Wellbeing in the Workplace: Strategies that Work – Part Two

Callie RushtonEmployee Engagement, LeadershipLeave a Comment

This is the second of two blogs that explores the topic of wellbeing in the workplace. Previously, we illustrated why having a multifaceted wellbeing strategy is essential in today’s world of work. We explained why it’s important to first get employee feedback about what they’d like to see before you go about designing or revamping a wellbeing program. Here, we dive into specific strategies for addressing the five dimensions of wellbeing we consider at Newmeasures.

An effective well-being strategy in today’s world needs to be holistic and multi-faceted, addressing each of the five core dimensions of wellbeing: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual. (It also needs to be based upon what employees really want, as we explain in the previous blog).

Let’s take a closer look at what each dimension encapsulates and some things our workplaces can do to support each one.

1) Physical wellbeing. This is what has been referred to as “wellness” for decades and is probably the first component that comes to mind. It’s the process of engaging in healthy practices that benefit the body, such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

As we’ve indicated, organizations typically have focused the most on this dimension of wellbeing. Offering healthy snacks, gym memberships, and nutritional counseling are fairly common ways of encouraging employees’ healthy lifestyles. However, companies are also doing things to alter the work environment in a way that facilitates physical health, such as bringing in standing desks to combat the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, replacing harsh fluorescents with other alternatives that are less damaging to the eyes, and incorporating more greenery into the office to improve air quality. Organizations can also enforce appropriate work-life boundaries to help communicate to their people that they want them to engage in rest, relaxation, and recreation when they aren’t in the office.

2) Emotional wellbeing: While not discussed as much as physical wellbeing, this dimension is just as important when it comes to worker productivity and engagement. It’s the process of recognizing, expressing, and managing one’s full range of emotions, including coping with stress, developing self-esteem and belonging, and feeling like you have control in your life.

Some organizations have been supporting this dimension by creating designated spaces for relaxation or mindfulness, or by having scheduled meditation breaks throughout the week. They’ve also been offering more mental health services like counseling in their benefits plans.

But perhaps the best way to support emotional wellbeing is to return to relationship fundamentals. Imagine you were dealing with something difficult in your personal life: How would you feel after talking to a manager who was kind and understanding, versus one who didn’t seem to care at all? It can have a profound impact, so reminding managers that they serve an important role for their team members is a great first step. You may then consider training managers on how to skillfully navigate difficult conversations and how to support people who are coping with stress and change—like Baby Boomers entering retirement. Finally, organizations should take steps to foster a culture of recognition, as feeling appreciated for a job well done has a significant positive effect on emotional wellbeing. 

3) Social wellbeing: This dimension refers to the process of creating and maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships with those around us. Too often, organizations overlook the importance of social wellbeing in the workplace in the name of getting more done. But in reality, feeling lonely and isolated at work is detrimental not only to a person’s social wellbeing, but also to their work performance. Positive relationships are a source of trust, belonging, and collaboration—all key drivers of engagement.

Fortunately, even in a world of work that is increasingly virtual, there is a lot that an organization can do to support employees’ social wellbeing. Work celebrations and fun company outings are classic ways of doing this, but you might also encourage folks to create communities of interest, such as one for new parents or one for first-generation immigrants. Orienting these communities around diversity and inclusion or significant life events can create powerful social bonds for people sharing similar life experiences—and boost emotional health too, as people can support one another! Additionally, employers can incorporate open workspaces that facilitate teamwork, collaboration, and ideation to bring people together for the good of the organization.

4) Intellectual wellbeing: Your employees might be out of school, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need intellectual stimulation anymore. This dimension is the process of expanding your knowledge and competencies and participating in creative activities. 

Supporting this dimension may take the form of reimbursing employees who attend professional conferences or trainings. But it might also require some deeper work, such as facilitating opportunities for employees to work on projects with other departments. Seeing how different work groups operate can revitalize cross-functional collaboration in the workplace, as well as provide meaningful skill development to employees eager to learn and grow in their careers.

A “reverse mentoring” program may also be an effective strategy for enhancing intellectual wellbeing. In this system, traditional, experienced mentors are paired with a younger mentee, but the exchange of knowledge flows both ways. Each learns and benefits from the other: the employee receives helpful advice and valuable insight about what happens up the chain of command, and the executive gathers new ideas and is reminded of what it’s like for people outside of the boardroom.

5) Spiritual wellbeing: This final dimension of wellbeing refers to the process of discovering purpose and meaning in life and living a fulfilling life consistent with our values and beliefs.

This may seem like it’s beyond the scope of an organization’s responsibility, as spirituality is often considered a deeply personal thing. But in reality, many employees today are motivated to come on board because they are inspired and motivated by an organization’s mission, as they view their work as a means of finding personal fulfillment and purpose. By ensuring that your organization is regularly communicating the mission in an inspiring way and truly embodying the organizational values it heralds, organizations can play a major role in supporting spiritual wellbeing.

As a more tangible solution, some organizations have begun offering employees a certain number of days off to participate in volunteer activities that are meaningful to them. Allowing for this can actually help people feel more committed and engaged when they return to work, even if their volunteer effort was unrelated to their day-to-day job. (And for a three-in-one solution? Consider organizing a charitable 5K with your whole team to promote spiritual, social, and physical wellbeing all at once!)

Building on that last point, you may have begun to see that each of these dimensions is deeply interconnected. It’s not hard to have one part of your wellbeing program address multiple dimensions at once—which is great! As the purpose is to create a holistic approach, finding synergies between strategies and dimensions is a worthwhile approach to take.