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Making the Workplace Whole: Meeting Basic Human Needs

BY: Sara Martin, MS // Chief Executive Officer • WELCOA

Two years ago, WELCOA launched a list of basic human needs that we, along with a panel of experts, believed should be met to achieve true wellness at work. This blog kicks off an 8-part series that takes a deep dive into this definition and gives you tangible ways to help employees and organizations flourish. We plan to use this series to help you think through the importance of meeting these basic human needs as we make the workplace whole again, starting with the human.

Living during and through a global pandemic has raised some very important questions about how to operate our businesses and how to achieve wellness. WELCOA has been feeling it ourselves internally as an organization as well, so much so that we have created an imaginary jar that our team members have to put imaginary money into every time they say the word “pivot.” And I know we are not alone, all organizations and people have had to pivot—a lot.

We know that right now many of you are wondering about things like:

  • Is my wellness strategy going to work anymore?
  • Are the health outcomes I was asking employees to achieve still relevant?
  • Should I still be incentivizing employees to go see their doctors when access to preventive care could be limited?
  • How do I motivate employees to get more exercise during a time when there is so much stress and uncertainty and distraction?

If you think about the workplace as a microcosm of bigger, broader issues, there is a lot to learn from the different ways that people are thriving or not thriving in the greater society. And those learnings can be applied to the workplace. How can treating the organization as that microcosm make us better at navigating wellness during this time? From access to proper care, to social connection, to resources for healthy living, to basic physical safety, there are many factors that have proven to be advantages for those who had their needs met and detriments for those who did not. These are basic human needs.

This is what WELCOA believes about what is coming next. We need to drill down to the basics of what we know about human needs. Do employees feel that through this pandemic their organization has cared about them as humans, cared about their needs and cared about their safety? If they do not feel that way, are they capable of being well in spite of it? For those in the physical and/or emotional trenches because of their jobs, it would be very difficult to get their basic needs met if their employer was doing little to help them do so.

Wellness is more center stage than it ever has been before, and that creates an amazing opportunity for us to bring people back to work in brand new ways, ways that make them more whole. In a keynote that Jennifer Pitts and I delivered at last year’s WELCOA Summit, we quoted E.E. Cummings, “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” WELCOA believes that how can I help fulfill my employees’ needs? is a more beautiful question than what wellness programs or guidelines should I put into place right now? And we are dedicated to helping our members take advantage of the opportunity that is before us. We are excited to work with you to heighten the conversation about wellness and get your employees and leaders excited about it so they will come to you for solutions.

The future of work is human. Wellness requires investing in what humans are motivated by and what they truly need. Let’s get back to what we know about what humans need to be well, and let’s think about that in the context of the future of work. This series will tackle just that and point our readers to the best new WELCOA resources for achieving each area of wellness in the current context, starting with connection.

WELCOA’s Definition of Wellness

  1. Health   Beyond the absence of mental and physical illness, health is a feeling of strength and energy from your body and mind.
  2. Meaning   Feeling part of something bigger than yourself. Knowing that your work matters. Having purpose in your life.
  3. Safety   Knowing that you are safe from physical and psychological harm at work. Feeling secure enough to take calculated risks and show vulnerability. Free of concern about meeting basic life needs.
  4. Connection   Experiencing positive, trusting relationships with others. Feeling a sense of belonging, acceptance and support.
  5. Achievement   Feeling you have the support, resources and autonomy to achieve your goals. Succeeding at meeting your individual goals and work aspirations.
  6. Growth   Feeling like you are progressing in your career. Learning and being challenged to use and expand on your strengths.
  7. Resiliency   Viewing life with optimism. Feeling grateful and expressing appreciation. Feeling validated and encouraged.
WELCOA Definition of Wellness

This is wellness. This is how we define it.

Everything that we are creating stands to measure and achieve that definition. WELCOA’s vision is to set new standards for employee wellness initiatives and organizational cultures by quantifying the value of healthy, happy employees to recognize and celebrate the healthiest places to work.

Download WELCOA’s Definition of Wellness

Sara Martin
Sara Martin, MS // Chief Executive Officer • WELCOA

Sara has launched award-winning wellness programs and engineered work environments to create cultures of health across multiple industries. At WELCOA, her role is to ensure you continue to have access to the best products and information so you can achieve your professional and personal wellness goals.