the difference between wellness and wellbeing

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Employee wellness has been a hot topic in HR circles over the last few years. With the rise of personal fitness trackers, stand-up desks, and initiatives to eat well, drink more water, and sleep enough, companies around the world have taken a stand and made a commitment to improve employee wellness. But for some reason, these initiatives haven’t quite had the effect that HR leaders hoped for.

Despite being a hot new business priority, they often struggle to impact overall employee wellbeing. So where is the disconnect? How are today’s programs lacking, and what can leaders do to truly encourage and empower wellbeing in order to strengthen teams and boost great work?

One of the largest mistakes today’s initiatives make is defining employee wellness simply as physical health. The programs currently in place address physical health as the greatest attribute of overall wellbeing—but recent research shows that isn’t the case. A global study by the O.C. Tanner Institute, surveying over 2,000 employees worldwide, shows that employee wellbeing is much more than just physical wellness.

Three fundamental dimensions of wellness (physical, social, and mental) actually impact overall employee wellbeing. But surprisingly, the research uncovers a wellness paradox showing that mental wellness has a higher impact on overall employee wellbeing than either social or physical wellness. This reveals one of the reasons that current wellness programs often fail to meet their goals, since most companies focus mostly on employee physical wellness. Instead, companies would do better to focus on creating an environment that improves mental wellness as well and empowers employees to be well at work.

The good news is, when companies truly help employees achieve greater wellbeing, the results are impressive. The benefits of boosted wellbeing are far-reaching for employees and companies alike. When wellbeing rises, employees who are holistically well are more productive. They have higher rankings of job satisfaction and tenure—and their intentions to stay with their current company are stronger. They are also better at innovating and performing great work, which delivers a difference for their teams and the company’s customers.

On June 29, join Gary Beckstrand, Vice President of the O.C. Tanner Institute, for a research-packed SHRM and HRCI certified webinar that delivers a better definition of employee wellbeing and key steps you can take to ignite its bottom-line results for your workforce and organization.

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