What Went Wrong With Wellbeing?

Saying that there are plenty of workplace wellbeing companies is a bit like calling the Grand Canyon a big hole in the ground: it’s a comic bit of understatement. As remote working and the global pandemic have pushed worker wellbeing into the spotlight, wellness support services have been springing up like mushrooms.

In fact, a quick search for workplace wellbeing or the equivalent reveals a jaw-dropping number and range of services, from the apparently plausible to the oddball.

Lots of choice, lots of providers – on the surface, this looks great. But drill down into the specifics, and it’s apparent that the wellbeing industry is itself a bit poorly. In our view, typical wellness services struggle to provide the targeted help that business leaders want.

That’s a bold statement, but we think the evidence is on our side.

One obvious issue is that there are virtually no barriers for entry to the wellbeing industry. For example, there’s nothing to prevent someone focusing on one aspect of wellbeing, or achieving some basic level of certification then setting up shop as a corporate wellness expert. This means that anyone looking to help their workers is confronted with legions of providers who can’t really offer a holistic perspective. And that’s like trying to support the Olympic cycling squad with just a massage therapist. Sure, they can offer some help (we’re not knocking massage therapists!), but it’s far from optimal.

But unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end there. Even wellness companies which do offer holistic solutions usually can’t offer a truly targeted programme.

In our view, the reason is straightforward, and it’s to do with how providers arrive at their recommendations. In what should be a science-based business, the scientific process has somehow gone missing in action.

To be clear, we’re not saying that wellness companies lack any academic firepower. There are plenty of providers out there with solid scientific credentials, people who know their effect size from their ecological validity. But to our minds, really using science to help wellbeing isn’t just about interpreting the latest academic articles. It’s also about gathering real and robust data about the people you’re trying to help — about their nutrition, cognitive performance, sleep, exercise patterns and more — then using this to construct an evidence based wellness programme. When we look at the wellness industry, it’s this data gathering process that’s gone AWOL.

When you think about it, it’s pretty staggering that very few wellbeing companies gather any sort of objective data about employee wellbeing, and when they do it’s very limited. Without this information, how can they make bespoke recommendations to fit a particular team and work environment? And how can they judge if the intervention is really working? It’s taking hit-and-miss to a whole new level.

A better approach to wellbeing

At ART Health, we feel that there’s only one way of tackling these industry-wide problems: by putting science back at the core of wellbeing. That’s exactly what our company does, whether we’re working with a large multinational corporation or an SME.

From people to process, everything we do is driven by the science. Take our team: with three PhDs (and counting), and world-leading expertise, they are adept at everything from interpreting data related to workplace wellbeing on through to designing employee questionnaires.

We need all of that experience to understand and process the data we gather. We collect a lot of data — all ethically, anonymously, and with the individual’s permission. To do this, we’ve developed our own in-house technology, including app-based cognitive tests and self-report surveys.

Once we’ve got an informed and precise picture of how your employees are doing – physically, cognitively, and emotionally – we can begin providing holistic wellbeing insights and support. It’s only by having specific information that we can target interventions that help your employees in your business.

Is it possible to skip the data gathering and still get a great wellbeing programme? Maybe, but don’t hold your breath. To our way of thinking, that’s like painting your lounge in the dark: what you end up with is plenty of bits missed and a lot of wasted effort.

Providing a better alternative isn’t rocket science. But it is science.


ART Health Solutions is a wellbeing consultancy, providing effective, science-based wellbeing recommendations. Our bespoke solutions are generated by gathering data directly from the organisation and its employees. Having proven our methods working with large, multinational corporations, we’re excited to bring our expertise to small and medium-size UK businesses.

To learn how we can benefit your company, please contact our friendly team.

Dr Paul Smith

Chief Strategy Officer, ART Health Solutions

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