The term “wellness” relates to physical health. “Well-being” includes wellness—in fact, it’s predicated on it— but encompasses the whole person—mind as well as body. Your employees bring that whole self to work each day.
And guess what, when they don’t feel well, they’re worried about their finances, or they’re having problems at home, they are not as productive as they could be. The fact is that poor employee health and well-being can rob a company of the equivalent of between 20%-50% of salaries. That makes a pretty compelling business case for making the investment in wellness and well-being programs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs offers a good framework for thinking about how work and place relate to wellness and well-being. Lighting, noise, temperature, and ergonomics are at the bottom of the hierarchy, they’re the wellness issues. If your office is freezing and your chair is killing your back, you’re not going to be thinking about the role you play in the organization’s mission. You’re going to be looking for a sweater and taking time off for physical therapy appointments. You’re going to be focused on just getting through the day. So unless your wellness needs are met, you can’t move on to the kinds of things that create well-being.
One of the other things we know about Maslow’s hierarchy is that while not having your physiological or safety needs met creates dissatisfaction, having them met doesn’t necessarily create satisfaction. The same is true in the workplace. Think noise. If it’s too noisy to concentrate, you’ll be dissatisfied. But, if sound-masking solves the problem, it isn’t going to make you satisfied, it will just make you less unsatisfied. Satisfaction, and, by the way, engagement, comes from the stuff at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy: belongingness, esteem, self-actualization. These are intrinsic values. The lower two levels of the hierarchy are extrinsic. The trick, for workplace strategists and designers, is to find the ‘sweet spot’ where extrinsic needs are met but not exceeded because doing so is not going to produce any further results. The rest of the budget should go toward helping people with intrinsic needs and values.
Calculate what it would take to break even on your investment in well-being:
Below is a lite version of a breakeven calculator we use with our clients (requires some information from you, but hey, it’s free and we don’t sell your details to anyone). It’s powered by all the same research and produces the same results as our pro version, it just doesn’t offer as many customizable fields. You can read about our approach to this analysis in a chapter we wrote on the ROI of Well-Being for the book, Work On the Move 2 (International Facilities Managment Association Foundation), What’s Good for People (a white paper we did in collaboration with Knoll), and an article titled The Dollars and Sense of Well-Being we wrote for WorkDesign Magazine. You can read about the research and authority behind this and the rest of our calculators here.
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