I love this quote from Angie Siebert, a speaker and consultant in the health promotion industry. After being interviewed for the Redesigning Wellness podcast, she said:
“The best minds in science, medicine, psychology, behavioral economics, and sociology don’t have it figured out, but somehow us as wellness professionals are supposed to sit in our little offices or cubicles, with budgets a fraction the size of any other large scale corporate initiative, and show a positive and measurable impact on the health of employees.”
What a real but often unspoken truth that is!
Although I’ve often had similar thoughts myself, seeing it in writing really made me feel the ridiculousness of the expectations that exist for the wellness industry. The idea that wellbeing programs and services – well-intentioned but often underfunded and built on outdated assumptions – could by themselves significantly and lastingly transform the health of a group of complex human beings is … well … just plain silly!
Here's a graphic that explains why.
It’s a model we put together at ViDL Solutions to communicate important ideas about what it takes to build a thriving organization that can profitably fulfill its purpose and sustain the test of time.
One important point we’re trying to convey with this wheel is the following:
Wellbeing programs and services are unlikely to fulfill their potential - or effectively help employees fulfill theirs - if other important organizational needs on the top half of the wheel aren’t being addressed. For example, if you work in a control-oriented environment with a toxic culture and a boss who doesn’t seem to value you as a human being, the walking challenge or stress management lunch-n-learn in the office isn’t going to do much to improve your overall wellbeing (especially if you’re participating only to earn a carrot or avoid the stick!). Even if you could muster the time or energy to participate, the impact of those systemic issues is going to overshadow your individual efforts.
And, often times, the messages from the wellness program (“we care about you and your health”) are actually undermined by the cultural norms of the company (rewarding 24/7 connectedness, having HR policies that don’t offer adequate recharge time or flexible schedules, for example). So not only does the top-half of the wheel (purpose, leadership and climate) affect the bottom half of the wheel (individual wellbeing), the two halves really need to be operating on the same assumptions about human nature and with a consistent end game in mind.
When an organization is working towards creating a thriving culture built on a clearly defined purpose (beyond profit) and set of core values, when authentic and transformative leaders are developed, when those leaders and their teams create a climate that genuinely supports wellbeing, performance and engagement … then the conditions are created in which an evidence-based and holistic approach to wellbeing programs and services can further support employees in flourishing – at work and at home. When these foundational needs of an organization are not met, wellness professionals will often be spinning their wheels and wondering why their efforts don’t create better lasting outcomes.
Once you see this truth, you realize that many wellness professionals have been tasked with a job that really can’t be done: to improve the health, happiness, and engagement of their employees with a model based on outdated ideas and without the necessary foundation and support.
Individuals and organizations are complex and interconnected. Creating the conditions in which personal and professional transformation can occur for employees at all levels requires a comprehensive approach that honors this truth. It’s an effort that requires the leaders of the company – and those who have influence over employee experience initiatives – work together with a common purpose.
If you’re a business leader, consider whether both halves of the wheel – organizational wellbeing and individual wellbeing - are being addressed in your company in a forward-thinking, integrated way. For help brainstorming, download a copy of the ViDL Wheel with a few questions that you can ask yourself to honestly assess where your company is at with each of these important components. Contact us if you want to talk more about this.
If you’re a wellness professional or HR professional, begin thinking about how you can have greater impact and influence on not only individual wellbeing efforts – but on the other elements of the wheel. To do this, you’ll need to broaden, build and practice:
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