Why Modern Well-Being Programs Embrace an Expansive Approach
By: Mady Peterson
When you hear the phrase “whole-person well-being,” it’s easy to nod along. After all, it’s logical that our health depends on other aspects of our lives. But for many companies, the definition of well-being stops at the physical, leaving employees to fend for their work, emotional and financial well-being on their own.
A feeling of isolation is just as much a threat to employee engagement and workplace well-being as unhealthy employees. In fact, the first might lead directly to the latter.
Whatever walls that may or may not have existed between work and life are certainly thinner now. Taking an expansive view of well-being accepts that and extends to address inclusion, burnout and turnover alongside preventative check-ups and steps challenges.
When the Limeade Institute looked into the mindset of employees, we found that 98% of people who experience so-called intangibles like openness, resilience and purpose have well-being in their lives, compared to just 44% who do not. That 41-point swing shows just how valuable it can be to embrace a broad definition of well-being.
What is whole-person well-being?
Whole-person well-being is a holistic approach to well-being that invests just as much in people’s emotional and financial health as their physical health. Where wellness programs in the past focused on the body, trying to get employees to burn calories or check in with their doctors, modern well-being programs focus on the person. This whole-person approach seeks to alleviate stresses and increase positive experiences, knowing that both are key not just to worker productivity, but to worker health and the claims costs that come along with it.
At Limeade, we help organizations support an expansive definition of well-being — a person’s physical, emotional, financial and work life including their sense of inclusion, engagement and risk for burnout — because truly infusing well-being into work is the only way to create positive outcomes that last. A sense of belonging, being empowered and psychologically safe, feeling like your whole and unique self is included, all of these are pivotal to people’s overall well-being and the ways they show up at work.
Why is whole-person well-being important?
In many ways, 2020 served to prove just how important whole-person well-being really is. The data is alarming: 43% of employees said they’ve become physically ill as a result of work-related stress since the onset of COVID-19 and 72% of employees said they were burned out in 2020 — a 30-point increase from 2019.
Employers who focused their efforts on the physical, washing hands and recognizing symptoms, would have done nothing for the mounting stress and its disastrous side effects. It’s no wonder 93% of workers say the companies that survive COVID-19 will be the ones that invest in employee mental health, per the Ginger study above.
See how Limeade helps employees focus on gratitude:
Successful well-being programs need to take into account the whole modern employee experience — including the lack of purpose, the loneliness and the need to create connections. By making employees feel included and cared for, they will address happiness and health in the process.
How can my company adopt the whole-person approach to well-being?
To meet employees where they are and care for their well-being, companies must take a holistic approach. This will mean expanding the scope of any well-being program to include activities around stress management, financial health and belonging.
Inclusion is a perfect example of an area that may feel unrelated, but that has a huge effect on employee well-being. According to research from the Limeade Institute, employees who experience a sense of inclusions are 19% more likely to have greater well-being in their lives. And yet 40% of employees felt isolated at work in a recent EY report.
With the science on the subject clear, Limeade has added our action-oriented inclusion solution to our well-being solution, enabling our customers to survey their employees and serve a suite of activities designed to help people build relationships and a sense of purpose.
Measuring the value of the whole-person approach
These successes can be measured in all kinds of different ways. Claims costs may be the most meaningful of those metrics, but they’re a trailing indicator of employee health. With a whole-person approach to health, you can get ahead of issues by measuring what matters — things like team stress and burnout — before they become a problem.
See how Limeade can help organizations spot and address burnout:
Whole-person well-being fundamentally changes the game, giving HR leaders new tools for addressing employee well-being. That more expansive understanding makes it possible to tailor your solutions to what works best for your people. If they respond to steps challenges, offer that. And if they respond to stress management, offer that as well. The goal is always the same: to support employee well-being and improve health and productivity in the process.