Fundamentals to Workplace Well-being

In this article, I’ll be arguing why value and respect are fundamental to workplace well-being, not salary or perks.

Writing for The Independent, Cary Cooper and Ivan Robertson hit the nail on the head when they said, “There is a real difference between happiness gimmicks and working in a well-being culture.”

A well-being culture, they refer to as “One that values people, manages them by praise and reward rather than fault-finding, and that enables them to work flexibly and provides them with work-life balance.”

All too often workplace well-being is ceremoniously honoured through fruit bowls, the odd free lunch and if employees are lucky the occasional massage. Employers have jumped on the bandwagon with trendy initiatives that are supposedly the key to keeping employees happy and well, but have they missed the point?

How often are well-being programmes borne out of a genuine compassion for employees? Is workplace well-being simply being seen as the latest business initiative that promises to unlock greater productivity?

Employee well-being isn’t boosted by perks

The key to happiness and well-being at work isn’t perks. Now ubiquitous with employee wellness programmes, yoga classes, gym subscriptions and breakfast smoothies are great, but they don’t constitute workplace well-being.

Things are nothing more than glorified perks, and while nice, they do nothing to address the real causes of ill-health in the workplace, such as backache, RSI, eye-strain, anxiety, stress and depression.

According to Wrike, almost 60 percent of workers say they have taken a pay cut to accept a job that made them happier. Workplace stress is exacting an unprecedented psychological toll.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Manchester Business School, says of gimmicky perks that they quite often hinder workplace well-being not support it – he points out in a BBC report on work-life, that the free evening meals perk for those staying at work late may be seen by an employer as supporting well-being, but it is merely reinforcing a long-hours culture which is actually damaging to health.

Well-being needs a cultural shift

Insights by global management consulting company McKinsey determine that job autonomy and social support are the overlooked essentials of employee well-being.

Alex Heaton, founder of health and wellness digital platform, LiveSmart, said in an interview with Real Business, “If a business wants to embed healthy behaviours in the workplace, they need to change the culture.”

Heaton has introduced a number of initiatives that encourage staff to strike a good work-life balance and believes well-being should come from the top. Heaton embodies the healthy behaviours he knows will benefit his staff.

Artemis Marketing is one of many companies trying to avoid useless perks and stick with simple, workable solutions to support workplace well-being.

Managing Director of Artemis, Mike Knivett, says,

“We encourage staff to take regular walks outside to take a break from their screen. Our offices are based on a farm in the beautiful Sussex countryside, it would be ludicrous not to ensure our staff make the most of that.

“Employee well-being is an important part of our culture, not in a ‘faddy perks’ kind of way, but from a place that we genuinely care about our people and want them to feel well, both out of and in the workplace.”

“We do what we can to keep stress to a minimum. We think that simple things like restricting access to emails over the weekend is much more effective in reducing stress than putting on a yoga class at lunch-time.”

Feeling valued and respected is fundamental to well-being

Some of the most basic human desires are to feel valued, appreciated and respected. According to a report in the Harvard Business Review when you ask workers what matters most to them, feeling respected by superiors often tops the list.

“Employees who say they feel respected are more satisfied with their jobs and more grateful for—and loyal to—their companies. They are more resilient, cooperate more with others, perform better and more creatively, and are more likely to take direction from their leaders. Conversely, a lack of respect can inflict real damage.”

According to MIND, a leading mental health charity in the UK, 1 in 6 workers is currently experiencing a mental health problem, such as stress, anxiety or depression.

In a resource on mentally healthy workplaces, MIND say, “Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people – they depend on having a healthy and productive workforce.”

MIND point to the strong relationship between staff well-being, motivation and business performance.

“Engagement is about recognising that employees, if they are to perform at their best, must be respected, involved, heard, well-led and valued. Approaches such as flexible working, building resilience and staff development contribute to good engagement.”

Feeling valued and respected is fundamental to well-being, whether we are in the workplace or not. Employee engagement and business success cannot happen without a culture of trust and respect – a place where people feel valued and can develop and contribute. Ignoring mental well-being at work is disrespectful and comes at a cost to employers in lost productivity, high staff turnover and absenteeism.

Alas, many businesses are missing the key ingredient for achieving successful workplace well-being. It comes down to employees feeling respected and valued. Nothing motivates a person more than that. Feeling respected and valued is good for our mental health. Putting this at the heart of any well-being programme is the key to creating a thriving and successful business.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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