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Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.


Why your workplace wellness program isnt working

Whether it’s mediation practices, time management lessons or sleep apps, employers have been investing more resources into employee wellness programs. But that may be for naught

A NEW OXFORD University study is casting major doubt on the effectiveness of all these workplace wellness programs that have proliferated over the past few years. A study of over 46,000 British workers that looked at the effectiveness of 90 different kinds of workplace wellness interventions found that, for the most part, those who participated in workplace wellness programs were no more well off than colleagues who didn’t.


“The results…pose a challenge to the popularity and legitimacy of individual-level mental well-being interventions like mindfulness, resilience and stress management, relaxation classes and well-being apps. I find little evidence in support of any benefits from these interventions,” wrote lead researcher Dr. William J. Fleming, in the Industrial Relations Journal.


Workplaces that want to improve the mental health of their workers would be far better, Dr. Fleming’s research suggests, to focus on “the greater benefits of organizational rather than individual change,” by “enhancing job resources whilst also mitigating job demands.”


Findings like this cast some doubt on how Canadian workplaces have approached mental wellbeing. Most Canadian workers expect their employer to help support mental wellness, and as Victoria Wells pointed out in the Financial Post, the cost of poor mental health is estimated to be around $51 billion a year in Canada alone when you factor in extra healthcare costs and lost productivity. (These costs are particularly high among young workers, with another study suggesting that Gen Z and millennial employees are missing “the equivalent of a day of work every week due to mental health struggles,” reported Fortune.)


For workplaces to take this seriously, though, it will amount to a bit of an about-face on how they have approached workplace wellness in recent years. Individual-level programs have been more in vogue than larger, more systemic changes that may entail more significant costs. “Employers want to be seen as doing something, but they don’t want to look closely and change the way work is organized,” Tony D. LaMontagne, an Australian professor of workplace wellbeing, told the New York Times.


That’s not to say that Fleming wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater, at least not entirely. “If employees do want access to mindfulness apps and sleep programs and wellbeing apps, there is not anything wrong with that,” he told the Times. “But if you’re seriously trying to drive employees’ wellbeing, then it has to be about working practices.”


Getting out by going in

For those on the hunt for remote work opportunities, theres a new strategy on deck: backdoor remote jobs

IF 2023 SAW the formalization of the hybrid work environment with back-to-office mandates and more regimented hybrid schedules, 2024 could see that become more fluid and flexible, as both companies and employees start to treat remote work as a bargaining chip.


That’s the suggestion of LinkedIn writer Jessica Misener, who believes that 2024 will see the rise of “backdoor remote jobs” ― a job that is not formally remote, but which could be made remote the company wants to reward a high-performer or use it has incentive to lure top talent. “In 2024, the number of back-door remote jobs will discreetly multiply,” Misener said.


From an employee perspective, career coach Amit Patel wrote that some employees working in in-demand markets could use some of their leverage to create remote positions. “After a period of proving your worth and capabilities ― typically a few weeks to a couple of months ― you can then propose the idea of transitioning to remote work,” he writes. “This approach leverages the trust and rapport you’ve built, making it more likely for employers to accommodate your request.”


“I kind of love this, because it proves the argument that everything is negotiable, even if a company has strict policies in place,” said TikToker hannagetshired. “There’s clearly mixed opinions here between employees and the companies employing them, and there’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution.”


There’s a major drawback to this way of thinking about remote work, though. As Misener pointed out, if remote work is something to be doled out as a reward or incentive, that can make it very unequal. “In a workplace where RTO is the default, what or who determines who gets the privilege to work remotely?” she asked.


“It starts to create a system of haves and have nots, [and] that can breed resentment” added career coach Lauren Daley. But regardless, Daley said the takeaway should be that even if it seems like it’s not, the remote work ball is almost always still in play. “If you see a posting and it’s very clear that there’s not a lot of flexibility, you can still talk to the recruiter and find out, really, what does this mean?”

Terry Talks: What the Cloudflare layoff brouhaha taught us about outplacement support

Brittany Pietsch’s firing from Cloudflare highlighted the challenges and sensitivities involved in employee terminations, especially in a remote or virtual setting. But it also served to illustrate just how important professional outplacement support can be. Outplacement and career transition services can help all businesses plan, communicate and execute difficult employee separations while reducing adverse consequences, mitigating risk and protecting your reputation and brand.



A DayQuil a day keeps the questions at bay

Feeling pressured by office sick shaming, employees are loading up on over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine

IT’S GETTING TO the tail end of cold, flu and Covid season, and that means there’s a good chance that a lot of people will have gone to work with a bit of a lingering cough. It’s often nothing serious, the kind of thing you probably wouldn’t think twice about.


But one effect of the pandemic is that now every cough or sniffle has just a tiny bit of stigma attached to it ― and that’s leading people to take more cold medicine than ever before to stifle that cough and get back to work, says a new report in Bloomberg.


The numbers don’t lie: people are taking more over-the-counter cough medicines than they were pre-Covid. According to Bloomberg, cold and flu drug sales are up 30 per cent, and upper respiratory drugs overall are up 23 per cent, compared to pre-pandemic levels. And the cause that experts point to is the workplace.


“Recent data suggests that all workers, whether remote or in-person, are calling in sick less often as employers push for more time in the office,” wrote Bloomberg. In-office workers are particularly keen to stifle even minor coughs and might be overmedicating, they suggested. At the same time, remote workers might be more inclined to use cold meds to power through it, rather than take a whole day off. Both would probably prefer not to be suspected of spreading Covid by their coworkers.


It suggests that there’s still a lot of implicit sick shaming going on in the workplace. A recent anonymous survey of managers more or less confirms it, with one fifth admitting to encouraging sick employees to return to the office, and one in four believing that this is good for productivity. (“This survey shocked me,” said ResumeBuilder’s Julia Toothacre. “Why are we promoting having people in the office who can spread any kind of illness around?”)


No matter what you do, people are going to come to work sick now and then. Changes to sick leave policy, and managers less skeptical of sick employees, would probably help workers use less cold and flu drugs. But, it seems, so would a little less judgment around the office.


How to survive the winter slump

Studies suggest were smack dab in the middle of the least productive time of the year. Thankfully, a little change can go a long way

IT IS NOT an easy time to be productive right now. Daylight is only just beginning to linger past 5 p.m., the skies deliver only 50 shades of gray and January and February are historically some of the slowest months of the year for work. If you’re not careful, things could slide into a gloomy rut, and very little could get done.


A quarter of all workers say that January is their least productive month of the year, according to research by Hitachi Capital. Stress is high too, with three quarters of small businesses reporting that November to February are the worst months for everyone’s mental health.


But all is not lost, and experts would tell you that these gloomy months are good opportunities to work differently to keep the juices flowing, rather than simply working harder. This time of year is a good time to “do the things that you never have time for,” said Rae Ringel of the Ringer group, speaking to Digiday’s WorkLife. When things are slow, it’s a good opportunity to audit your own work practices. “Rearrange your desk, try out a new organizational tool, add a touch of greenery,” added chief communications officer Avery Morgan. “When everything seems dull the only way to beat the blues is to make a change.”


The downside is that you can do all these things and more and it still won’t change the fact that we’re in the crappiest part of the year. It is simply a lousy stretch for businesses and their people. Sometimes, the best you can do is think about the long game. Or, like Steven Kurutz of the New York Times, you can simply set out to enjoy the slower pace of things.


“That sense of having nowhere to go and nothing to do is one of the month’s defining features,” he wrote earlier this month. “January makes up for the cold and gray with clearance sales, discount theater tickets and other cut-rate promotions ― the thrifty person’s dream month.”


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