Wellness Matters

With conviction, the CFO looked me in the eye, and let me know that, “…all that really matters is the health of the organization.  If the organization is healthy, the people in it will be okay, because at least they still have a job.  As an organization, we can’t focus on the wellness of our people, just the organization itself.  Everything else is outside our scope…”

We spent a little more time in discussion, but it was clear to me that this old-school CFO wasn’t interested in the overwhelming research on the return that occurs when organizations invest in the mental and emotional wellness of their people. How can these investments not provide an exceptional return, especially when the World Health Organization has declared that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease? (WHO, 2017). Over 40 million, or 1 in 5 adults in the United States have a mental health condition (Mental Health America, 2018, cited here: https://www.jenreviews.com/mental-health-diagnosis). In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness (Smetanin et al. 2011). Organizations that invest in wellness that is data-driven, empathetic, and solution-focused will absolutely generate a positive return on their investment.

However, the truth is that most organizations are not led by leaders with learned expertise in creating psychologically safe ecosystems. The typical business or management education provides almost no tools for supporting leaders to build a psychologically safe culture. This ecosystem will not naturally occur on its own without intentional focus, expert support, and dedicated resources.

So, how can leaders build an organization that is not only focused on business excellence and numbers, but that also creates an environment that supports the wellness of its people?


8 Leadership Planks for an Organizational Wellness Strategy: “E.C.O.SY.S.T.E.M.”


1. E – Embrace

Organizational wellness is the responsibility of the organization (and must be resourced). For Psychological Health and Safety to be fully woven into the culture and lifeblood of an organization, the organization itself needs to fully embrace and own this Full engagement and commitment from leaders is critical, and this commitment means that leaders must ensure that the strategies around organizational wellness are fully resourced.

2. C – Co-Ownership

Organizational wellness is the responsibility of the individual (and must be resourced). Though leaders are critical in driving transformative change, everyone needs to fully embrace the change for it to gain traction. As with physical health and safety, psychological health and safety ultimately always starts and ends with the   A critical component is ensuring employees get involved in the organizational wellness strategy, from design to execution.

3. O – Oversight

Organizational wellness is about accountability. Oversight of psychological safety must occur at the highest level, and be empowered to hold management and workers   However, this accountability must be reasonable, measurable and transparent. Leadership is about taking responsibility, and not making excuses.

4. SY – Systematize

Organizational culture is a moving target made up of the patterns of behavior, stories, values and rituals that take hold within the One thing is clear: talented people are attracted to strong organizational culture. It will often win you access to the best talent in your industry and may be the glue that retains top employees during relentless competition.  So, best-in-class organizations don’t leave values and culture to chance, but systematically put into place processes that design the values and culture they are intending.

5. S – Strategize

Research confirms that there are thirteen psychosocial risk factors that impact mental health in the These psychosocial risk factors were identified by researchers at Simon Fraser University, based on extensive research and review of empirical data from national and international best practices. These 13 factors are discussed in detail on the Guarding Minds at Work (GM@W) website. GM@W is a free, evidence-based strategy that helps employers promote psychological safety and health in the workplace. The 13 organizational psychosocial factors that impact organizational health and wellness, and in turn, the financial bottom line, are:

• Psychological Support,
• Organizational Culture,
• Clear Leadership & Expectations,
• Civility & Respect,
• Psychological Competencies & Requirements,
• Growth & Development,
• Recognition & Reward,
• Involvement & Influence,
• Workload Management,
• Engagement,
• Balance,
• Psychological Protection,
• Protection of Physical Safety
• Organizational leaders can be strategic in creating healthy organizations by using Guarding Minds @ Work.

6. T – Target Resilience

Organizational wellness interventions should target Resilience is the ability to bounce back from disruption, stress, or change. In the world of business, resilience is an organization’s ability to withstand the impact of interruptions and economic instability, and to bounce back while resuming operations and generating revenue. When it comes to people, resilience is coping with disruptive, stressful, or challenging life events in a way that provides the individual with additional protective and coping skills than prior to the event itself.

This means that organizations should be constantly seeking to build the capacity of their employees around resilience. Every program and initiative should be viewed through the lens of if it will support the capacity of the employees when it comes to building resilience.

7. E – Equip

If organizations want better outcomes around healthy workplaces, training and coaching for those in leadership roles is the Current business schools have very little content around psychological health and safety for organizations, or creating a wellness culture.  The good news is that managers and supervisors would like better skills, tools, and training, with 63% expressing a desire for better training to help them better understand and identify mental health issues (Ipsos and GWL, 2012).

8. M – Measure

Measure progress along the way.  Tracking progress is part of accountability, and part of responsible stewardship as organizational leaders.  Organizations need support that is data-driven, empathetic, and solution-focused.  In our view, this support must be process-oriented, not overly complicated, and lead to a healthy ecosystem in the organization.

Though the old-school CFO really believed that the wellness of his employees was outside of the scope of their organization, he was wrong.  An organization that pays attention to the wellness and psychological safety of its most valuable asset, its’ people, is only doing risk mitigation at the highest level, cultivating fully engaged employees, and ensuring return on its investment.  The great news is that solutions are available for organizational wellness which are data-driven, innovative, and cost-effective to execute.  These solutions are both the passion and expertise of Wellness Innovate Corp.



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