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Part One: Gain A Competitive Edge ‒ Redesign Your Business To Prioritize Well-Being

Written by: Bruce Alfred, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


What’s keeping you up at night as a business leader? If you are thinking of the handful of challenges that you have some control over, chances are good the following made your list:

  1. Keeping existing, and attracting new, employees

  2. Addressing employee expectations and needs

  3. Reducing burnout (our own and our employees)

  4. Staying competitive and increasing profitability

If you could wave your magic wand and address these often confounding problems in one fell swoop, what would it be? The fell swoop, that is? These can all be addressed by prioritizing well-being at work. Yes, by increasing the well-being of your employees you can increase retention, better meet your employees’ needs, reduce stress and burnout, and make your business more profitable. Sound too good to be true? The data proves that this is indeed true. Over the last several years, studies have shown that improving organizational well-being makes great business sense.

Want to see some of the data that shows how organizational well-being makes business sense? Check out our infographic.

The thing is, only 12% of companies believe they are ready to move forward with well-being initiatives. That means businesses are not only missing an opportunity to get ahead of their competition, they are going to find themselves having a tougher time surviving in our new world. Organizational well-being has moved past the stage of being a nice-to-have. It is now a must-have. We’ve reached this tipping point given two monumental shifts:

1. The pandemic has changed expectations It is no longer about slogging through to get a paycheck. Your people want meaning at work. They also want a supportive manager or boss. (I’m not forgetting the expectation of hybrid/remote and flexible hours ‒ I’m grouping these under “supportive manager”.)

2. Workplace demographics have shifted Millennials comprise 35% of the current workforce, and Gen Z will grow into 30% of the workforce by the end of this decade. Well-being at work provides our younger demographic with what they need -- really what they are demanding. (ie the “Present” column in the chart below, titled “Employees Needs Have Changed”).

Successfully addressing these two monumental shifts in society can give your business a competitive edge. The harder part: it takes new ways of thinking and an ability to move forward differently. The evolution to new ways of thinking can be accelerated by understanding exactly what well-being at work is AND how it translates into positive business results. You might be rolling your eyes right about now and thinking to yourself something along the lines of… “Self…I’ve tried that wellness stuff. We got our employees blue-light glasses so they could sleep better at night. We negotiated a discount for our employees at the fitness center down the street.” Thoughts along those lines mean one thing. It is time to level-set.

What is the Difference Between Well-Being and Wellness at Work?

It is important to know what well-being at work is, and what it is not. There is quite a bit of confusion around the differences between “well-being” and “wellness”. Let’s start with what it is not. Well-being is not the same as wellness. Corporate wellness tends to concentrate on physical-health-related events and can include company-sponsored blood pressure screenings, weight-loss teams, fun runs, and promoting health care savings plans. Wellness has also evolved to mean that which can be purchased to make us look or feel better ‒ all we need to do is hop on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and buy the right supplement, eye cream, or detox treatment and we’re good to go.

Well-Being At Work Defined

OK… so what is well-being at work (also known as organizational well-being)? Quick side-trip on the way to answering that question. You’ve heard of Glassdoor, right? The website for jobseekers? I’m a big fan of their tagline: “You deserve a job that loves you back.” Organizational well-being can be thought of quite simply as showing your employees you love them every day. And, as we all know, showing love is a lot more than simply addressing physical needs, giving blue-light glasses, a gift card to, or a meditation app.

That said, here’s how we (at my consulting firm, BolsterUp) define it somewhat more formally:

Well-being at work is that which meets the inner needs (emotional, psychological, social, and physical) of every person in the organization (including owners/leaders) and improves business outcomes.

When people are in a state of well-being at work, they’re able to develop their potential, work efficiently and creatively, build positive relationships, cope with the normal stresses of life, and make a meaningful contribution. One more thing, for well-being initiatives to work, well-being must be woven into the fabric of the company: embedded in the culture, modeled by leaders, cultivated by managers, embraced by employees. That is why we at BolsterUp refer to what we are talking about as Redesigning Work for Well-being”. It is instructive to know what does NOT work in terms of prioritizing organizational well-being before we dive into what does work. We’ve heard a lot about what a number of big companies are doing to address well-being. They gave employees a week off for mental health. LinkedIn, Bumble, Hubspot, Lessonly have all done it. Notwithstanding the headlines these companies got for their largess, giving a week off once during the year won’t solve anything. In fact, it causes more cynicism amongst employees because they know that a week off doesn’t solve the underlying issues. And they want the underlying issues solved. Like the week off, many other well-being measures fail because they are not significant enough to be effective. Examples include:

  • Wellness officers or committees with limited organizational mandate or budget

  • Programming that nobody uses due to worry about stigma

  • Ad hoc, workgroup level well-being initiatives that are not integrated into a company’s way of being

  • Reliance on app-based support such as meditation or fitness applications which tend to be used by only a small percentage of the workforce.

If you’d like to see data that show how well-being initiatives translate into positive business results, all in one easy-to-digest document, download our infographic now.

Organizational Well-Being For Every Company

I’ll share a more in-depth look at what does, in fact, work to create a culture of organizational well-being in my next post. Right now, I want to make an important point. Organizational well-being is *not* just for big businesses.

Consider this:

Small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) account for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses and employ just under half of America’s private-sector workforce. Small businesses face at least as much trouble hiring and retaining workers as big businesses.

Hence, organizational well-being is equally as important, if not more so, for small businesses compared to the big guys. The punch line is this: organizational well-being efforts do not need to be expensive. It is less about perks and way more about building the know-how and executing on that know-how. I work with a small, rapidly up-and-coming digital marketing company in Minneapolis, Br8kthru Consulting. They are dedicated to supporting their employees' personal and professional growth, enhancing social connections, and improving physical well-being. I read a note from a solutions engineer named Dan at Br8kthru a little while ago. Dan wrote: “I’ve never felt more at home anywhere. I love being a part of this team.” Dan’s note is a nice indication of the impact of Br8kthru’s well-being efforts. The success of these efforts is reflected by the data.

Br8kthru’s average employee tenure is 2.5 years among a team of about 15. This is 20 percent longer than the benchmark. Br8kthru was named the best digital marketing in the Twin Cities for 2021. Correlation? Yes. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

Creating organizational well-being is within reach of every company. For those companies that want to do better, while*being* better, re-designing work is a must-have. Just think of the impact you can have on building a stronger business while creating happier, healthier people. It is truly the best win-win.

Ready to learn more about how to boost your organizational well-being? Contact one of our experts at BolsterUp.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Bruce Alfred, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

In 2005, as a father of four young children, Bruce was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He threw himself into learning everything he could about stress reduction, positive mindset, mindfulness, and resilience.

Over the last 15 years, Bruce has translated his personal deep dive into helping individuals and organizations. Together with his colleagues at BolsterUp, Bruce guides clients in improving employee experience, creating high-performing teams, and reducing stress and burnout while increasing well-being and joy. BolsterUp helps forward-thinking leaders make their organization the place everyone wants to work.

Bruce specializes in helping teams to work better together and managers to lead more effectively through better partnering, communication, and understanding. He coaches internationally, focusing on strengths-based development, professional capability-building, peak performance, resilience, and well-being. Corporate and individual clients attest to his ability to accelerate full-throttle success by driving individual engagement and team alignment.

Bruce’s corporate clients include Mayo Clinic, NYU Langone Health, University of Minnesota, University Hospitals, Be The Match, and others.

In addition to being a Gallup-certified CliftonStrengths coach, Bruce is a registered yoga and mindfulness teacher.



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