Are sharks and gorillas the key to beating workplace stress?

Rising workplace stress among younger workers has seen a massive increase in spending by UK businesses on team retreats ranging from shark diving to gorilla treks.

A survey by Deloitte revealed around three quarters of workers (77%) claimed to have suffered burnout in their current role – a figure which rises to 84% among millennials.

In turn, research by workforce performance giant CR Worldwide – drawing on data from 287,000 employees at 120 major firms – has seen employers invest heavily in out-of-office nature breaks for their teams.

The growing range of ‘corporate wellness’ initiatives on the market has seen a substantial year-on-year spending increase of 22% by UK firms.

Animal encounters are proving an area of particular growth after showing an increase of 56% this year, due in part to human-animal interactions being proven to reduce stress and have therapeutic effects on mental health.

That has seen firms investing in experiences ranging from orangutan treks in Borneo to working with endangered rhinos in Rwanda. Husky sledging is among the top 5 Christmas corporate travel activities for UK firms, who are spending an average of £3,100 per person, per trip, according to CR Worldwide’s data.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is one firm which has invested in a trip of this type for key workers.

Spokesman Amelia Potter said: “Sales people increasingly value activity and nature-based trips with social experiences they can share online.

“Our recent travel incentive to South Africa saw top-performers visit game reserves and penguin colonies and take part in interactive drumming.

“We created video montages and photos to share on employee social media feeds. It’s part of a growing trend to build health and ‘wellbeing’ into corporate travel.”

And David Gould, CEO at CR Worldwide, believes that companies’ awareness of staff wellbeing is increasing – and the rewards on offer are increasingly creative.

He said: “Employers have been investing in gyms or chill-out spaces in the workplace for a few years now, but new data shows that corporations are now increasingly investing in employee wellbeing outside the workplace by offering rewards from extra time off to company-sponsored jungle treks.

“This reinforces recent evidence of the widening scope of so-called ‘corporate wellness’ initiatives from employee counselling services to international retreats.

“The main drivers include a growing need to recruit a younger workforce that believes companies should care about their overall wellbeing, as well as the pressure to counter rising workplace stress, which has an impact on productivity.”

Other rewards being offered by employers to their teams include employee gift schemes, which grew by 44% last year, and bonus holiday time; an extra day off was the most common employee reward in the world in 2019.