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  • Writer's pictureFelicity Baker

What is wellbeing?

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Mother & daughter meditating on what is wellbeing
What is wellbeing?

This may seem a strange question. We all have our own sense of what is wellbeing. But you may be surprised to hear that there is no clear agreed consensus on what it is.

Despite this, businesses are increasingly recognising the benefits of employee wellbeing to productivity, retention and team working. As such, more and more employers are seeking to implement initiatives that support and enhance wellbeing in the workplace.

But without a clear understanding of what wellbeing is, how can they know these interventions are achieving the required outcomes? Here we explore the concept of wellbeing and discuss how to set workplace priorities for greater impact.

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing means different things to each of us. The concept can encompass various aspects of our lives, including physical and mental health, social relationships, our financial situation, our community experience, and our overall life satisfaction.

Due to the complexity and subjectivity of the concept, there is no universally agreed-upon definition of wellbeing. Indeed, our sense of wellbeing depends on our own personal perspective, and is influenced by our unique experiences, values and aspirations.

Wellbeing is also a dynamic process that can change over time. It can be influenced by life events, transitions and personal growth. What contributes to an individual's wellbeing at one point in their life may not be the same as at another point, further complicating its definition and measurement.

What is wellbeing reading to your dog

All these factors mean that wellbeing can be difficult to understand and to measure in a systematic way. This can be a problem when attempting to improve workplace wellbeing. It can be hard to identify a benchmark against which to measure current levels of wellbeing and to compare the effectiveness of different wellbeing interventions.

Challenges to improving workplace wellbeing

The lack of consensus on a clear definition of wellbeing has implications for improving workplace wellbeing in a number of ways:

1. Lack of Clarity

Without a clear understanding of what constitutes wellbeing in the workplace, organisations can struggle to develop targeted strategies and initiatives that make a meaningful difference to employee health and experience.

2. Measurement

Consistent measurement is crucial for evidence-based decision-making and continuous improvement. And yet, the absence of a standardised definition means that measuring and evaluating workplace wellbeing accurately is problematic. Without clear criteria, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of interventions, compare results across organisations, or track progress over time.

3. Varying Priorities

Different stakeholders often have diverse priorities when it comes to workplace wellbeing. For instance, employees, management or customers may view work-life balance, mental health or career development as most important. The lack of a shared definition can add a further layer of confusion and hinder consensus on where to allocate resources.

4. Inconsistent Implementation

A clear definition of wellbeing would help guide the development and implementation of support programs. But without this definition, organisations may lack a cohesive strategy, implementing ad hoc or piecemeal initiatives. This approach can lead to fragmented efforts, inconsistencies across departments or teams, and limited effectiveness.

5. Benchmarking

Without a common understanding of wellbeing, organisations may face challenges in benchmarking their efforts against industry standards or best practices. This hampers the ability to learn from successful approaches implemented by other organisations and limits the exchange of knowledge and expertise.

Defining your workplace wellbeing priorities

In the face of these challenges, organisations need to make collaborative efforts to develop a shared understanding of workplace wellbeing. This means engaging stakeholders from various levels across the organisation, as well as consulting industry experts, researchers and policymakers.

A well-designed workplace wellbeing assessment will provide important insights into employee needs and priorities. Establishing an understanding of your wellbeing priorities will help you to identify key aims for the short, medium and long term. These aims can be used to form the basis of your workplace wellbeing strategy and to set targets to measure progress.

Help to build lasting workplace wellbeing

If you need help to create sustainable and lasting workplace wellbeing in your organisation, get in touch for a consultation. Our Thrive package incorporates all the elements you need to develop your strategy and start making a real difference to your employees.


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