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Hitting a wellness wall

Time for a pivot towards effective people management?

As reported by Morning Brew this week, Oxford released a study this month that assessed the effectiveness of well-being benefits, e.g. services, apps, techniques, education, etc., at 200 UK organizations in 2017 and 2018. It found that:

Workers who used their companies’ mental health benefits (like mindfulness apps and time management courses) didn’t feel any better than coworkers who didn’t take advantage of the resources—except for volunteering, which appeared to boost well-being.

Participating in resilience and stress-reduction training may even have a negative impact, possibly by compounding people’s anxiety if a service they assume will work doesn’t help them.

Now, to be fair, there is other research out there that supports the effectiveness of individual activities, like mindfulness. That said, I’m not totally surprised by these findings. I’m somewhat sad, but not surprised.

I’d sad because I really want them to be effective for those who need them. Many people are certainly struggling, and I support striving to care for and to help them recover.

I’m not surprised because the root causes of the immense stress are likely not being addressed. Root causes like too much work, unreasonable deadlines, always-on pressure, being micromanaged, lack of appreciation, psychological unsafety, and lack of purpose. When these experiences continue to be prevalent in the workplace, the efficacy of well-being efforts wanes.

Those of you who read my blog all the time know what I’m about to say—effective people management. That is what will move the needle on well-being (and engagement and productivity and collaboration and so on). Gallup tells us that 70% of disengagement is due to a bad manager. This is a situation that can be solved for through training, coaching and other interventions.

Being a great people manager is not a “nice to have.” It is a must have. We need to ramp up management training efforts…NOW. And, by the way, it’s training for way more than just delegation and feedback. Those are critical cornerstones, but there’s so much more.

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