Rajdeep Goswami, IOCL


“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” ~John F. Kennedy

Health and well-being in the workplace have become common topics in the mainstream media, in practitioner-oriented magazines and journals and, increasingly, in scholarly research journals. There exists a vast but surprisingly disjointed and unfocused body of literature across diverse fields that relate directly or indirectly to health and well-being in the workplace. This literature addresses health and well-being from physical, emotional, psychological and mental perspectives. Because of the broad domain reflected in this literature, there is also considerable variation in the meanings and definitions attached to the term’s health and well-being. Despite this lack of clarity, however, employee health and well-being in the workplace are important concerns that should continue to receive attention. In addition, these experiences also “spillover” into non-work domains. Workers spend about one-third of their waking hours at work and don’t necessarily leave the job behind when they leave the worksite. Indeed, the overlap between non-work and work has become a popular research area, with the recognition that a person’s work and personal lives are not separate entities but, instead, interrelated and intertwined domains having reciprocal effects on each other.

Health and well-being can refer to the actual physical health of workers, as defined by physical symptomatology and epidemiological rates of physical illnesses and diseases. The second is that health and well-being can refer to the mental, psychological, or emotional aspects of workers as indicated by emotional states and epidemiological rates of mental illnesses and diseases. Adding to these two person-related dimensions are the societal dimensions of health and well-being, such as alcoholism and drug abuse rates and their consequences. Diener (1984) has used the term “subjective well-being” to describe a person’s overall experience in life and suggested that it essentially reflects a person’s self-described happiness. First, well-being has been defined by external criteria as some “ideal condition” that differs across cultures. Second, subjective well-being has been labelled as life satisfaction because, in attempts to determine what leads to the positive evaluation of life, researchers have discovered that this subjective form of happiness is a global assessment of the quality of one’s life guided by a person’s own set of criteria. Third, the meaning of happiness is used to denote a preponderance of positive affect (e.g., being energetic, excited, and enthused) over negative affect (e.g., anger, disgust, guilt, depression) and this is how happiness is generally used. Aside from interactions with personality traits and other factors, stress per se is also recognized as an important component and major problem of an everyday life-threatening individual, organizational, and societal health. Stress-related disability claims, for example, are now the most rapidly growing form of occupational illness within the workers’ compensation system.

The nature of work is changing, and some changes may have a considerable effect on worker well-being. On the one hand, new practices that are being adopted to promote employee well-being (e.g., non-standard employment arrangements) can also foster team member engagement and improved performance, and the evidence base for the effectiveness of workplace wellness and health-promotion programs is growing. On the other hand, today’s emphasis on technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics may create new challenges for workers’ well-being and health. For example, the growing gig economy (i.e., a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work rather than part-time or salaried employment) means that workers are less likely to have many of the benefits of employment and more likely to have job insecurity than they did in the past, which can lead to increased stress and negative health outcomes

A lot of simple ways can be incorporated to help focus activity on engaging everyone on the issue of wellbeing in the workplace to remove the stigma around mental ill-health, educating managers and the wider workforce about mental health awareness and embedding good practise and the right support processes. There are 5 major workplace wellness statistics that every employer should know:

  • Wellness programs improve employee health behaviours
  • Wellness programs reduce elevated health risks
  • Wellness programs reduce healthcare costs
  • Wellness programs improve productivity
  • Wellness programs can decrease absenteeism

Employee wellness. What was once a segment of the benefits package offered to employees, has today become a non-negotiable priority for businesses that hope to sustain and grow in the long run. Fueled by the outbreak of the coronavirus, people safety is now accompanied by severe warnings to address the mounting mental health concerns, over and above the physical well-being of employees. While holistic wellness had begun to make its relevance felt across businesses much before the pandemic, what has emerged as the most critical component of the wellness umbrella today is mental wellness.

Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index report brought how the pandemic impacted well-being at work globally with five key findings: 

  • The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others
  • Causes of workplace stress differ for Firstline and remote workers
  • Six months in, there are more communications and fewer boundaries
  • No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity
  • Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday

According to the report, over 30% of first-line and information workers stated the pandemic has increased their feelings of burnout at work. The report also highlighted that everyone is experiencing this time differently—44% of those in Brazil are feeling more burned out compared to 31percent in the US and 10% in Germany. In terms of how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout—workers in Australia saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams (45%), with a medium increase in burnout. While workers in Germany saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout. Among all the surveyed markets globally, India was found to have the longest workday span.  According to a CDC report, “During the first quarter of 2020, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50%, compared with the same period in 2019, with a 154% increase in visits noted in surveillance week 13 in 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.” How these numbers and healthcare benefits for scale and evolve will unfold in due time. 

From organizations like Oyo, L’Oréal offering an extended weekend on Independence Day, to Google offering an extended weekend with Labor Day, several organizations stepped up to the occasion and recognized the need to value the mental well-being of employees and give them an extra day-off. Some even introduced a new working culture with ‘Meeting Free Days’ and no calls after 7 PM’. 

Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head of HR (Global) & Corporate Quality, CSS Corp, highlighted the importance of building minds that are focused, empowered and fit and shared a host of initiatives that the organization undertook. “Our exclusive CHEER framework (where ‘C’ stands for Communicating with employees, ‘H’ for Highlighting their accomplishments, ‘E’ for Energizing them, ‘E’ for Engaging with them, and ‘R’ for Recognizing and Rewarding them) and initiatives to ensure multi-channel employee connect and employee assistance, not only put a smile on our employees’ visage but heightens their mental strength.

Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report states, “The incorporation of well-being into work must be done symphonically, championed by leaders at every level and in every function if it is to make a meaningful difference. As technology becomes ingrained in every aspect of how people work, technology leaders will face a growing responsibility to work with HR and the business to ensure that those technologies, and the workflows and processes that complement them, are designed and executed in a way that promotes worker well-being.”

Well-being overall has a direct impact on every single part of an employee life cycle, recognizing its importance and making wellness programs an indispensable part of every workplace should be integral for every organization. With several fitness and wellness apps and websites available in the market that might discourage employees from availing organization led programs, it becomes a concern for organizations on how to then redesign and promote key initiatives to demonstrate a positive impact of investing in wellness initiatives. However, it is evident that initiatives alone cannot foster a supportive environment for mental well-being. There needs to be an undeterred focus on creating a culture that promotes and enables wellness, while also being respectful of those who are willing enough to be vulnerable and open and trust the workplace for honest conversations.

From a work design perspective, it appears that a majority of the organizations are planning infrastructure, policies and culture for a hybrid workplace, with both remote work and return to office being important constituents. How employers ensure employee wellness for a distributed workforce through these uncertain times, keeping wellness holistic yet focused, will determine their ability to build a healthy and productive workplace, one that isn’t just profitable and gets the job done, but one that has a purpose, with sustainability – of both people and business – at its core. With high hopes, let’s walk towards achieving this balance.


Cooper, C. L. 1985. The road to health in American firms. New Society, 335–336.

Cooper, C. L., & Cartwright, S. 1994. Healthy mind; healthy organizations-a proactive approach to occupational stress. Human Relations, 47: 455–471.

Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index report

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