Is inclusivity in your wellness programme doing more harm than good?

In Corporate Wellness Blog by tailoredfit

On more than one occasion last year while consulting with companies I heard the phrase “we want our wellness programme to be inclusive”. I fully understand the sentiment; all staff are important and we want them to feel that way. So, let me play devil’s advocate here and propose why I think this mentality is reducing wellness levels and costing companies a lot of money.

Staff are not all equal

Shock, horror! I know, risky statement, but let me explain why. Obviously all staff are important, as companies are only as good as the people they employ. As you are reading a corporate wellness blog I assume you probably already feel the same way. The point I am raising is that there are staff who are operationally more critical to the success of the company than others. That’s often why some are paid higher salaries. So, when we say we want staff to be treated equally, we are only creating an illusion of equality.

The reality is, if your CEO, CFO, Global Head of X is off sick, underperforming or leaves the company altogether then it usually has a greater financial and operational impact than when one of the staff they manage leaves.

If a senior member of staff earning £150,000 loses 30.4 days to absenteeism and presenteeism (the figures produced by AIA Vitality/VitalityHealth/Rand Europe 2017), that alone costs the company over £17,500 in lost salary. This is before we take into account the opportunity costs from lost productivity. This compares to a loss of just over £4,000 for a staff member earning £35,000.

If a senior staff member leaves the company altogether, these figures skyrocket. With executive head-hunters charging a fee of up to 30% first year salary coupled with an estimated time of 28 weeks to get new hires up to full productivity (Oxford economics 2014) it becomes clear why holding onto key talent is crucial.

Inclusivity reduces service levels

Trying to provide an inclusive wellness programme at scale will often mean spreading the budget to thin. This ultimately leads to all staff getting a sub-optimal wellness programme. To top this off, not all staff will want to get involved in a blanket wellness programme, thus leading to lower participation levels and inefficient spending.

Rather than bringing in high quality services for the staff who need it most (or who would have a greater impact on the company if they were not performing) we end up running wellness days that have little effect on staff health or settle for cheap, low-quality service providers.

Trying to offer the full range of services to all staff will usually mean just reducing the range of services. If you have 300 staff, you likely won’t have the budget to offer them all Lifestyle Resiliency Profiling.

However, you may well have the budget to offer this to your executive team. If you can improve their performance and/or prevent burnout; this would obviously be a great ROI.

Specificity increases efficacy

Rather than only bringing in services that can be offered to all staff, I propose we look at specific needs and business cases; specificity over inclusivity.

Specificity needs to be the driving force behind your decision-making process. Understanding the needs of various departments alongside the financial implications allows you to define outcomes and targets.

If you know the executive committee is under increasing amounts of stress and you understand the financial implications of them performing sub-optimally or even leaving altogether; then you are informed to design a specific programme to monitor their wellbeing and bring in specialists to oversee this (us of course!)

If customer/client facing staff are dealing with high-levels of day-to-day stress; you might bring in a mindfulness coach to run small group workshops to improve their stress resiliency.

If your accounts team are complaining of increased musculoskeletal problems; you might opt for individual DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessments and run weekly Pilates classes for the team.

Trying to offer all those options to everyone may well be unfeasible and even unnecessary. If your accounts team are not in need of mindfulness coaching, why dilute the quality by trying to run a seminar to 100 staff when the small group workshops may have a similar cost but be more effective? Pilates classes for those who need them may well be a lot more effective than a seminar on back pain for the whole company.


So there you have it, my case for abandoning the blanket-approach to corporate wellness in the name of inclusivity. The sentiment comes from a good place, but it doesn’t make business sense and it often leads to ineffectiveness. Our approach is specificity. Have a read through our corporate wellness blog for ideas on how to create your own programme. If you want help in approaching and designing your own corporate wellness programme that works you can get in touch with us here.