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Culture over Cool Perks: Rethinking Workplace Wellbeing

Studies show things like yoga don't really help workers feel better. To make a real difference, focus on a good work culture and fair pay, and maybe add volunteer days.

Picture this: You're the Chief Human Resources Officer at a bustling tech startup. The organization's got all the bells and whistles—ping pong tables, bean bag chairs, and even a fridge stocked with cold brew. But your latest project? Rolling out our new wellness program. You've done your research and have designed a program you're excited about. We're talking mindfulness apps, time management seminars, and weekly yoga classes. Sounds pretty great, right?

Well, hold onto your ergonomic office chairs, because a recent New York Times article might make you rethink how you design these programs. According to a study from the University of Oxford, these wellness programs, with all their bells and whistles, don't actually improve workers' wellbeing. Say what now?

Turns out, past research has been saying the same thing. Single, individual-focused programs aren't making the widespread improvements we'd hoped for. A recent survey even found that employees ranked "self-care resources" as the least helpful offering. What came out on top? A "healthy and sustainable culture."

So, it seems like if we want to make a real difference, we need to look at the bigger picture. That means focusing on things like work culture, scheduling, pay, and benefits. Your team needs more than just a yoga class—they need fair hours, supportive managers, and reasonable expectations.

So, what's the takeaway here? If we want to improve wellbeing at work, we need to focus on what can actually make an impact. That means ensuring your team is compensated fairly and that your culture prioritizes purpose and balance.

If you're going to offer wellness programs, maybe swap out the mindfulness apps for regular volunteer days. According to the study, volunteering was the one wellness offering that actually had a positive impact on wellbeing. It's not hard to see why. Volunteering gives your team a chance to come together and tackle problems bigger than themselves.

In the end, it seems like investing in a strong, healthy culture might just be the best use of your budget.


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