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Workplace Wellbeing Paradox

What’s behind the workplace wellbeing paradox?

The workplace wellbeing paradox highlights the contradiction between the increasing focus on employee wellbeing in the workplace and the persistent high levels of stress and burnout experienced by many workers. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of money being invested in workplace wellbeing initiatives. Companies are recognizing the importance of employee wellbeing in promoting productivity, engagement, and overall organisational success. They are allocating more resources towards implementing various programs and initiatives aimed at improving employee wellbeing, such as:

  • wellness programs
  • mental health support
  • flexible work arrangements.

This increased investment reflects a growing understanding of the impact that employee wellbeing has on both individual and organisational outcomes. However there appears to be a fundamental disconnect between investment in workplace wellbeing and employee satisfaction. More employees than ever are experiencing poor mental health, stress and job dissatisfaction despite increased investment in employee wellbeing initiatives. So how can we understand this discrepancy and what can we do about it?

This paradox can be attributed to several factors:

Organisational culture

The culture of an organisation plays a significant role in employee wellbeing. If the culture promotes long working hours, constant availability, and a lack of work-life balance, it can undermine the effectiveness of wellbeing initiatives. Making effective change means a whole cultural change. We cannot treat wellbeing in isolation, this must be aligned the company culture.

Lack of support

While many companies offer wellbeing programs, employees may not feel supported or encouraged to utilise them. This could be due to a lack of awareness, stigma around seeking help, or a perception that taking time for self-care is not valued or rewarded.

Individual differences

Employee wellbeing is influenced by various individual factors, such as personality traits, coping mechanisms, and personal circumstances. Not all employees may benefit equally from wellbeing initiatives, and some may require additional support or resources.

Uninformed change

Having a focused approach by which we can measure employee satisfaction is essential in order to understand the position and wellbeing of employees. This includes consideration not only the what by also the why. If employees are scoring highly on job satisfaction, that’s great, but we can’t sustain this unless we know what we are doing well. Conversely, when an organisation is able to identify low scores on key measures of employee wellbeing, knowing how to address this meaningfully requires understanding the why.

There are multiple drivers which influence measures of employee satisfaction. Understanding which of these is contributing to the culture and dynamics within the company is essential in understanding the relevant conversations and interventions to be applied. Organisations need to understand the patterns within the workplace, the personality of the staff that create it and target interventions accordingly.


Awareness has increased in recent years of the human and financial cost of poor employee wellbeing. It is excellent that many companies have responded to this and are on board with the need for change. However too many companies have turned towards uniformed change strategies. Without really understanding exactly where change needs to be targeted and the barriers to effective employee wellbeing.

To address the workplace wellbeing paradox, organisations need to take a comprehensive and holistic approach to employee wellbeing. Addressing not just the what but also the why. Additionally, organisations should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their wellbeing initiatives and make necessary adjustments based on employee feedback and evolving needs. In order to be effective, change strategies should be informed by the needs of the staff and infused through the very fabric of the organisation.