What is well-being and what does it mean to be well and vital at work?

Zofia Sharman our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 25 November 2019

What’s your own definition of wellbeing, and, as a business what are you doing about a wellbeing strategy?

Is “being well” just in the absence of major disease or illness? Is it possible to have an illness yet still have good well-being or vitality? Could having “poor wellbeing” be things like not being honest, leaving things unresolved with a person, not speaking up, being checked out on autopilot, not staying committed to a job long-term or “job hopping”?

In 2016 the CIPD surveyed 3,8 million employees and reported: 

10% of the UK organisations have a ‘standalone well-being strategy in support of their wider organisation strategy, while a further 25% have a well-being plan/programme as part of a wider people strategy’.

In relation to corporate wellbeing programmes, the Reward & Employee Benefits Association [REBA] observed: ‘almost half (45%) of organisations have a ‘defined wellbeing strategy in place. 

84% of those without one are planning to introduce one within 12 months to 3 years. 

These strategies mostly focus on ‘physical activity (85%), health & safety in the workplace (85%) and mental health (84%), while 73% address work-life balance and 69% cover nutrition and healthy eating’.

Well-being programs are needed, wanted and important. How supportive and on board is your own board when it comes to the topic? In the REBA survey 8% of respondents say their board actively drives the organisations well-being agenda, with 5% saying their board has ‘little or no interest in employee well-being’. 

How come?

Is it because despite well-being initiatives (for example chair massages, free fruit, cycle to work schemes, bootcamps, stair initiatives, talks on healthy eating, sleep, smoking cessation information and other checklists for staff to “be well”) … that not much is really changing with our well-beingness? Attracting employees or top talent remains tough and whilst well-being plans are important to implement the question on everyone’s lips is how much are they really working and what is the return effect?

As a search business, our CEO James Emmett is well aligned to staff wellness and productivity, and as the ‘Well-being Ambassador’ for Hanover I have developed a well-being events program for staff globally. We’ve also started a vitality series on LinkedIn for our clients and candidates that prompts a different kind of conversation on the well-being topic. If you read any of the posts  you might think they haven’t got much to do with well-being or vitality because there are not any quick fixes or rules about how to have great well-being. No magic diets, keys or fads. In fact, there are no instructions, do’s, don’ts, or plans given as to how to “be well” per se but instead the emphasis is on getting to know ourselves through the way we live life and living in (self) awareness.

For the past 13 years I have been passionate about well-being and continue to deepen my own journey of living with vitality through various healing techniques and well-being courses & presentations. Through my own livingness and without being perfect I discover and uncover more about who I am, who we all are. From these personal experiences alongside the many years spent in recruiting I have observed how the way a person lives impacts how they hold and sell themselves, interview, relate with others, achieve promotion and develop their career. When a person takes ownership of themselves, I find they know and easily direct themselves with personal choices on food, sleep, rest, activity, exercise, conversation, and the types of jobs or careers which suit their own body and well-being. They live listening to the wisdom of their own body and what steers them in the right direction of this is honesty or being honest with themselves in where they are at personally and what is going on for them.

What is well-being? In summary what I’ve observed is that:

  • Wellbeing becomes a way of living and working that supports great care of the physical body and how we treat it. 
  • That through our body we learn about ourselves, our feelings, and how we are relating to define how we relate to others too. 
  • It’s about learning to react less and be less emotional because when we’re less emotion-driven we are steadier and more confident. 
  • It’s about being aware of and dealing with what may upset, irritate or hurt us 
  • It’s about understanding. An understanding that becomes a personal and life-long study where we afford ourselves the time to stop and the space to feel how we feel. 
  • Well-being is the palpable sense of settlement in the body.

The key to well-being is the way we live life – simply, being connected to oneself and to others, and truly committing to life in all aspects of it. So, would well - being programs which instil such ingredients and what effectively is self - responsibility over pure information gathering or dictation, generate better results?

Maybe greater than simply eating more fruit, hitting the yoga studio, increasing steps counts, massages, facials and so on, our well-being is about living a lifestyle where we understand why we do what we do and how an activity supports our body and well-being over a surface quick-fix to eradicate or alleviate something/a condition. Living in a way that has an attitude or ethic which holds and nurtures connection [awareness] to oneself, commitment to life, to work and to people can establish purpose and through this, meaning. And whenever there is meaning [purpose], more work naturally is achieved plus it’s enjoyable too!

What sabotages well-being?

In my recruiting experience over the past 19 years across London, Europe and Singapore, one of the biggest thorns in the side of a person’s well-being is not living their true potential and hence not living the truth of who they are and importantly being able to express this fully at work. The tension can lead to general dissatisfaction or dis-ease and can register for example back ache, headache, migraine, exhaustion, depression, ill mental health, stress, anxiety, burnout,cancer or even a heart attack.

Naturally our bodies are harmonious at their core so anything that is not duly corresponding to that harmony is going to encounter some sort of correction in order to restore itself. Rather like mother nature cleansing itself with weather patterns, or toxic leaders or employees being removed from their business. In each instance re-balance is sought.

So the question of well-being as I see it becomes about ‘the all before’ as a preventative measure to support us in feeling well and vital irrespective of physical condition, ailment or even disease. The ‘all before’ is about living as best we can with a quality that is essentially connected to the heart and whole body over an isolating conditioned mind. Coming from the heart and living this way is what brings a sense of purpose, responsibility and it’s this that keeps a body energised, vital and well. Because we all know that when the sense of purpose is not there we opt out or give up. 

Is “being well” then simply about responsibility or living responsibility?

As self-aware HRs or Recruiting practitioners we can all observe what’s going on with staff, colleagues, workforces and sense commitment, energy, ethic and attitude including our own. We may observe how busy and exhausted we are living and that’s at start of the working day let alone by home time turning to intake of sugar, coffee, sweets, mobile games, social media, distraction to get through the day. We are engaging with each other less and less, people don’t call back, turn up late for meetings or don’t turn up at all, take the line of least resistance or do the bear minimum. Basic respect it seems is long gone.

Although we have greater access to connectivity, more than ever we are the most disconnected and the least interested. And our well-being is deteriorating.

So, what to do?

Is the key to well-being about encouraging the interest in oneself to be interested in others that nurtures harmonious relationships? Is it about work systems or management styles that support being open, honest, real? Is it about ‘being still’ to observe over otherwise speedily reacting with emotions, and is it about encouraging expression of feelings that lead to understanding and responsiveness? Is it about each one of us no longer opting out but opting in. Committing to what needs to be committed to – ourselves and every single aspect of our life, work, rest and play. Is well-being a matter of living wholly and from the heart –

Is living and being well as simple as this?

Get in touch with me

Zofia Sharman 
HR Practice, Well-Being Ambassador

Zofia can be contacted for questions, comments, meetings relating to this content, the topic of well-being, or any HR hiring needs.

Get to know our team
by selecting your area of interest: