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Exploring the Contexts for Healthy Change

Change is necessary—now more than ever. Between the popularity of remote work and the emergence of AI technologies, it has become increasingly important for organizations to be change ready and adaptable. In the webinar “Setting the Contexts for Healthy Change” presented by WELCOA and the National Wellness Institute (NWI), Hanlie van Wyk and Colin Bullen of Virtuositeam shared their tips on making healthy change initiatives succeed in the workplace.

If established correctly, healthy behaviors reduce healthcare costs and improve performance. However, oftentimes wellness programs struggle to achieve these desired outcomes. Companies spend $10 billion annually on change management consultancy, and only 50% of these initiatives actually achieve their objectives. The issue lies in a disconnect between organizational expectations and creating the proper conditions for change.

Four Contexts for Healthy Change

How can wellness programs bridge this gap? Firstly, it is important to understand the contexts in which change happens and how you can use this knowledge to assess your workplace. Here are four major contexts to consider when designing behavior-based programs.

  • Systems—This includes the processes and policies that make up the way things are done at an organization, such as employee training, the dress code, disciplinary procedures, etc.
    • Consider: How is feedback given? How are policies enforced? Is the organization aligned with expectations?
  • Spaces/Signals—These are the physical and virtual environments in which work takes place and how messages are communicated.
    • Consider: How are workplace surroundings guiding behavior? What are verbal and nonverbal communications signaling about behaviors, implicitly or explicitly?
  • Social—This involves the people who interact with each other at an organization, including peers, direct reports, managers and supervisors. This context is often created and reinforced by leadership.
    • Consider: How do workplace networks behave? Is there social support between colleagues? How do peers and leadership model behavioral outcomes?
  • Self—An individual’s ability to change behavior is influenced by one’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions, mindset and identity.
    • Consider: What is an employee’s awareness of their motivations? Are they in a fixed vs. growth mindset? What is their level of confidence, and do they feel a sense of autonomy?

Organizational Strategies for Enacting Effective Change

After considering the different contexts in which change can occur, it is important to understand how elements of influence work to resist change. Once resistance to change is identified, you can then take strategic steps to make the desired behaviors natural. Leaders can leverage each employee’s capacity for change across each of the four contexts through the BRATLAB Four Powers behavioral framework.

The Four Powers

  • Power to Grow Capability: Boost employee confidence and competence
  • Power to Inspire Motivation: Create the compulsion for employees to act
  • Power to Overcome Barriers: Address static impediments to change
  • Power to Resist Temptation: Combat active distractions from action

By increasing employee capability and motivation as well as removing barriers and temptation, you create a formula for effective change applicable to each context in which change occurs. Using these tools, organizations can design more effective behavior-based programs to encourage healthy behaviors in employees and improve organizational wellness.  


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Bullen and van Wyk also helped develop the Change Agent Certificate course, covering methodologies that give you the best chance of making real, sustained change. Learn more about the course in the NWI online learning center.


Rebecca Plier is diving headfirst into the wonderful world of employee benefits and workplace wellness. As a PR/Communications Specialist at WELCOA’s partner organization, the International Foundation, Rebecca shares essential information on educational programming, emerging benefits research data, member resources, and so much more. To maintain balance, she enjoys art journaling and attending regular yoga sessions.