Employee wellbeing has never been more critical. At the time when the world of work is changing at the speed of light and workers are under immense pressure due to COVID-19, businesses should invest more time and effort to ensure their employees are engaged and healthy. A new holistic method offers a detailed guide on what to do and where to start.

For most of us, COVID-19 has meant additional stress. The difficulties of staying employed during economic hardship, coping with isolation due to lockdown measures while often juggling both family and work obligations have put a strain on our health. Likewise, companies have faced challenges and made painful trade-offs to take care of their employees while keeping the lights on. Consequently, mental stress has been on the rise.

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Now more than ever before, it is crucial to prioritize employee wellbeing and do so in a way that acknowledges and supports the whole person. But who is responsible for our wellbeing? The governments, employers, or individuals themselves? In an ideal world, the concern would be shared across all three equally, but in today’s reality, the mosaic is imperfect. What we do know, however, is that employers have a crucial, front-line role to play.

To help businesses identify people’s needs, evaluate the existing policies, and accelerate innovative solutions to wellbeing, the Adecco Group Foundation has developed a unique and straightforward framework.

A new holistic approach to wellbeing and why we need one

In recent months, there has been a proliferation of conferences, blogs, books, and podcasts on wellbeing. This proves that the topic is urgent, nonetheless, employers continue to struggle to address wellbeing in the current context of COVID-19.

What exactly have companies been doing wrong and what are the pitfalls to avoid? The earlier study by the Adecco Group Foundation, in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit, concluded that although companies acknowledged that investing in health and wellbeing can be beneficial, most grapple with its practical implementation. The most successful interventions addressed multiple dimensions of wellbeing at the same time and deployed bottom-up as well as top-down approaches.

Yet, most companies still offer programmes oriented towards physical and mental wellbeing only, and more importantly, they offer them in isolation from each other. Businesses often invest in convenience-based services such as on-site launderettes and distractions such as gyms or ping pong tables. They do so to drive productivity while making sure workers spend as much time at work as possible.

While physical and mental wellbeing is essential, treating them in isolation is like putting a band-aid on a bleeding finger of a patient whose broken leg needs urgent treatment. To avoid this, companies need a holistic, more sophisticated approach that goes beyond just the physical and mental elements.

Without this holistic approach, workers will not be able to cope with and harness change to the extent that they should and could if their wellbeing was prioritized.

The New Workforce Vitality Model

The new approach to employee wellbeing, developed by the Adecco Group Foundation, unites both the top-down management and bottom-up feedback. Furthermore, the Workforce vitality model is clear and simple in that it hinges on a set of four elements of wellbeing:

  • Physical

  • Mental

  • Social

  • Purpose

While the physical and mental elements are well known – albeit often implemented in isolation – the social aspect concerns employees’ ability to connect, engage with others and to assure everyone is included no matter what socio-economic background they have. Their purpose is then defined by their beliefs and principles, which motivate them to go the extra mile and beyond the required minimum.

On top of these elements, the Workforce vitality model introduces four additional enablers that make any wellbeing intervention and policy work and last.

The four enablers are:

  • Policy and practice: Structures must support and reinforce behaviour through both rules and motivation. Without strong policies, the practice can quickly fall apart.

  • Culture: An enabling culture sets the precedent of “how we do things and why,” reinforcing intrinsic motivation and not just outward rules.

  • Environment: Physical and organisational elements of where we work must support wellbeing.

  • Technology and tools: These must be low-threshold, integrated, financially accessible, and simple.

Furthermore, thanks to the model being holistic in that it incorporates all elements and enablers of wellbeing, it can be used in various environments and can help any organisation develop or improve its policies based on the real needs of the employees.

If you’d like to know more about the model and learn how your organization can use it to improve your employees’ wellbeing, please, contact Jacqueline Maag: Jacqueline.maag@adeccogroup.com.

Case study: How to improve engagement using the Workforce Vitality Model

Pontoon, a talent advisory solutions and workforce planning company, is continuously investing in growing its business and improving the quality of services. Recently, it has used the workforce vitality model to identify areas where it can bring more innovation.

Using the model, Pontoon has discovered that one of the critical challenges it needs to address is the lack of engagement of its candidates and consultants. The company was great at the initial contact and assignment but following the placement of a candidate with an employer, the connection would often become transactional and the relationship wouldn’t always be sustained.

To fix this problem, Pontoon ran a series of Design Sprints using the new model to detect the problem (i.e. lack of engagement), identify the solution (i.e. better accompanying of candidates throughout their work cycle) and outline the way forward (i.e. providing a prototype to identify further challenges and implement other solutions).

Among the concrete examples of solutions of how to overcome the issue of engagement, the sprints generated the following ideas:

  • Setting up of direct communication channels (e.g. a WhatsApp group) with the candidates to provide regular updates, news and invites to social events

  • Organizing development days for candidates and consultants to interact with each other and the management while getting the opportunity to learn new skills

  • Introducing video messages from line managers to candidates before they start their jobs to get to know them better

  • Going from mere payrolling to building loyalty among the candidates will require that the company accompanies them during the whole work cycle, not only at the beginning

  • Furthermore, by offering clear guidance on what’s next and how they can secure a new assignment through Pontoon, consultants will improve their wellbeing, and their stress levels will decrease.

Having found the right solution to the problem of low engagement of its candidates, Pontoon now had to ensure that the new approach was sustainable, effective, and scalable. All this effort was guided by the four enablers that are designed to make any wellbeing intervention and policy work and last.

To that end, the company set up new platforms such as a WhatsApp group, which is low-threshold, simple, and financially accessible as the ‘Technology and tools’ enabler requires. With the newly launched development days and recorded video messages, a new practice was launched that would help better accompany the candidates throughout their whole work cycle. This would give them more security that would be positively reflected in their mental wellbeing.

Thanks to a series of Design Sprints based on the Workforce Vitality model, Pontoon has changed its practice and culture and shifted it to reflect the newly discovered needs of their candidates and employees. This has created a more human-centered and innovative environment that will move the company forward, and with the help of the Model’s Design Thinking methodology, Pontoon will be able to further build on this experience.


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