Wellness Vs Well-Being… What’s the Difference?

By: Bree Leyer, M.S., EP-C

Traditionally, employer wellness programs have focused on the physical health of individuals, including things such as physical activity/exercise levels, nutrition and dietary habits, and sleep management. As more and more research becomes available, it is clear that a holistic, well-being approach is needed to make a long-term impact on the overall health of individuals. Well-being programs integrate both the body and the mind to allow individuals to take control of, improve, and/or maintain their health status. Not only can a well-being program include physical health, it also can incorporate mental/emotional, financial, social/community, and spiritual (or purpose) well-being. It is important to note that although wellness and well-being are considered separate types of programming, greater success will be achieved by combining the two instead of choosing just one or the other.

A deeper look at the various types of well-being:

  • Physical Well-Being – As mentioned above, this combines physical activity, nutrition and dietary habits, and sleep management to contribute to the physical health of the individual. A traditional wellness program might have walking or nutritional challenges, but some great ways to revamp physical well-being are to offer healthy alternative snacks in the workplace either at little or no cost to the employees or provide standing desks and hold walking meetings.
  • Mental/Emotional Well-Being – This combines the ability to cope with situations, manage stress levels, improve productivity and resilience, and boost the confidence and self-esteem levels of an individual. 1 One thing to keep in mind is that this area does not solely focus on the negative aspects of mental/emotional wellbeing, but has a greater focus on the positive emotions, such as happiness. For example, are you able to handle various circumstances in your life and demonstrate resilience during difficult times? Are you happy with what you are currently doing and how you feel on a regular basis?
  • Financial – This area of well-being has been receiving a lot of attention lately as employers are realizing that an individual’s financial status impacts all aspects of their lives. Not only are people falling short on what they need to save for retirement, it is also apparent that they lack the funds for other reasons, such as funds for emergency situations or benefits.2 Offering in-house financial advising or educational programs relating to finances has been shown to improve employees’ financial situations.
  • Social/Community – This refers to all social aspects of an individual’s life, including their involvement/relationships with others and their community, their eagerness to act together to help others and improve their surroundings, and the overall lifestyle an individual chooses to live. Social well-being can impact health behaviors as this can be the driving force behind weight loss/gain, exercising, and breaking habits that negatively affect an individual’s health. In the work place, it has been shown that by having a “best friend” at work can lead to significantly higher productivity and engagement levels.3
  • Spiritual/Purpose – This relates to an individual’s reflection on their aims and goals in their lives, what they are trying to do, who they are trying to become, and what lifestyle they want to live that reflects their values and beliefs. Although this is important at work, it is equally as important outside of work across the individual’s entire lifespan. Pursuing continuing education is an excellent way to boost spiritual/purpose well-being.

You’re probably thinking, “Well this all sounds great, but what does it really mean? Can it help my company or does it only help at the individual level?” As it turns out, studies are showing that by offering a more encompassing well-being program, the overall health of employees is improving (which helps to keep healthcare costs down), productivity and engagement levels are increasing, and absenteeism and turnover rates are falling.4 By investing in a well-being program at your company, you are making an investment in your employees and showing you care about their personal well-being, rather than just their physical health. In turn, this leads to greater morale and satisfaction at the workplace and contributes to the overall success of your company.

If you are interested in learning more about designing and implementing a well-being program at your company, please contact Bree Leyer at bkl@babbins.com.


Sources: 1. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/improve-mental-wellbeing.aspx
2. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/03/most-older-americans-fall-short-on-retirement-savings.html
3. http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/127043/friends-social-wellbeing.aspx
4. https://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=59455


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