Wellbeing & Health

Wellbeing Budgets Aren’t Always The Solution

3 Mins read

Well-being investment has been on the rise for many years. It is said in 2022 there may be as much as a 20% increase on 2021 spend.

Great news at face value.

Recently many organisations have had to act quickly to demonstrate well-being commitments. In the haste of doing so, have they taken the time to understand what is truly needed and what is involved?

Research from Employment Hero saw 30% of employers admitting they do not know how to support employee mental health.

I have worked on experience improvements for many years and made my fair share of mistakes. I would rather you did not. This is too important. Here is the briefest of overviews as to what I have learnt. 


For the sake of your organisation, your people, and your profits, you can ill afford to misjudge what is needed. Reflect on what you are doing or plan to do. Ask yourself:

  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • How are you going to understand if you are delivering against them?
  • Are you realistically culturally and operationally ready to support well-being?
  • If not, what needs to happen to ensure you are?
  • How will you prove the business case and investment return?

Poor execution sets initiatives back months. Sometimes years. When it comes to well-being organisations do not have that luxury of time. 

A lack of budget is not an excuse

Many organisations still do not have standalone well-being strategies or budgets. Not having these in place is ever so slightly understandable but becoming increasingly less so. Using this as justification to not improve well-being, is not acceptable.

It is not about money

Having money can be an experience initiative curse. Having no funds at your disposal forces creativity. You often arrive upon alternative superior solutions; you would not have contemplated. Often the simplest and cheapest approaches transpire to be the most effective.

Talk to people

Recent research from University of Cambridge on data from 26,471 employees found that classes for stress management, relaxation and mindfulness had no effect on mental health.  I doubt these were fully intended to completely address mental health. However, this is merely an example of spend and effort that may not hit the desired mark.

Unum’s 2021 Value of Health report showed only 64% of employers felt current well-being measures were fit for purpose. Employee sentiment was lower at 54%. So, circa one third of employers aren’t convinced and nearly half of employees are not either.

Remember the overriding intention is to improve someone else’s life. You cannot assume to know what people need unless they have up front involvement in crafting the solution.

A word of caution

Well-being and mental health represent very sensitive subjects. It is well documented that employees confide in peers over their managers. Anonymous employee surveys don’t always have full employee trust. Very few businesses hear what they need to hear when they conduct research themselves. Find a way to unequivocally ensure you have the true picture. 

Be realistic. Apply the brakes if you are not ready for well-being. It is likely to be new territory for management. They need support and training. They are instrumental to its success. Any such major experience drives rely heavily on them and widespread cultural adoption too.

Spend only when you and your organisation are ready

Typically, it may take many months to figure the above out. This is not something to be disheartened by. It is time incredibly well spent. A great deal of goodwill will stem from employees simply knowing well-being and mental health support form part of future plans.

To sum up

We do have to make strong business cases for well-being spend. Just because it is the right thing to do is sadly not a compelling enough argument. It is however a fallacy that businesses initially need budgets. Money helps but it can stifle innovation and send you off on the wrong path.

Well-being maybe new to you or your organisation. There is no shame in seeking help. None of us have all the answers. Employees will help inform your decision making, given a safe and non-judgemental environment. The sole expense you initially need to incur is that time investment. Listen to the heartbeat of your organisation. It is the only place to start.

I have had to fight for funding in this area many times. It is frustrating, but at times been a blessing. Financial constraints have done me huge favours.   

Use the time to understand well-being needs whilst building up data and evidence that support the business case for future spend. Until then work with what you’ve got. See what you can accomplish. I bet you will end up surprising yourself at what you can achieve.

Read more:

What does it mean to value diversity?

Top 10 Change Management Books

Constructive Criticism Vs Destructive Criticism

Direct Leadership Style

HR Value Chain Model

1 posts

About author
Robert is the Founder of Experience Activists and a Trustee of Mental Health Charity, Mind. He advises businesses on Employee Experience and well-being.
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