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Creating a Wellness Centered Culture at Work

Creating a Wellness Centered Culture at Work

Some people say that good bosses create more “wellness” than wellness plans do. Whether or not this is likely to be true is the subject of this brief article.

Many organizations today offer wellness and well-being initiatives and programs to employees and in a number of cases these even have financial incentives. For example, individuals may be asked to participate regularly in a corporate fitness program and get a bonus or complete this cholesterol screening, say, and get $100 added to his or her paycheck, for example. While some employees (and research says the younger and fitter ones in particular) love this, the uptake is slow and reluctant in general and the results appear to be hard to measure (especially in the medium to long term). 

Unfortunately one of the reasons that these wellness initiatives are not doing well is because they lack substance and commitment from the organization promoting them.  For example, asking employees to have blood tests, use a fitness tracker, go to the gym at least once a week and fill out well-being questionnaires can just add yet more “to-dos” to an already pressured schedule and even cause more stress. Add to this that the organization may not pay enough corresponding attention to taking proper rest breaks or eating a healthy lunch away from the desk and it’s therefore easy to see why many employees feel that the message is at least confusing and maybe not really about actual wellness or long-term workplace happiness for the individual. 

Many studies have shown over recent years that a positive work culture leads to improved employee loyalty, engagement, performance, creativity, and productivity, which all lead to greater wellness-both emotionally and in tangible physical terms. If an organization really therefore wants to put employee wellness at the center of their approach, perhaps the first factor to “craft” is the culture. Although this may well vary form one organization to the next, a wellness-oriented culture is likely to be characterized by being:

  • Open to communication in all directions
  • Optimistic and generous of spirit
  • Forgiving of employee mistakes (and empathetic)
  • Being kind and giving (especially in leaders)
  • Having high levels of trust and respect at all levels and across teams
  • Rewarding innovation and passion.

Naturally, all of the above needs to be “role-modeled” by leaders and not through policy approaches, wellness programs and temporary initiatives (such as poster campaigns and PR about the importance of wellness) but through basic and regular day-to-day actions. At a simple level, this might be a leader who is kind, empathic, and supportive of an employee who is experiencing family problems and needs time to sort things out or just a listening ear. In other words, every leader sets the tone for their organization, and their behavior determines whether interactions in their organization are characterized by trust, forgiveness, understanding, empathy, generosity, and respect.  Where this is not the case, even if it is only in a few leaders, wellness suffers. 

In summary, first and foremost, organizations are places where real individuals work and communicate together to get things done. In other words, they are places where social-interaction is central. If we therefore seek to create work environments that support these social interactions and make them as positive as we can, we create organizations that thrive and are prone to support a wellness-centered approach both individually and collectively.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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