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New Research: What Well Workplaces Are Teaching Us about Strategic Well-Being

A brand new well-being imperative is foundational to the future of work, and WELCOA in partnership with the Returns on Wellbeing Institute is applying a “what works” philosophy to what should happen next to bring more health and humanity into the workplace. In 2015, WELCOA kicked off a research effort to help evolve the 7 Benchmarks from thinking of wellness as a set of programs to creating a process that would help organizations build aligned and caring cultures around well-being. That new set of 7 Benchmarks launched in 2018 and we have trained thousands of professionals in that methodology ever since. Now, as we see the light at the end of the tunnel, all companies are regrouping and planning their next moves.

The Research

There are gaps in the research we have to address if we are to answer the pressing question of how companies should be applying well-being in ways that work and avoiding those things that have never worked or no longer will apply in the future. Naturally, we started with companies that are doing well-being exceptionally well, implementing the 7 Benchmarks methodology and winning the designation of a Gold or Platinum Well WorkplaceTM. We conducted interviews with Well WorkplaceTM to find out what they are doing very well and what their challenges are.

What Well Workplaces Are Doing Right

  1. CEO Leadership. Virtually all WELCOA Well Workplaces had the enthusiastic support of their CEOs. What we have heard about senior leadership in a Platinum or Gold Well Workplace is that HR and Wellness Professionals largely are getting their budgets approved, have the ear of their leadership, and have the freedom to pivot when needed and dream bigger each year about their well-being offerings.
  2. Whole Person Approach. Companies told us that the WELCOA 7 Benchmarks process provided a holistic approach to wellness, which was perceived as critically important and reflective of the reality of true wellness. The methodology inspired them to reach across to other areas of the organization that were impacting a less traditional sort of well-being to collaborate and increase impact. One example from a Well Workplace was integrating with the safety team, “I hadn’t really thought about how wellness is related to safety. We have a big emphasis on safety in our plants.”
  3. Supportive Cultures. Purposeful planning and execution for building a specific culture is still an area of opportunity. Companies are continuing to grow well-being practices outside the traditional wellness program bounds and fully integrate well-being into top-down operations. Even though that work is not yet complete even at the highest levels of designation, there were a number of key activities that integrate well-being into their organizational DNA such as cross-functional well-being leaders and advocates that drive grassroots well-being work in their respective areas and also serve as a feedback loop.
  4. Purpose. Interviewees view employee well-being as a responsibility. One described it as a “basic right.”

What Gaps Still Exist?

To learn more about this research so far including what gaps still exist and how we can tactically address them, check out our most recent episode of the WELCOA Pulse.

How you can get involved

Our next steps are to survey more organizations that are following WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks and compare them to hundreds of other companies outside of WELCOA. If you want to be part of more research to further our collective knowledge, you can start by answering a few questions about your well-being strategy via this survey: