In an online conversation, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, a past USA surgeon general, discussed improving public health by addressing lifestyle, environmental, and societal components. Dr. Murthy noted that workplaces play a key role in this through a broader focus on well-being, which enhances trust and connection, plus in all likelihood results in increased productivity and engagement.

This broader focus moves beyond physical health to include for example, the dimensions of emotional, social, psychological, spiritual, financial, environmental and cognitive health. The current paradigm of most workplace wellness programs focuses almost exclusively on one dimension, physical health, for the purpose of controlling healthcare costs.

These programs center on issues such as weight management, smoking cessation, chronic diseases, and health risk factors. This one dimensional focus hasn’t sustainably improved health, in many cases has actually detracted from well-being, has rarely achieved the outcome of lower healthcare costs and has drastically limited the potential benefits for both individuals AND organizations.

Instead, well-being is enhanced by addressing all the dimensions. The dimensions apply not just to individual well-being, but also the organization, resulting in a more humanistic workplace, one that fosters and sustains well-being. An organizational culture that,

  • Values and respects employees and employee contributions,
  • Ensures voice,
  • Welcomes diverse views,
  • Enhances positivity, belonging, and social connections
  • Fosters an environment of meaning and purpose, and
  • Cultivates a socially, psychologically, emotionally, and physically safe place to work.

Such a culture is where the potential benefits are realized. This approach requires an organizational shift as well as a shift from the current paradigm of wellness. This shift moves beyond thinking in terms of wellness initiatives, but instead to creating an organizational movement. It is through the process of the movement where individual and organizational well-being are cultivated. Just beginning the process is transformational!

In the online conversation, the interviewer concludes that optimizing well-being can be a distinct advantage both for recruitment and organizational competitiveness, as well as performance – we actually have no doubt once the movement begins. Listen to the entire interview.