Home Health & Safety The Tricks and Pitfalls of Shaping a Workplace Wellbeing Strategy (Part 2)

The Tricks and Pitfalls of Shaping a Workplace Wellbeing Strategy (Part 2)

OPINION PIECE: Bobbi Hartshorne Shares more on how to build a Wellbeing Strategy, offering advice and tips on how to create success and buy-in


There are many things that can either derail a workplace wellbeing strategy or make it take off beyond what you ever thought possible. In this article, I will aim to help you avoid the former and achieve the latter by sharing the most common pitfalls and greatest tricks of the trade with you!

But, before I begin, If you haven’t read Shaping an impactful and measurable workplace wellbeing strategy Lesson 1 and Lesson 2, I recommend you look over those before continuing here.

Common Pitfalls

These are the things that have the power to derail your wellbeing strategy and prevent your organization meeting its wellbeing vision and goals. It will also lead to much wasted good will amongst the employees and financial resources. So, for many reasons, we need to avoid these.

Ignoring the work

We must be honest in our approach to wellbeing at work. That begins by acknowledging that the way in which many of us are choosing and/or being asked to work is simply not sustainable, which is in turn leading to burnout and other such languishing wellbeing and underperformance issues. The wellbeing strategy should not simply be an attempt at an antidote to these challenges, but the solution to overcoming them in a way that yields better outcomes for employees and the business in the long-term. Those who can achieve this will be in huge demand for great jobs over the coming decade.

The wellbeing strategy should be used to identify what compromising behaviours, cultures, and decisions are occurring in our organisations and then develop ways to reduce or eliminate them. In many cases, this means giving leaders, managers, and even employees the permission and even the expectation to speak up and challenge what is compromising their wellbeing and suggest ways to improve it.

The WellWise Diagnostics System is designed to unearth these hidden risks, so that we can then help you define workable solutions.

Failure to engage

This is arguably the biggest reason for failure of current workplace wellbeing strategies. Engagement is as low as 2% and rarely rises above 20%, even though over 70% of employees are thinking about leaving to find a job that better supports their wellbeing (Deloitte, 2023).

There are several reasons for this lack of engagement, a big reason is covered in the previous point. Selecting poor fit or inaccessible solutions, failing to communicate enough, not answering the ‘where are we now?’ question adequately, making assumptions instead of using data, failing to delegate responsibility across the organization, stigma, and employees not being granted the time and explicit permission/expectation to engage. As part of the strategic plan, each of these should be considered a potential risk to the strategy and accounted for in the tactics and actions.

Not dealing with counter-wellbeing factors

Toxic rockstars, an always on culture, micro-management, a lack of progression or development opportunities, an expectation to put work before all else are all common counter-wellbeing challenges we currently face. They will mean that any efforts or investments to improve wellbeing will be scuppered. This is because of 2-factors.

  • The first is that these challenges are working in direct competition with your wellbeing strategy, at best you might hope to mitigate some of the negative impact such issues create, but you will find it very hard to demonstrate any meaningful progress or improvement.
  • Secondly, when these challenges are allowed to perpetuate alongside an organisation that claims to be aiming to improve wellbeing, the employees soon begin to feel that the real wellbeing issues are not being tackled at all, and that drives resentment and disengagement. It can in fact, make wellbeing worse not better as employees feel it is hopeless to expect a brighter future.

Tricks from the trade

Understand the adoption curve

As with all things, your employees will not all adopt the wellbeing strategy or contribute to a wellbeing culture to the same degree or at the same time. There are multiple reasons for this. However, it can be frustrating when you don’t see the levels of engagement you hoped for. Patience and persistence are key here.

                        Adoption curve – how to deal with each group

Invest in upskilling your leaders and managers

We are in a management and leadership crisis of our own making. Too often we have promoted technical brilliance at the expense of people skills. To fill this gap, the focus should be on human-centric management and leadership styles. Empower them to make the right decisions and help them to understand the impact of their actions and behaviours to both team wellbeing and success. This is a huge investment area for organizations now and something we are seeing increasingly requested in 2023 and 2024. The other big benefit to this is that it boost the confidence, abilities, and success of your leaders and managers…great for their wellbeing!


Historically we have treated wellbeing as a separate area, often led by a distinct team or person. This is based on a huge misunderstanding because wellbeing is actually the core tenet of many other areas such as engagement, DEI, talent acquisition, talent management etc. There is huge overlap between both the aims and requirements of this investment. This means that the approaches will benefit from being joined up. We must move away from silo projects and develop a more holistic approach. This can be facilitated through a different approach to budget allocation, job roles and responsibilities, and through better communication and understanding.

Top Tip

I imagine many of you reading this feel like there’s a big hill to climb. My advice is to start with 1 or 2 focus areas. Rome will not be built in a day, and you will exhaust yourself trying to address everything simultaneously. The last thing we need is burnout and low wellbeing amongst the population of employees hired to reduce and eliminate it! Take care of yourselves, the world of work needs you!

OPINION PIECE: Bobbi Hartshorne linkedin.com/in/bobbihartshorne