Do you need an office 'wellbeing floor' like Diageo?

FTSE 100 drinks giant Diageo is pumping money into wellbeing facilities for staff. Should you do the same or is it money down the drain?

by Kate Magee

When Diageo was moving from its old headquarters on the outskirts of London, to a new office in the heart of Soho, the pandemic hit, bringing with it a permanent shift to working patterns. The FTSE 100 drinks giant, which owns Smirnoff, Baileys and Guinness, had to rip up its design plans and start again.

The new office now includes a whole floor dedicated to the wellbeing of its staff. It houses a studio that runs health and wellness sessions including mindfulness, meditation and light exercise classes. There's a massage therapist and even a schedule for breast examinations.

But as staff return to Diageo’s office, the challenge is getting them to use the facilities. This tale cuts to the heart of the issue around corporate wellbeing policies - are they actually effective?

The rise in corporate wellness 

The corporate wellness industry has certainly risen at a fast rate. According to research by Market Research Future, in the US, the market was valued at $57.3 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $109.4 billion by 2030. Nearly two thirds of US employers say staff wellbeing is one of their top priorities over the next few years, according to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey.

In the current talent crisis, businesses are looking at ways to retain and attract the best talent. Offering staff better health and wellbeing support is one way to try and tackle the rise in mental health issues, the burnout epidemic and historically low productivity rates in the UK.

Diageo, known for its forward-thinking HR initiatives, has fully embraced the area. “We've put together a wellbeing philosophy at Diageo and divided that into four areas. There's social wellbeing, mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and financial wellbeing,” Diageo’s chief HR officer Louise Prashad tells MT.

“Interestingly, we set it up before the cost of living crisis and inflation issue. We've been thinking about how to equip individuals with the tools and line manager support to take control of these areas for themself.”

Last year, Diageo became the first global FMCG company to make the Unmind mental health app available to all its 27,000 global employees that provides everything from interactive courses, in-the-moment exercises and science-backed assessments to help with areas including sleep, nutrition and coping with stressors.

Other large companies including Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft have made similar moves, with doctors, optometrists, pharmacists, chiropractic and physical therapy and massages all on tap for their staff.

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