Wellbeing programs improve workforce productivity and retention, but with fewer than two in five employees participating, should such programs be compulsory?

This issue is explored in the latest Hays Journal. According to Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand, "you'd be hard pushed to find anybody who is willing to argue the case against wellness programs, but it might take some convincing for employers to make wellness mandatory".

Statistics from United Healthcare show that 62 per cent of employees who use workplace wellness programs report productivity rises and 56 per cent have fewer sick days.

But despite the benefits, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that fewer than 39 per cent of eligible employees participate.

So, given the benefits for employers and employees alike, should it be a surprise that some organisations are implementing compulsory programs?

According to the Hays Journal, KPMG was reported to have launched one such program earlier in the year. The consultancy firm introduced a three-day course for all UK-based auditors, known as 'KPMG Audit University'. Compulsory sessions included mindfulness and yoga to help staff deal with the stress their job can entail.

However, David W. Ballard, assistant executive director for organisational excellence at the American Psychological Association, raises a warning when it comes to insisting on employee participation: "Although companies may have good intentions in mandating participation in wellness activities, those efforts can backfire if not executed properly – disrupting trust, heightening tensions and allowing cynicism to grow in the workplace."

Whether they're leaning towards new engagement strategies that focus on health, or pushing leaders to get involved in new schemes, businesses are placing a greater emphasis on addressing wellness among staff. But will more employers really be tempted to make wellness mandatory? Read more here.

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