.
  • Employees have been spending much more time in front of their screens with limited social interaction. This is exacerbating feelings of loneliness and isolation. And that is taxing on mental health. 

With employee wellness enjoying considerable ‘virtual watercooler talk’, organisations now have the unique opportunity to empower employees to make better choices overall when it comes to their own mental and physical health and wellbeing. However, remember that wellness comprises of so much more than diet and exercise.

Employee wellness programmes cultivates trust and commitment

In an organisational setting, and even more so during the pandemic, it is necessary to adopt a supportive and holistic approach to wellness that aligns with the goals of organisational strategy and culture. Curating wellness programmes that allow employees to feel supported has the potential to further cement a culture of trust and loyalty to the organisation.

As an organisation, Kriel & Co has been nurturing an organisational culture that uniquely differentiates its employee value proposition within the consulting industry during a pandemic. We strategically and purposefully position our culture as one that does not celebrate overwork and burnout. We firmly believe that it is entirely possible to cultivate an environment and culture in which our team thrives. It is an integral part of our core that allows us to do the meaningful work we’re entrusted with on a daily basis.

Our wellness programme not only allows staff to better balance personal and professional lives, but also creates space to accommodate those who have more challenging personal circumstances because of COVID-19.

Empowered employees also empower others. When it comes to cultivating a culture of wellness, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits that both employer and employee reap when trust and commitment exists between them.