Is the wellbeing industry becoming bloated?

The wellbeing industry is feeling bloated, crowded and oversaturated, and I’m concerned it could be getting dangerous. 

The last few years has seen a huge boom in the number of wellbeing and mental health companies being established. 

And while that *should* be a good thing as in theory it means more avenues of support for those that most need it, I think it may actually be having a negative effect. 

It’s making an already confusing, complicated market even more so. 

The trouble is – every new company that pops up seems to be saying the same thing as those that have come before. 

The same vacuous marketing slogans which sound catchy, but in reality lack substance.

The same big smiley stock images being used from website to website.  

In lieu of solid, proprietary data (except for the Silicon Valley babies that can afford to do deep research), the same external, third party data is being used as a way of promoting company products. 

Generally – this means seeing Deloitte’s excellent, albeit now overused, “for every £1 invested in wellbeing, you’ll get £5 back” piece on every single website. 

If the wellbeing industry was Marvel’s Avengers then, well…it would mostly all be the same superhero

I’m not trying to sit atop a moral high ground here, taking a swipe at all those below. We’re just as much a part of this and have used all of the above at some point (and still do now) just as much as everyone else. But we’re making as conscious an effort as possible to move away from this and show our real point of difference in the market.

In many ways wellbeing support, particularly workplace wellbeing, is an industry still in its infancy, so it’s no wonder we’re all trying to figure out the best way to have an impact. 

But with a new company seemingly popping up weekly, it’s making it hard to distinguish between who’s legit, who’s actually high quality and who’s actually a difference maker?

Who will actually have an impact on people, performance and profit? 

Many claim record levels of product engagement or real tangible impact, but when you peel back the facade, it’s actually just clever marketing spin using data that you have to squint at to see positive correlations and results. 

I’ve even seen some wellbeing businesses pop up that are offering unqualified Coaches so that they can offer competitive (read as: cheaper) rates compared to others in the industry. 

This is so incredibly dangerous. I doubt many of us would trust an unqualified doctor with our physical health, so why is it allowed with our mental health? 

If you needed brain surgery or a heart transplant, would you be happy to have a surgeon that wasn’t qualified? Or one that’s still in training? 

Of course you wouldn’t.

I’m not necessarily pointing the finger at these Coaches, as I’m sure the majority have the best of intentions. 

But life experience alone isn’t a good enough sole prerequisite for being able to offer proper safe, supportive, high-quality support to an individual needing help. 

When it comes to seeking support for our health – whether that’s physical or mental – quality and qualifications matter. So why is the wellbeing industry not afforded the same protections?

Because it’s woefully unregulated – there are few laws, policies or regulations in place to protect the mental health of those that really matter – the individuals getting care. 

It means any old person can whack “Coach” on their LinkedIn profile, or set up a wellbeing business, put Deloitte’s stats on their website and then claim to offer “high quality, life changing support.”

Given a wider macroeconomic environment where budgets are tight, my great concern is that the wellbeing industry is quickly becoming a race to the bottom.

With everyone scrapping around over price and not what’s important – competing on quality, safety and truly impactful care. 

Anybody else finding it a bit crowded and claustrophobic in here?

There shouldn’t be a monopoly in wellbeing and there are more than enough pieces of the pie for everyone, but my concern is too many have seen the opportunity available, and the thing that really matters – high-quality support for individuals – is being lost along the way as the mission to make money takes over. 

The whole thing is making it so, so hard for businesses and HR leaders to decide what the right support is for their people. 

Given all of the above, and the fact that budgets are tighter than ever, I think it’s going to be a turbulent time for an oversaturated market over the next 12-18 months. 

Sadly not all wellbeing businesses will survive, but my hope is those that haven’t lost sight of ethics, quality and genuine care will rise to the top – and we’ll all be able to push the industry forward together, collaboratively.

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