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Workplace Wellbeing Agency to Bring Inclusive Wellness to SMEs

Workplace Wellbeing Agency to Bring Inclusive Wellness to SMEs
04 October 2021

Aiming to promote inclusive and measurable wellbeing to SMEs, Lee Chambers is sharing his experience of accessing corporate wellbeing as a young black man with Asperger's.

Ahead of this month's Black History Month, Lee said "As a young black male with Asperger's, I've found it difficult to access wellbeing when I needed it, and seen many others feel it's not for them. And as the owner of a videogame business previously, I struggled to quantify the impact or find quality wellbeing for my team."

To address this imbalance, Lee is looking to shake up the wellness movement with his own workplace wellbeing agency, an antidote to an industry that can appear to be "all about privilege, expensive smoothies and VIP retreats."


"There is no value in applying wellbeing to a toxic culture, so we assist with the process of embedding inclusion and psychological safety. This approach of treating the root cause is what we stand for; we don't want organisations wasting their money on wellbeing and thinking that it doesn't work."

–Lee Chambers

Founder, Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing


Inclusive Wellbeing for All


"The principle of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing was to improve wellbeing from both a businesses perspective and an employees experience," Lee said. "We are one of only a handful of Black-led workplace wellbeing companies in the UK."

Lee launched Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing at the beginning of 2020, combining his lived experience of relearning to walk and mental health challenges and his industrial experience and academic expertise, he desired to change the narrative.

He lost the ability to walk in 2014 after his immune system failed, leaving him hospitalised for a month and taking 11 months to walk a mile unaided, being back on his feet to take his daughter's first steps with her.

He surveyed hundreds of SMEs and found that data, budgets and engagement were often barriers to creating an effective wellbeing programme. Essentialise supports SMEs to harness what they currently have that can be utilised and identify what is needed to create a sustainable business case for wellbeing.

By removing the fluffiness from wellbeing and utilising metrics, companies can identify the outcomes desired and design their strategy with this in mind. Through working with Essentialise, businesses are able to measure what is currently working and what needs to evolve, moving wellbeing away from being "the right thing to do" to being "beneficial to both the business and every employee in it". Delivery is evidence-based, story-driven and skill-focused, meeting employees where they are at and demystifying what wellbeing means to them.


The Problem with Traditional Workplace Wellbeing


Workplace wellbeing is a rapidly growing industry as awareness of its impact on every aspect of a business is becoming increasingly clear. But with this comes significant challenges, as more than 50 per cent of SMEs do not have a wellbeing strategy helping them to design and structure what they deliver. This often leads to poor choices that are ineffective at best and an organisational risk at worst. 

The wellness movement, in general, has also received criticism for catering to a largely wealthy, white, privileged, able-bodied cohort. Indeed, the “wellness economy” was valued at more than $4 trillion in 2018, according to figures from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

Lee said: "At Essentialise we build inclusivity into every process, and work with our clients to do the same. There is no value in applying wellbeing to a toxic culture, so we assist with the process of embedding inclusion and psychological safety. This approach of treating the root cause is what we stand for; we don't want organisations wasting their money on wellbeing and thinking that it doesn't work."

The Preston-based company is also active when it comes to social impact. Over the past 12 months, it has worked for a number of charities for free, including delivery to two NHS trusts, hosted a positive health radio show for isolated communities, and supported local SEND schools with mentoring and careers advice. 

Lee concluded: "The past 18 months have highlighted just how important wellbeing is. And that is why it's so important that it is accessible, inclusive and effective, as we need wellbeing that works more than ever in this period of transition."

Lee has had a diverse career, working in corporate finance, elite sports and local government alongside his businesses PhenomGames and Essentialise, based in Preston. He regularly speaks on issues surrounding social equity and inequality and was voted as one of the Top 50 BAME Entrepreneurs Under 50 in 2020.

Picture: a photograph of Lee Chambers

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 04 October 2021


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