Introduction

Fostering employee well-being is good for people and the organisation. Promoting well-being can help prevent stress and create positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive. Good health and well-being can be a core enabler of employee engagement and organisational performance.

This factsheet focuses on well-being in the workplace, explaining why it matters, and exploring the relationship between work, health and well-being. We investigate the impact of well-being on employee engagement and productivity, unpack the five domains of our well-being model, and look at the role of different stakeholders in cultivating a healthy workplace.

CIPD viewpoint

Promoting and supporting employee well-being is at the heart of our purpose to champion better work and working lives because an effective workplace well-being programme can deliver mutual benefit to people, organisations, economies and communities. When people are happy and well, businesses can thrive and societies flourish. We believe that work should do more than meet our basic financial needs and contribute to economic growth; it should also improve the quality of our lives by giving us meaning and purpose and contributing to our overall well-being.

The fast-changing world of work and the fluctuating demands it places on employers and employees means that our grasp of health and well-being needs can never stand still. It needs to evolve constantly to understand the impact on people’s health and well-being.

At the CIPD, our internal Health and Well-being Champions support and drive change, especially in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health. As well as training line managers in good people management and mental health issues, we hold regular well-being days to promote healthy living. We also offer our staff on-site fitness classes, massages and mindfulness sessions, healthy eating options in our canteen, and an autumn flu vaccination

In our Growing the health and well-being agenda report, we show that healthy workplaces help people to flourish and reach their potential. This means creating an environment that actively promotes a state of contentment, benefiting both employees and the organisation.

There’s now a much broader understanding and application of holistic health and well-being approaches in many workplaces. However, it's also clear that there's an implementation gap, with many organisations not yet embracing the health and well-being agenda to full effect. These organisations could benefit from greater investment in the well-being of their workforce.

Investing in employee well-being can lead to increased resilience, greater innovation and higher productivity. Put simply - it makes good business sense.

What an effective health and well-being programme looks like depends on the needs of the organisation and its people. It's likely to include:

  • health promotion
  • a good working environment
  • flexible working
  • positive relationships
  • opportunities for career development
  • an open and supportive management style.

However, well-being initiatives often fall short of their potential because they stand alone, isolated from the everyday business. To gain real benefit, well-being must be integrated throughout an organisation, embedded in its culture, leadership and people management.

The people profession is in a unique position to drive forward this agenda, to convince senior managers to make it a priority, and ensure that line managers accept and uphold its importance its importance.

We have set an aspirational agenda for workplace health and well-being. An effective employee well-being programme should be at the core of how an organisation fulfils its mission and carries out its operations, and should not consist of one-off initiatives. It’s about changing the way business is done.

An integrated approach to health and well-being:

  • benefits employees
  • can nurture heightened levels of employee engagement
  • fosters a workforce where people are committed to achieving organisational success.

Our well-being pyramid model

Pyramid model showing the elements of organisational well-being

As our well-being pyramid shows, to create a healthy workplace, an employer needs to ensure that its culture, leadership and people management are the bedrock on which to build a fully integrated well-being approach.

When people feel a high level of well-being they are more engaged and productive at work. Conversely, when people experience low levels of well-being, they don’t perform at their best.

We've identified seven inter-related 'domains' of employee well-being, guided by the principle that an effective employee well-being strategy needs to go far beyond a series of standalone initiatives.

There’s no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to designing a health and well-being strategy; its content should be based on the unique needs and characteristics of the organisation and its workforce.

The underlying elements include examples of workplace initiatives and activities to support people’s health and well-being.

Graphic of a person and an apple

1. Health

Physical health 
Health promotion, good rehabilitation practices, health checks, well-being benefits, health insurance protection, managing disability, occupational health support, employee assistance programme.

Physical safety 
Safe working practices, safe equipment, personal safety training.

Mental health 
Stress management, risk assessments, conflict resolution training, training line managers to have difficult conversations, managing mental ill health, occupational health support, employee assistance programme.

Graphic of a moving clock

2. Good work

Working environment 
Ergonomically designed working areas, open and inclusive culture.

Good line management 
Effective people management policies, training for line managers, sickness absence management.

Work demands 
Job design, job roles, job quality, workload, working hours, job satisfaction, work-life balance.

Autonomy 
Control, innovation, whistleblowing.

Change management 
Communication, involvement, leadership.

Pay and reward 
Fair and transparent remuneration practices, non-financial recognition.

Graphic of a thumbs up gesture

3. Values/Principles

Leadership 
Values-based leadership, clear mission and objectives, health and well-being strategy, corporate governance, building trust.

Ethical standards 
Dignity at work, corporate social responsibility, community investment, volunteering.

Diversity 
Diversity and inclusion, valuing difference, cultural engagement, training for employees and managers

Illustration of two people united

4. Collective/Social

Employee voice 
Communication, consultation, genuine dialogue, involvement in decision making

Positive relationships 
Management style, teamworking, healthy relationships with peers and managers, dignity and respect.

Illustration of a personal chart showing progression

5. Personal growth

Career development 
Mentoring, coaching, performance management, performance development plans, skills utilisation, succession planning.

