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Workplace Wellness vs. Wellbeing: What's the Difference?

2022-06-20
Workplace Wellness vs. Wellbeing: What's the Difference?

It can be tough to stay motivated and productive at work, especially when you don't feel good mentally or physically. So what's the difference between workplace wellness and wellbeing? And which one is more important for employee overall happiness and productivity? In this article, we provide a breakdown of the two concepts.

What is Workplace Wellness?

Workplace wellness is the state of being in optimal health at work. Wellness at work starts with eating well foods that provide energy as well as exercise. It's supported through habits like getting enough sleep at night so employees can feel productive and engaged at work. Workplace wellness programs mostly address physical issues, such as obesity or high blood pressure by offering gym memberships, nutrition programs, and so on.

What is Workplace Wellbeing?

Workplace wellbeing includes health, happiness, and success of employees. It is a holistic concept that encompasses everything from the work environment to the way employees feel. A workplace that promotes wellbeing is one where employees feel a sense of meaning and purpose, have low-stress levels, have a good work/life balance, manage their finances well and feel supported by their colleagues.

What Is the Difference between Wellness and Wellbeing?

Wellness and wellbeing are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two concepts.

Merriam-Webster defines wellness as "the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal" and wellbeing as "the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous." Therefore, they do not mean the same thing.

The word "wellness" refers to a state of being healthy. In the work context, it is about taking care of employees, offering health assessments, making choices that promote a healthy lifestyle and vitality, and creating disease prevention strategies.

Wellbeing, on the other hand, is more concerned with the overall quality of life. Wellbeing at work is not just about health promotion, fitness, and healthy eating. It also includes social wellbeing, financial wellness, positive emotions, sense of purpose, and engagement. In other words, it is more than just being free from illness; it is about feeling happy, fulfilled, safe, and supported.

In short, employee wellness encompasses health - physical and mental, but falls short of including other aspects of wellbeing - social and financial welfare, positive emotions, engagement, and a sense of meaning and purpose.

Since employee wellbeing entails much more than the term "wellness," we will discuss various aspects that workplace wellbeing entails.

Looking Beyond Physical Health

Physical health is an important aspect of both workplace wellness and wellbeing. In recent years, employers have become increasingly focused on providing physical wellness programs for their employees. This is partly due to the rising healthcare costs, as well as the growing awareness of the role lifestyle choices can play in chronic disease.

However, while maintaining lower healthcare costs and providing physical workplace wellness programs is important, it is only one aspect of wellbeing. Mental health is a key aspect of anybody's life and this should not be overlooked at work. Furthermore, employees who are struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues are more likely to experience absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover. In fact, 200 million workdays a year are lost due to mental health problems.

In addition, physical body and mental health are closely linked, and providing physical wellness programs at times could treat the symptom, but not the root cause of an issue. For example, obesity might be a consequence of a stressful work environment, and providing a gym membership may not be sufficient for an employee to lose weight. Vice versa, physically healthy employees are also more likely to have good mental health as well as be happy and productive.

Even though mental health awareness is growing, unfortunately, many businesses still lag behind when it comes to addressing these needs.

A Holistic Approach to Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is a multi-faceted issue that goes beyond physical wellness programs. A holistic approach to employee wellbeing recognizes that everyone is different and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellbeing.

Therefore, organizations should focus on offering a workplace wellness program that addresses employee physical and mental health, social circumstances, relationships, environment, and so on - and how they interact with each other.

A holistic approach may involve introducing complementary therapies into the workplace, such as yoga or meditation. In addition, mental health services, such as free counseling or an outside speaker presenting stress management techniques could be a part of holistic wellbeing programs in organizations.

Considering Financial Wellness

Employee wellness programs focus on important aspects of health, but they do not take into account financial wellbeing. A study found that users of financial wellness programs reported having lower stress levels, and better physical and mental health than those who did not use them.

Financial wellbeing in organizations refers to the state of having sufficient financial resources to meet current and future needs, with some additional margin for unexpected events. It is a measure of how well individuals and families are able to cope with financial challenges, and it is determined by a number of factors, including income, savings, debt levels, and access to credit.

Financial wellbeing programs in organizations include teaching employees how to develop a budget and stick to it, how to maintain a good credit score, and build up emergency savings, therefore, it is an important factor in employee wellbeing.

Importance of social interactions

Social wellness is another important aspect of overall employee wellbeing. A study found that during the pandemic in 2020, employees identified the lack of interaction with colleagues (33%) as the biggest challenge of remote work.

Companies should take it into account and make sure that the employees are able to foster meaningful connections at work. This can be achieved through a variety of means, including providing opportunities for social interaction and promoting inclusivity.

Positive emotions, sense of purpose, and engagement

The term " employee wellness" focuses on employee health only, however, positive emotions, sense of purpose, and employee engagement are considered to be some of the most important aspects of workplace wellbeing.

A sense of purpose creates a positive work culture by fostering a sense of community and belonging. Engaged employees feel like they are part of something larger than themselves and are more likely to be proud of their work. Positive emotions at work help to boost individuals’ moods, making them more likely to be productive.

Research shows that only 36% of U.S. employees were engaged in their work in 2021. In addition, the number-1 wellbeing aspect at work was found to be good mental health.

Whereas workplace wellness programs focus solely on fitness, these findings show that there is room for improvement in emotional aspects of wellbeing, such as a sense of meaning, engagement, and positive emotions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Wellness and Wellbeing the Same?

The terms "wellness" and "wellbeing" refer to two different concepts.

Wellness refers to a state of being in good physical health. It can be achieved through healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercise and healthy eating.

In contrast, wellbeing refers to a state of being happy and fulfilled. It is about more than just physical health; it also includes mental, financial, social, and emotional wellbeing, positive states of mind, engagement, and sense of purpose.

While both wellness and wellbeing are important, they are not the same.

How Is Wellness Linked to Wellbeing?

The state of being in good health, or in other words, wellness, is a part of wellbeing. Wellbeing, among other aspects, includes physical health. Physical health is closely linked to other aspects of wellbeing.

For example, if we're feeling stressed or anxious, our heart rate and blood pressure might increase. This can put us at greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Therefore, employee wellbeing programs contribute towards overall wellbeing, including physical wellness.

Is Wellbeing a Part of Wellness?

Wellbeing encompasses both physical and mental aspects of an individual's wellbeing, therefore wellness, which is linked to having a healthy physical body, is a part of wellbeing, and not the other way around.

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