Wellness London’s Co-founder Philip Jones on why Wellness has always been the way forward.
Philip Jones co-founded Wellness London alongside Kim Johnson some years back now. It was an unusual move for this self-confessed Fitness Fanatic and former Accountant, who unlike many fellow trainers in his field saw his future in the new market of corporate wellness, rather than a gymnasium.
Philip, Why Corporate Wellness? A relatively new concept to the UK market, surely a much greater risk than opening a gym or fitness studio?
We wanted to make an immediate difference. The fantastic thing about employee-wellness is that it did not require a large scale facility or technology platform to begin. We jumped from our previous careers, found extremely enthusiastic and wholehearted support in ex-clients for financial backing (all of whom had been in the financial/legal corporate world and recognised the need for such a service) and hit the ground running. Within a month we had secured an annual contract with a private investment bank because we know, we understand, we have helped and supported corporate workers for a combination of 30 years between us. We haven’t looked back. It was a new and incomparable market, with only our friends across the ponds supplying such an offering. The needs of the UK workers are similar yet different. It is so utterly rewarding to have a company that teaches people how to be well at work as well as home and bring about such cultural, positive change to a workplace.
What is the main difference between Fitness and Wellness?
Fitness is one aspect of Wellness. There are so many other aspects that makeup Wellbeing. Physical fitness, Nutrition, Posture, Musculoskeletal Health: these are the things employees tend to be more comfortable addressing within reason. Mental Health, Finances, Family and Friendships, Communities, Beliefs, all these things massively contribute to overall Wellness. The research on Blue Zones by Dan Buettner offers a fascinating insight into what Wellness means over simply fitness alone. Pockets of people across the world whose life expectancy is 10 years+ that than the rest of the world. We try to bring the archetype of Blue Zones to our wellness programmes as they address as of those described above.
Over the past few years, since starting Wellness London, what are the key lessons you have learnt regarding Wellness in the workplace?
Certain areas of wellness are easier to “sell” to employees in the beginning. As mentioned, employees are often more comfortable speaking about their physical wellbeing in the first instance. This is no bad thing as musculoskeletal issues accounts for a large proportion of health insurance claims, however, this may be because people are more open to addressing these issues. Our clinics in osteopathy, physiotherapy, reflexology, massage…they trigger employees to address their physical issues thus helping prevent them from becoming chronic problems (and large insurance issues or causes of absence). Nutrition is also a very open door.
Mental health, more personal aspects of wellness, can be more of a challenge to really sell to employees. Often the fear of others judgement, particularly that of managers and senior-level executives can make them think twice. We overcome this with great success in a. number of ways. Senior buy-in is so imperative: managers must encourage and support employees to take this preventative stand. Also by visiting the physical health sessions, our highly skilled therapists encourage and signpost them the right way.
Time and proper investment are vital to wellness programmes being a true success. No assumptions. We used to offer employee surveys but our vast experience has taught us there are much more effective ways of listening to employees.
Do your clinics and courses and other offerings see as many men participating as women?
In mental health? Initially no. In truth, men remain more reserved when dealing with emotional and mental health but that is our job to be creative in our planning to make sure we attract the men as well as the women. So far, we have been very successful in overcoming this hurdle. Different workplaces are different in uptake but many of our clients are in the traditionally alpha world of finance where some stereotypes ring true. I like the challenge of overcoming these issues.
Do you see the same uptake from senior executives as you do more junior employees?
It depends on the company. We encourage wellness programmes to be aimed at all levels as a large part of wellness is the sense of community and sharing rather than separating the echelons. We also find companies can put a lot of focus on exec attendance, understandably as they are costly to a company. However, we again encourage the sense of community. If an executive’s EA is well, calm, empowered over his or her health, then the associated Exec will be positively affected. Execs tend to have less consistent schedules but also, with a perhaps more disposable income they may already be seeing a number of wellness specialists and find it easier to leave the office to do this. There are so many variables to think about, it’s about looking at them and applying logic rather than trying to control them.
And there is a key lesson: We advise and impart our experience and knowledge to the companies we partner with but we do not try to control the employees. Not everyone will want to do a step challenge. Not everyone will want to go to a Mindfulness Class. Many will not want yet another app to use or have to log their daily activities. Time reveals needs. Face to face.
With the times of change upon us: a focus on women in the workplace, equality, corporate social responsibility, are employers starting to see Employee Wellness as a must-have?
It’s becoming a priority. We still aren’t there quite yet, but over the last few years it has become more and more so and we see this in the number of companies reaching out to us and also the growth and evolution of the programmes we provide to our current customers. Budgets for workplace wellness are becoming more than a nice gesture. Wellness is more than a bowl of fruit on a Friday. Companies are recognising the benefit of empowering employees over their own health, making them far more productive and more importantly happy at work. Employees are the best form of marketing you can have. Happy employees make a company thrive, more than any multi-million-pound advertising campaign. Wellness programmes are such a relatively minor cost but produce big results.
What makes Wellness London stand out from the growing market of competitors?
We welcome the rise of competitors in our field: it shows our market is growing and there are so many companies out there, it’s a great thing. It’s our experience and passion: both Kim and I wholeheartedly practise what we preach. We both focus intently on our own wellness and what we need to work on and ensure all of our wellness team do the same. You cannot run a wellness company if you don’t. We believe very much that whilst technology is good for many things, with wellness, the human factor wins throughout. Our 1:1 clinics are so very popular because of space, privacy and human feel they give, away from the screen.
We have also never believed in adding a few zeros to our fees just because “corporate” is in the title. Wellness is something continuous and regular. I have never understood companies and specialists who try to justify charging so much more simply because the client is a company rather than an individual. You have to stick to your ethics and principles.
So what are your current personal wellness interests and goals?
Physically I am working on my flexibility and movement through Yoga, a big change from my years of more weight based training. I’m currently using Alo Moves to complete my daily practice where possible, usually the instructor Patrick Beach who is a key influencer in the wellness scene. Nutrition wise I have always been relatively consistent in eating clean, following an 80:20 perspective. I do enjoy dark chocolate (we even do a seminar involving dark chocolate to teach mindful eating!). Like my fellow males as mentioned above, I am perhaps guilty of not placing enough emphasis on mental health practices in my overall wellbeing. I tend to achieve my Mindfulness through my exercise. I occasionally read though not as much as I would like. I have attended an 8-week Mindfulness course to understand it and I’ve used Headspace intermittently but hands-up, I need to do more!
Wellness is a constant evolution!
Contact Wellness London for more information on their programmes and services.