Emotional 
Positive relationships, personal resilience training, financial well-being.

Lifelong learning 
Performance development plans, access to training, mid-career review, technical and vocational learning, challenging work.

Creativity 
Open and collaborative culture, innovation workshops.

Graphic of a running figure

6. Good lifestyle choices

Physical activity
Walking clubs, lunchtime yoga, charity walks.

Healthy eating
Recipe clubs, healthy menu choices in the canteen.

Graphic of a piggy bank spilling coins

7. Financial well-being

Fair pay and benefit policies
Pay rates above the statutory National Minimum/Living Wage, flexible benefits scheme.

Retirement planning
Phased retirement such as a three- or four-day week, pre-retirement courses for people approaching retirement.

Employee financial support
Employee assistance programme offering debt counselling, signposting to external sources of free advice (for example, Citizens Advice), access to independent financial advisers.

Adopting an organisational approach to employee well-being carries with it distinct responsibilities for particular employee groups.

HR professionals

HR professionals have a key part to play in steering the health and well-being agenda in organisations. They need to ensure that senior managers regard it as a priority and integrate well-being practices into the organisation’s day-to-day operations.

They need to communicate the benefits of a healthy workplace to line managers, who are typically responsible for implementing people management and well-being policies. They need to work closely with all areas of the business and provide practical guidance to ensure that policies and practices are implemented consistently and with compassion.

Senior managers

Lack of senior management commitment to well-being can be a major barrier to implementation. Senior managers are crucial role models, and line managers and employees are more likely to engage with health and well-being interventions if they see senior leaders actively participating in them. Senior managers have the authority and influence to ensure that well-being is a strategic priority embedded in the organisation’s day-to-day operations and culture.

Line managers

Much of the day-to-day responsibility for managing employees’ health and well-being falls on line managers. This includes implementing stress management initiatives, spotting early warning signs of stress, making reasonable adjustments at work, and nurturing positive relationships.

Yet our surveys consistently suggests that ‘poor management style’ is one of the top three causes of work-related stress. Leaders and managers are important role models in fostering healthy behaviour at work, and this finding shows how harmful the impact can be if managers aren’t equipped with the competence and confidence to go about their people management role in the right way.

Managers also need to understand the impact their management style has on employees and the wider organisational culture at work.

Occupational health

Occupational health (OH) is a specialist branch of medicine focused on health in the workplace. For this reason, OH practitioners are likely to work closely with HR practitioners and those responsible for health and safety in a workplace. 

Employees

Employees also have a responsibility for looking after their own health and well-being, and will only benefit from well-being initiatives if they participate in the initiatives on offer and take care of their health and well-being outside work as well. Employers can encourage employees’ involvement by communicating how staff can access the support and benefits available to them. It’s also important that the organisation seeks employee feedback about its current offerings so it can learn how to shape existing initiatives and plan new ones.

Contacts

Acas – Health and the workplace

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Council for Work and Health

NHS Health and Work Network

Workplace Wellbeing Charter

Books and reports

COOPER, C. and HESKETH, I. (2019) Wellbeing at work: how to design, implement and evaluate an effective strategy. London: Kogan Page and CIPD.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND CARE EXCELLENCE. (2015) Workplace health: management practices. NICE guidelines, No NG13. London: NICE.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND CARE EXCELLENCE. (2017) Healthy workplaces: improving employee mental and physical health and wellbeing. Quality Standard QS147. Manchester: NICE.

WADDELL, G. and BURTON, A.K. (2006) Is work good for your health and well-being?. London: Stationery Office

Visit the CIPD and Kogan Page Bookshop to see all our priced publications currently in print.

Journal articles

BEVAN, S. and BAJOREK, Z. (2018) Workforce health: Why ‘good work’ trumps fruit and pilates evangelism every time. HR Magazine. October, pp42-44. Reviewed in In a Nutshell.

KIRTON, H. (2017) One in four workers doubt their organisation takes wellbeing seriously. People Management (online). 7 July.

SCANIOLA, L. (2017) Financial wellness: why it’s a priority now for employers. Workspan. Vol 60, no 5, May. pp34-38. Reviewed in In a Nutshell.

SUFF, R. (2018) We need to watch out for unhealthy behaviour at work. CIPD Voice. No 14, June.

CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to HR.

Members and People Management subscribers can read articles on the People Management website.

This factsheet was last updated by Rachel Suff.

Rachel Suff

Rachel Suff: Employee Relations Adviser

Rachel Suff joined the CIPD as a senior policy adviser in 2014 to help shape the public policy debate to champion better work and working lives. Rachel is a policy and research professional with over 20 years’ experience in the employment and HR arena. An important part of her role is to ensure that the views of the profession inform CIPD policy thinking on health and wellbeing and employment relations. She has recently led a range of policy and research studies about health and well-being at work, and represents the CIPD on key advisory groups, such as the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together Workplace Wellbeing programme. Rachel is a qualified HR practitioner and researcher with a master’s in Human Resource Management from Portsmouth University and a post-graduate diploma in social research methods from Sussex University; her prior roles include working as a researcher for XpertHR and as a senior policy adviser at Acas. 

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