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Misery & Well-Being Are Mutually Exclusive: The Issue with Corporate Wellness Culture Today

BY: Maggie Gough, RD • Founder, Realize Wellbeing

The WELCOA Pulse:
Misery and Well-Being are Mutually Exclusive

WHEN: Tuesday, October 27 • 2:00 – 3:00 PM CT

There is a difference between being healthy so that you can be better and more productive and being healthy because you’re already worth it. In this WELCOA Pulse, Maggie Gough, RD, Founder of Realize Wellbeing, and WELCOA CEO, Sara Martin dissect the impact of grind culture and the way it perpetuates poor well-being.


Let’s talk about grind culture – the belief that we have to do more to be good enough. It is basing the merits of self-care on productivity and approval rather than our inherent worth as human beings. It’s a constant hustle. Five years ago, I was in the circle of survival – burned out. Nothing I had created in ten years of health and wellness work would have helped me then. I needed restoration, not hustle to return to well-being.

Since then, I have been known to say things like, “Self-care is an act of celebration that you exist” and “Let’s view well-being through the lens of restoration rather than achievement.” My goal is to wake us up to this endless cycle of becoming MORE in an attempt to become WELL. Well-being is a daily practice of restoration. However, in every angle of the wellness industry we start with the belief that people are not good enough and it’s our job to fix them.

Through corporate wellness, we use self-care as a tool to increase productivity, decrease presenteeism (so we can be constantly productive), and decrease health care spend. We make other people’s bodies responsible to organizational needs. Furthermore, we often fail to recognize the ways in which the organization itself is degrading employees’ well-being. For example, a toxic manager, constantly changing demands, and sitting all day are functions of work that negatively impact well-being.

I believe that most of us got into this work to help people, and while we have gotten some things wrong, it’s time for us to make things better. It’s time to leave the grind. For so long I was hustling for my own worth through grind culture. It was something that I had to leave to heal myself and stop harming others.

Instead of fixing people, we can fix the issues in the organization that are degrading to employees’ health and well-being. We can begin to understand the social determinants of health and the moral obligation we have to respond to them. We can begin to serve our employees because we are grateful they exist, because they share their gifts and talents with us, because we have a moral obligation to take good care of each other. This approach is categorically different from the dominant method we have now. Human bodies are not responsible to financial assets of a company. Companies are absolutely responsible to care for the the people who work there.

Maggie Gough
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR Maggie Gough, RD // Founder • Realize Wellbeing
Maggie Gough has developed consumer-facing health and wellness platforms, created and implemented wellness programs and provided consulting to clients about how to create more meaningful wellness initiatives. Her mission is to create workplaces that allow people to live fully into their divine human experience. Maggie lives in Kentucky with her husband Brad and their three kids.