Acknowledging the fundamental root causes of poor mental wellbeing is key to enabling major strides forward. This was a widely held view, indicating insufficient attention being paid to the things that are making us stressed in the first place. It was made clear that we still lack the understanding of the psychology of our relationship with work and tech, exacerbated by the pandemic.
One respondent described a paradox in which employees are often expected to operate in an ‘always on’ culture, but also being told it's their work emails and being ‘always on’ that is the problem.
Reference was made to the primary care model. The majority of current wellbeing approaches such as education and workshops, are either helping people exist and learn skills to deal with the system, or waiting until they are in trouble before finding ways to help, such as with EAPs. These secondary and tertiary responses reinforce reactive approaches. However, by shifting the stage of intervention to focusing on the stressors we will enable a more primary phase response, which will ultimately be more impactful.
The term itself ‘wellbeing’ was therefore seen by some to be problematic in that it is either too rooted in reactive responses, or too broad and insufficiently nuanced to address the complexities of the issues at hand.
Bad management was regularly cited as a stressor to the system, with managers finding themselves in management roles without the basic skills, time or resources to manage effectively. In this context there's often no way that they can factor employee experience into work design, or support others with their mental health.
The net narrative around the wellbeing movement is, at present, negative, that work is stressful, overbearing, and doesn’t respect your boundaries. However, it was mentioned that there is insufficient consideration of the reasons why work is good for us, and can have a very positive effect on our mental wellbeing.
For a wellbeing service provider, there is a huge underserved opportunity in understanding and communicating the true value of their services, or the specific context in which their services have proved most effective. There also needs to be greater understanding of how services fit into the wider wellbeing ecosystem. There are unfortunately many bold and unsubstantiated claims being made in the industry, and often made with the implication that what they are offering is a silver bullet to solve all wellbeing problems.