Employees are human beings that bring their whole selves to work

The research into the connection between employee wellbeing and company performance just keeps on growing and the results all point in the same direction: employee wellbeing has a critical impact on numerous areas of business performance. For example, low wellbeing results in higher levels of absence and presenteeism and has an influence on employee retention [1].

Harvard business review came to the following definition of workplace wellbeing [2]:

“An organized, employer-sponsored program that is designed to support employees (and, sometimes, their families) as they adopt and sustain behaviors that reduce health risks, improve quality of life, enhance personal effectiveness, and benefit the organization’s bottom line” .

I love this one as workplace wellbeing relates to all aspects of (working) life, from the quality and safety of the physical work environment, employees’ overall physical and mental health, to how employees feel about their current job, their work environment, their peers and supervisor and the culture of the organization. As you can see that is a very broad topic and even moves beyond work as employees are human beings that bring their whole selves to work. If things at home are not working well, that will spill over into the work environment and vice versa.
The bottom line question related to Employee Health and Wellbeing is: How do we as an organization shape a work-environment where our employees come to work with energy and motivation to do their jobs AND leave our offices with energy to engage in meaningful non-work related activities, while staying healthy throughout?. If you would like to take this one step further you could set yourself a goal to help employees advance and increase their wellbeing levels becoming better, happier and healthier versions of themselves every day.

To which department does workplace wellbeing belong?

For me this is always an interesting question in an organization; where in the organizational structure does workplace wellbeing sit. Naturally we find it back either at HR or Health and Safety departments, neither of which have strong backgrounds in the science of wellbeing. HR has always been about resource management and generally takes a more organizational perspective dealing with the actual work that needs to be done. The occupational health professionals originally have a strong background in physical health and safety of the workplace and covered topics like work related illness, ergonomics, material safety and absentee management. Since the last decade we see a shift and upcoming and a broader focus on health promotion, mental health and overall employee wellbeing. A shift from case management and risk reduction to prevention, promotion and organizational culture. Not always an easy shift…
We strongly believe that in order for Workplace Health and wellbeing approaches to become successful both HR and Occupational Health should work together on an integrated and holistic strategy that combines both talent and career management with employee health and wellbeing, creating a more mutually beneficial work-environment where both personal and business success go hand in hand. They win and you win, they are happy, you are happy, simple isn’t it? As simple as it sounds, it’s hard work to get done, try to work together with another department with other goals and objectives, I hear you think…

Here is where you start:

  • 0. Define Workplace Health and wellbeing
    What does this mean for your organization? How does it relate to your company values, goals? Based on that definition create a H&W profile as a base. (make sure recruitment hires based on that profile and L&D develops on it.)
  • 1. Break silos and join forces
    Talk together as HR, Occupational Health, safety or change and culture professionals.
    Where can you advance each other and where do you strive for the same outcomes? Where do you see issues that can relate to workplace wellbeing? How can you create Win-wins? Healthy food and sport activities will never make up for a toxic work environment or a horrible job without autonomy. A practical office will not make up for toxic relationships. The chance to develop and have a meaningful contribution will not make up for unhealthy lifestyles. We too often think in silos and responsibilities, and just as safety or quality can’t be approached in isolation, employee wellbeing can’t either.
  • 2. Dedicate resources to create traction
    Our (work)lives are busier than ever and doing another project on the side won’t get you there. So, dedicate resources if you believe wellbeing is important and put your money where your mouth is. If you need data on the impact of investing in health and wellbeing, check our blog about it here.
  • 3. Know what you don’t know
    Workplace wellbeing is a relatively new domain where lots of new information and knowledge is created. Make sure that resources that will engage in your wellbeing strategy are upskilled on the latest evidence and insights. Integrated talent management, Positive Psychology and Occupational Health studies that focus on physical and mental health prevention and promotion are the domains you would want to invest in.
  • 4. Check where you are now
    Good strategies are backed up by both qualitative and quantitative data. Take the temperature in your organization by talking to people at various levels about whether the company cares for their wellbeing and their employability and what would help them to manage their own wellbeing and careers better. Investigate your wellbeing problems by looking at absence data and engagement scores through a wellbeing lens. Consider your companies rates of smoking, obesity, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, depression, perceived stress levels and diabetes & heart disease.
  • 5. Start small
    Rome wasn’t built in a day as well and developing solid strategy and shifting a culture will take you years. Set initial achievable goals based on what is most important to address first and start small: e.g. raise awareness and offer space to talk about wellbeing at work. Investing in training around Energy management and resilience for your leadership can also kickstart the conversation around it at the right level.

Want some more strategies for implementing health and wellbeing at your company continue to read here.


[1] / Job Satisfaction and Psychological Well-Being as Nonadditive Predictors of Workplace Turnover April 2007 Journal of Management 33(2):141–160


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