A Systemic Approach to Improving Organisational Wellbeing

Research shows that the connection between individual and organisational wellbeing is undeniable, and more to the point, extremely relevant to organisational performance.  

Did you know that the annual per-person cost of lost productivity for employee sickness varies markedly depending on whether an employee is thriving, struggling or suffering?  According to research by Gallup, the cost associated with sickness for those in the 'thriving zone' of wellbeing is $840 per year, those in the 'struggling zone' is $6,168 per year whilst for those in the 'suffering zone' the figure is a massive $28,800 per year.

Gallup suggests there are 5 universal elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering.   Further, these common elements transcend countries and cultures:

  • Career wellbeing: how you occupy your time (or simply liking what you do every day)
  • Social wellbeing: having strong relationships and love in your life
  • Financial wellbeing: effectively managing your economic life (more about financial security than income)
  • Physical wellbeing: having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis
  • Community wellbeing: the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live

Most significantly, these elements are interconnected - and 'to push one dimension at the expense of the other elements won't improve wellbeing very much'.  It is this interplay - along with the idea that wellbeing is not a static state - that makes wellbeing such an elusive, challenging goal.

So how might this research translate to organisational wellbeing?  

We propose that a healthy organisation exhibits financial, social and environmental sustainability.  There is immense value in integrating these (interconnected) components of wellbeing into the broader organisational strategy, rebalancing the interplay between the financial, social and environmental elements.

We see leaders who recognise this, take the following steps in building organisational wellbeing:

  1. Agree the scope of your organisation's obligation to support wellbeing - what interconnected elements will you pay attention to in the short, medium and long term?
  2. Design and offer sound mechanisms that will assist employees to maintain or improve their mental wellbeing - these options need to be seen as valuable to a wide population and allow for variations in appetite and preferences across groups and individuals, as a 'one-size-fits-all' is unlikely to achieve your purpose.
  3. Remove barriers to individuals making the choice to maintain or enhance their own wellbeing - this may mean creating a shared commitment by leaders to enhancing wellbeing as a means of sustaining  organisational performance.
  4. Given ongoing organisational renewal and change, integrate lessons learned about building organisational and employee wellbeing into your organisational strategy.

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