When I presented a concept for health management in my company 2 years ago, I was asked to rename it wellbeing concept. This is less old-fashioned and much better received internally.
Today Wellbeing has prevailed. Sometimes the feeling creeps up on me that not only the name has been modernised, but also the content has been changed. What exactly is Wellbeing? Do we need that at all? Or is it simply another fashion trend that HR is following? Don’t we already pamper our employees more than enough? Participate in something that doesn’t pay off, simply because it’s part of the good tone?
To find answers, I looked at a few recent articles on the subject. I also found a few other answers that I hadn’t been looking for at all.
What is Wellbeing?
Already with this question a well hidden, but highly relevant contradiction shows up in many of the examined articles. I like most of the definitions, for example
- Wellbeing is about how you feel in life (Bravo – the author name refers to the articles linked below)
- positive relationships, being healthy, financial security (Bravo)
- feeling supported, respected and included (Carter)
- FlexWork, good leadership, meaningful work, inclusive culture (Carter)
- physical, mental and emotional health (Shaw)
- to improve the psychological and physical well-being of employees (Freigang)
- a climate of trust and teams that promote the well-being of all (Freigang)
- open communication, FlexWork available and normalised, manager and peer support (MacLellan)
- culture of trust and absence of fear and paranoia (MacLellan)
Nevertheless, many companies still believe that health programs are aimed at employees with the sole purpose of helping them better withstand the inevitable stresses and strains:
- for employees who often work in stressful environments (Sharma)
- yoga, meditation, mindfulness and wellness (Freigang)
- help employees to improve their health and well-being through sustainable behavioural change (Freigang)
- workshops on stress, mental health, obesity, health checkups. Physical activity at team events. Promote health apps and wearables. Incentivise desired behaviour (Sharma)
- motivate employees to actively use the benefits on offer (Shaw)
Naturally, such and similar measures can also be part of a holistic health management system. And of course it is important that employees take responsibility for their own wellbeing (Shaw). Yet, as MacLellan states, these kinds of programs will do little to counter the negative effects of a fundamentally toxic work culture. A bit of mindfulness training over lunch will not help against constant, excessive stress (Freigang).
So it’s less about things, benefits, gadgets. But what else? Maybe more about feelings, fun, purpose, positive vibrations?
Wellbeing is a strategic business issue
So do we agree? Wellbeing is not only about the individual employee but also about the company.
There are still a few companies that behave downright anticyclically. They think, for instance, Wellbeing is a pretext for low performers (Carter). For many companies, however, Wellbeing has even become a strategic topic today.
What are the reasons for this?
Research shows that employees are more stressed now than ever before (Hearn, Freigang). Yet, high productivity is not possible unless employees are both physically and mentally healthy (Sharma).
Similarly, the positive impact of health programmes is now widely recognised (Shaw) and they also enhance employer image (Benenden).
In many places, this insight is also making its way. Instead of inviting employees to yoga and wellness or to expensive retreats: Could it make more sense to tackle those work-related issues that lead to burnout, anxiety and disease in the first place (MacLellan)?
Strategically relevant, okay. But do wellbeing programs also pay off?
According to Bravo, organizations where employees feel comfortable have outperformed the stock market by 2-3% annually over the past 25 years. Wellbeing is a key determinant of productivity and performance (Benenden, Shaw).
Bravo also notes that organizations promoting health and wellbeing are 3.5 times more likely to be creative and innovative. Greater commitment, better performance, more diversity and fewer absences and burnouts are other effects.
I find it strange that the customers‘ wellbeing is never even mentioned, neither from a strategic nor a financial point of view. Since, to a large extent, wellbeing for customers is only created when employees are healthy and feel well, this is a key argument for me.(strange that the customers‘ wellbeing (and how it is created by the staff’s wellbeing) is not discussed anywhere)
And now: how can wellbeing be produced, promoted and supported within the company?
Without going into the details here, I would like to mention the most important points, which are also mentioned in the discussed articles.
Many companies simply implement one or the other measure. So they are hardly interested in what the employees really need and what would really benefit them. It is certainly not an idea to ask them what they want (Archer).
All the ideas must then grow into a comprehensive, sustainable whole (Benenden – here you can download a good guide that takes you through implementing a wellbeing strategy).
Leaders must champion wellbeing
Sounds so easy, but it’s the most frequently cited sticking point. Why actually? For a strategically relevant topic, the full commitment of management should be a matter of course. Does the stigma of the wimp still play a role when someone actively campaigns for health?
Leading by example
Top and middle management must also adopt healthy behaviours in order to promote a healthy corporate culture (Sharma). Also highly interesting is the statement that self-care leads to „other-care“ (Bravo). If you look after yourself you automatically pay more attention to the health of the team and act as a role model.
Organisations cannot prescribe wellbeing, but they can give leaders the necessary competences and tools (Bravo). Managers are the main determinants of how someone feels at work and how well they are (Benenden).
If actions that promote wellbeing are rewarded then trust and rapport between team members can thrive (Bravo).
So the creation of a wellbeing culture should be a common cause: Employers empower employees to become happier and more productive (Shaw).
Therefore, wellbeing is …
… not so much about what you offer, much more about what you live
… not so much about what you have, much more about how you are
… not so much about what you get for working here, much more about how you work
If you like this article, you might also be interested in «5 Mal Achtsamkeit im Unternehmen» (5 times mindfulness in your company).
Please feel free to disagree, elaborate, suggest, repudiate, hint, get upset, add, reply. Comments are always welcome. The goal is to provoke discussions.
Archer, Jeff: Workplace wellness in 2019: seven quick hacks to ensure maximum engagement LINK
Benenden (Hrsg.): Are you doing enough to support your employees‘ health and wellbeing? LINK
Bravo, Rob: Why wellbeing should be promoted in the workplace LINK
Carter, Paul: Standing up for the workplace wellbeing profession
Freigang, Caroline: «Ist ihr Ziel wirklich, das Leben der Mitarbeiter zu ändern?»
Hearn, Stuart: Five trends that will steer performance success in 2019
Sharma, Kapil: Ways to integrate health and wellbeing in employee lifestyle
Shaw, Nick: Why wellbeing in the workplace is a joint effort [