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Creating organizational wellness

You may have noticed that our new Website has a little different focus—we call it organizational wellness. Why? Because we think those two words are now key to workplace success.

What do they really mean?

Here’s how researcher and consultant Dr. Joel Bennett explains the term: Traditionally, a lot of energy goes into treating individual employees, while neglecting the health of the organization as a whole. We do a good job of treating an individual, and then we send him or her right back to a ‘sick workplace… a place with low morale, negative supervision, or poor safety, for example. Instead of treating just the trees … organizational wellness looks at treating the entire forest.

We agree. While traditional health and wellness looks at caring for the health of individuals, organizational wellness looks at creating a different kind of health – a healthy and successful workplace – one where employees are engaged, satisfied, productive and effective. If you happen to be a manager who wants that for your organization, we’re suggesting you concentrate your efforts on six components. Here they are, along with a few suggestions for using each to make positive changes.

1. Stress reduction and resilience

Hold a series of focus groups or small group lunch ‘n’ learns with your staff on the subject of stress and resilience, asking these questions for starters: How high is your stress level? How is your work contributing to your stress level? What can we do as an organization or as a business unit to help you alleviate stress?

Look at relationships, work demands, career and development, control, management practices and individual characteristics.

Take a closer look at your own qualities as a manager. Rate yourself on a scale of 10, with 10 being the highest, in each of the following areas: trust; expressions of appreciation; rewards; interest in employees as human beings; career opportunities; and development and training.

Examine workloads. Do you feel pressured to demand more work from your staff than you know is reasonable? Meet with your staff in teams to discuss how the work might be redesigned and duplicative tasks eliminated in order to lighten the workload.

Offer our stress-reduction training, “From Stress to Resilience.”

2. Work-life integration

Ask your staff how they would rate your organization in the area of work-life balance. Ask for five suggestions for improvement and implement as many of them as you have the power to do.

Check to make sure your organization offers resources for the care of ill dependents. Ask your staff if they’re aware of other programs offered by other employers that your organization might offer.

When major tasks are assigned, check to make sure the scheduling works for the employee. Ask if any personal issues are likely to present a conflict, and if so, be willing to work creatively to resolve the conflict.

Let your staff know that you’re aware that they are human beings, with full lives outside of work and important personal responsibilities to handle.  Begin to notice how you approach situations that involve conflicts between work and personal life. Resolve to give employees’ personal responsibilities more respect.

3. Supportive management

Begin to ask employees for input and feedback before making decisions that would affect their work.

Bring up the topic of respect in a staff meeting and tell your employees of your intention that people, including you, will treat each other with respect. Discuss what that would look like. Ask your staff to assess whether you have shown respect for their ability to handle personal responsibilities, and put their feedback to work in your management style.

Give positive feedback often. Acknowledge at least two employees daily for jobs well-done. Express confidence in your staff’s abilities, both generally and specifically.

Encourage independence. Help employees learn from their mistakes, encourage them to make decisions on their own.

Clarify goals, make sure they have the necessary training and expertise, be available to answer questions, and let them do the work themselves from start to finish.

4. Flexibility and telework

Make sure all your employees are aware of and understand all the flexible work arrangements that are available in your organization. If flexible work arrangements are new to your staff, create at least two pilot projects to test how goals might be accomplished working flexibly.

Begin to manage as though flexible work arrangements are business strategies that can help you meet your organization’s goals. Let your staff know that you are now open to proposals for flexible or remote work arrangements.

Set clear, measurable goals that will make it possible for staff members to work flexible or remote work arrangements.

Take your eye off the clock and put it on results, and request that your employees do the same.

5. Organizational values alignment

Determine whether areas like work-life, wellness and flexible work arrangements are represented in your organization’s core values. If not, create your own set of core values in which they are represented and let your staff know these are your core values.

Ask your staff to list what’s most important to them and then help you link their lists to the organization’s values.

List the behaviors you feel are most critical to supporting your organization’s core values.  Present the list to your staff, asking them to assess how well they exemplify these behaviors. Ask them for a commitment to improve in areas they agree need strengthening.

Examine your performance appraisal system and make sure it’s aligned with your organization’s core values.

6. Results-focused performance management

Make a commitment to managing by results. Create a pilot project if the concept is new to you. Work with each employee to make sure he/she is clear about the results they’re intended to produce, and how they (and you) will know success when you see it. Be sure they have the tools and training needed to do their job well and the autonomy to make their own decisions.

Meet with each employee involved, and together, determine the desired results and the most appropriate way to measure them, considering coworker surveys, customer surveys, other external sources or internal systems that track transactions.

Determine with each employee the kind of support they may need to be successful and how often meetings and communication should take place. Keep an ongoing work plan that will allow employees to see where they stand relative to expectations.

Make sure there’s a payoff for employees who meet their goals and fulfill expectations.

That’s it. From time to time we’ll use this blog to make other suggestions. And if you have any that have worked for you that you’d be willing to share, email me at –

Susan Seitel

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