The world of corporate wellness is undergoing a reset. As the pandemic transforms our working lives the emphasis on staying healthy and doing everything in our power to boost our immunity has hardly been greater. Snack-size exercise programs, greater attention to mental health, and an increased awareness of checking in with ourselves and others are just some of the areas coming to the fore.
New business Wellness Solutions is aiming to make staying fit, happy and motivated at work as seamless and convenient as possible. Its multi-functional wellness solutions are designed for corporations, through to hotels, retirement homes, residential apartments and health clubs. At the core of its several concepts is ‘the wello’. A play on the concept of taking a ‘smoko’, a ‘wello’ is a snack-sized break of five to 30 minutes for relaxation, exercise or learning about health and wellness. These are delivered via its Move 123, Mind 123 and Move Silver 123 programs that offer a choice of revitalising options such as yoga, pilates, stretch, strength and meditation. Mind 123 offers bite sized wellness content from a range of experts on topics such as nutrition, health and wellbeing ranging from three to nine minutes.
These programs are delivered via Wellness Solutions’ office fitouts that see virtual studios created in either a conference room made redundant by Zoom meetings or a new facility. There are also mobile options which can even be used at work desks. Already operating in North America, so far in Australia the company has created wellness facilities for commercial properties including WeWork, as well as retirement villages, shopping centre head offices and Gold Coast apartment complexes.
Wellness Solutions founder Tony de Leede, who launched Fitness First in Australia and created the renowned Gwinganna Health Retreat, said the key idea was to make exercise quick, easy and – most importantly – effective. “Businesses realise how important it is to have their staff functioning with less stress,” Mr De Leede said. “Studies show that employees who experience relaxation with others during their lunch breaks are less exhausted during the afternoon. Other studies have found that short breaks in the afternoon result in higher work engagement and daily 15-minute walks result in a 30 percent productivity boost. So why not?
“We are resetting the world of wellness and businesses are getting on board.”
Wellness Solution’s virtual studios can be as small as 50 square metres or up to 400 square metres and beyond if required.
Another company making inroads in corporate as well as home fitness is Lululemon Athletica. The yoga wear retailer became the owner of in-home fitness equipment brand Mirror it was announced last month in a move that completed its initial investments made last year.
With more people working from home (WFH) since the pandemic struck, and restrictions limiting attendance at gyms, the move is even more timely. Mirror is basically a full-length mirror, designed from home use, which when turned on allows you to see yourself, the others in your exercise class and your instructor. Both live classes and on-demand workouts can be accessed. The growing popularity of Mirror – hailed by Time magazine as “one of the best inventions of 2018” - joins the boom in Peloton bikes and other home-fitness products as WFH looks to be here for the foreseeable future. Currently only available in the US, it is planned to expand Mirror internationally next year.
The mental health side of corporate wellness will also receive further attention as the pandemic continues. Clinical psychologist Dr Aileen Alegado, a specialist in both private and corporate mental health, said even before the pandemic corporations tended to have more generic rather than individualised health and fitness offerings for workers, but this will change. Under the current climate, people’s strengths as well as weaknesses are exacerbated - and when so many of us are working from home, managers and corporations as a whole need to be even more proactive individual workers are coping.
“There’s a lot of natural variety in the office and if things like hallway conversations aren’t occurring and you can’t eyeball people on a daily basis it is hard to gauge things like demeanour and their mental health,” said Dr Alegado, a primary clinician at Mindset Consulting in Sydney.
If someone isn’t coping with WFH, they may fall into traps such as perfectionism or procrastination, or suffer low mood from simply being isolated at home. “COVID is magnifying these situations and conditions for people,” Dr Alegado said. “Even Zoom creating wallpapers for people to put behind them – this has been done as people started looking at other’s backgrounds and it is not unlike another level of being judged.”
Offering more one-on-one contact with people via video meetings and being flexible about WFH and returning to the office are ways to counter heightened anxiety across workforces, Dr Alegado advised. Managers need to be trained in how to touch base with people and check in on their mental health, and businesses create environments for people to come forward such as Are U OK days.
“Some people have thrived outside the office and succeeded well while others have suffered increased anxiety,” she said. “Many people will not have realised they are so attuned to an office structure.”
Pandemic-driven change and the anxiety it has brought is a primary reason behind Dr Alegado’s Envision Retreat, a “covid recovery escape” to be held in late August in NSW’s Hunter Valley. The focus of the retreat is for people to identify their own vulnerabilities and coping styles, gain deeper awareness into current issues that may be consuming their psychological wellbeing, and then provide them with the skills to tackle stressors of everyday life and trauma – across all situations, pandemic and other.
“Social isolation and distancing brought to light buried problems, created fresh hardship and reality checked all of us,” Dr Alegado said. “It’s time for people to let go and embrace this change.”