What, How, WHEN… Wellness in the Workplace

What, How, WHEN… Wellness in the Workplace

I recently attended a panel discussion about Wellness in the Workplace facilitated by Founder and Chief WHEN Officer, Randy Miller.

The conversation was dynamic, engaging – and also surprising to me that after 25+ years as an industry professional, there is still ambiguity around what wellness means.

Panelists at the event, sponsored by AZ BizLink, represented diverse areas and perspectives of employer wellness: an HR/Benefit director for a mid-size corporation bootstrapping health and wellness solutions, a financial wellness provider, a holistic practitioner providing pain-reduction programming solutions and an innovative fitness membership service provider.

Each brought a different view, and definition, of workplace wellness to the conversation.

This exemplifies one of multiple reasons I chose to join the WHEN Strategic Advisory Board (WSAB).

Wellness needs a new brand, word and delivery model that is action-oriented and embodies a holistic, personalized, “LIFE CAN BE BETTER” experience based on who a person is and where they are in their life.

Wellness is in need of WHENness!

On the heels of the event, I received a hot-off-the-presses white paper from the Global Wellness Institute Titled “Understanding Wellness: Four Global Forces Driving the Growth of the Wellness Economy”. I’ll weave some of these findings into my sentiments on why WHEN matters today more than ever.

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is recognized as a leading source for authoritative industry research and has commissioned and published many studies regarding this 4.2 trillion-dollar economy with $48 billion falling to Workplace Wellness.

The GWI defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. There are two important points here: 1) wellness is dynamic, not static and 2) wellness is holistic.

Since we are multidimensional beings, optimal wellness is cultivated when we find and sustain harmony and balance among all parts of life, from physical, emotional and social to vocational, financial, spiritual and other aspects. The takeaway: wellness is not just physical, not just financial – all aspects of life influence our health and well-being from moment to moment.

Randy highlighted a Gallup survey statistic suggesting that 16.5% of workers are “actively disengaged” at their jobs and that another 53% are “not engaged”.1 This is costing companies a serious amount of money at a time when there’s a labor shortage, retention concerns are a top priority and epidemic numbers of chronic diseases are escalating health care costs and causing lost productivity. We also have five different generations, with the oldest in their 70s to 90s, working side-by-side with different needs and values.

This all clearly spells OPPORTUNITY to solve a myriad of serious workplace issues, and do it differently because the traditional workplace wellness program is generally stagnant and underutilized.

Now more than ever, one size doesn’t fit all generations much less individuals when it comes to optimizing health and well-being.

Let’s look at two of the relevant forces driving the global wellness economy according to the GWI white paper just released:

1.The U.S. and the World, across all economic sectors, is experiencing rapid increases in lifestyle-related diseases, compromised mental health, loneliness and population aging.

These forces are resulting in consumers seeking, and paying, for different approaches and models in their personal lives to find greater health and happiness. The nearly 70% of all employees feeling some level of “disengagement” is a significant market share.

  • The World Health Organization cites 80% of lifestyle-related disease is connected to poor nutrition, inactivity, stress and tobacco use. In short, prevention is the code word – not if, but WHEN, and when is now. People are waking up to the fact that they can affect, if not control, their own health by the daily choices they make.
  • In 2017, approximately 15% of the world population reported mental health disorders and substance abuse cases. We know this is only a portion of the actual numbers because mental health and addiction often go unreported and treated and result in silent suffering.
  • Aging isn’t a problem, it’s a process. However, with later life comes an increased incidence of declining health, social isolation and a need for more supportive services. The United Nations, states that “population aging… is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society.”2 For all stakeholders, the important question is not about increasing lifespan but rather, how to match health span with lifespan.

coworkers working together

Life purpose matters in relation to health and happiness. WHEN’s Career pillar helps invigorate vocational engagement in a multigenerational workforce – whether it’s a 20-year-old or an 80-year-young employee.

The WHEN Being pillar (aka spiritual and emotional wellness) is also relevant here, given the startling reality of mental health issues across all ages.

2.Health systems are failing to keep up, while the economic burden rises.

Healthcare systems are not prepared to address the crisis of preventable chronic illness and mental illness. The impact is affecting employees and their families due to out of pocket costs, lost work and suffering as well as employers who face rising premiums, lost productivity and absenteeism.

The current healthcare model, based on the paradigm of conventional Western medicine, is increasingly seen as being broken – a model that costs too much and delivers too little. Global health expenditures reached $7.2 trillion in 2015 and have grown from 8.6% of global GDP in 2000 to 9.9% in 2015.3

The takeaway here and the relevance of WHEN’s Health pillar is that employees/consumers can find solutions that are more holistic and prevention-oriented than prescriptive and reactive.

Affordability is also a key factor. WHEN provides personalized, affordable and effective guidance that is delivered by naturopathic physicians. This empowers the individual to take charge of their situation in partnership with an expert who is focused on the whole person.

The workforce wellness panel discussion also engaged the audience in a query on whether wellness is the employer’s responsibility to provide and pay for, or whether it’s the individual’s responsibility.

The raised hands were balanced and a few leaned toward both.

If we look at today’s workforce, you’ll see Boomers who have driven consumer demand for integrative health, organic food and eastern oriented mind/body practices. You’ll find millennials comprising 31% of the workforce, caring a great deal about experiences over consumption and seeking autonomy, authenticity and health and wellness for people and the planet. Gen Xers are in the mix, too.

Regardless of their ages and perspectives it seems the majority of people still working care about living happy, healthy, meaningful lives. This is a clear signal to employers that provide valued benefits because they will fare best when it comes to being acknowledged as an employer of choice.

I believe the three-pillar WHEN model represents what wellness means.

In the end, everyone wins when an employer is committed to employee wellness.

And WHEN is timely NOW.


  1. Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S.
  2. United Nations, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Aging. New York: United Nations. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_ Report.pdf
  3. WHO Global Health Expenditures data, as cited in World Bank, World Development Indicators, https://data. worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.CHEX.GD.ZS.

Diane Doster, WHEN Strategic Advisory Board Member, www.findyourwhen.com
Founder of Project Relevance, www.Projectrelevance.com

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