Wellbeing: What Is It, and How Can You Assess It?

by | Jul 30, 2021 | Health & Wellbeing | 0 comments

It’s a question that is not so straightforward to answer.

Think about it, what is wellbeing? You may think you know, but…

Every man and his dog will have a different idea of what wellbeing is.

For healthy Harry, wellbeing is about a physical health perspective: balanced diet, yoga, meditation.

Yet mental health Matthew thinks it’s all about boundaries, communication and emotional state.

Is Harry correct, or does Matthew have the right idea?

Well, you might be disappointed to find out that they are both somewhat correct, as there are multiple dimensions of wellbeing that all connect to form a general consensus of wellbeing.

Though the Oxford English Dictionary might define wellbeing as ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy’, there’s a lot more to it.


Physical wellbeing

It’s Harry’s time to shine!

Traditionally, physical wellbeing has always been in societal awareness, from the promoting of your 5 a day, to the general consensus around the importance of daily exercise.

Other facets of physical wellbeing include alcohol consumption, diet, personal safety, and posture.

Namely, good physical wellbeing tends to come down to how able you are to complete day-to-day tasks without feeling significant fatigue, stress, or resorting to destructive habits (e.g., tobacco).

This particular dimension of wellbeing is almost always adequately addressed in the workplace:

  • Bike storage to encourage cycle to work schemes
  • Fitness challenges (e.g., running, hiking, fitbit challenges)
  • Small physical activity breaks throughout the workday
  • Lunchbreak activities (yoga, desk massages)
  • Healthy snack options

Many of us will naturally address and nurture our physical wellbeing (though we might fall off the wagon a bit near bank holidays and Christmas) because we know the value of it.


Emotional wellbeing

Emotional wellness, also known as mental health/wellness (enter Matthew), is our own ability to understand and accept our feelings, values, and attitudes.

Emotional wellbeing can also include our ability to appreciate the feelings of others, manage our emotions constructively, and feel positive/enthusiastic.

Though there can still be significant stigma around mental health/emotional wellbeing, change is occurring, as more conversations around mental health are becoming widespread.

Employers addressing emotional wellbeing in the workplace can offer:

  • Mental health days 
  • Onsite counselling, meditation programs, and mindfulness training
  • Signposting for local support services
  • Mental health initiatives 
  • Mental health first aid training or a ‘wellbeing champion’

Much like physical wellbeing, we are generally aware of the importance of managing our emotional wellbeing, and employers are taking note, too – Deloitte reported a positive shift from employers towards talking more openly about mental health in the workplace, and offering greater support1.


Social wellbeing

2020 certainly put a wrench in our social wellness, which is our ability to relate and connect with other people in our lives.

Primarily, social wellbeing is about building and maintaining relationships that add value to our lives, and the lives of others.

Social wellbeing in the workplace is rather self-explanatory, and usually easily measured simply by the amount of water cooler chats and kitchen discussions taking place.

Additionally, employers might:

  • Facilitate more group activities and interactive meetings
  • Ensure the office space has specific social areas 
  • Create group events or facilitate an environment for socialising (e.g., an office bake off)

This can be highly beneficial to employers, simply due to the positive effect that frequent socialising can have on employee morale, productivity and motivation.


Spiritual wellbeing

Put your sage away! 

Spiritual wellbeing is simply about finding purpose, value, and meaning – with or without religion.

In the workplace, this can usually translate to how much an employee’s values align with the company values.

Spiritual wellbeing is strongly linked to emotional wellbeing, but is more about principles and values that give direction and purpose.

Employers may facilitate this in the workplace by:

  • Clearly emphasising their company purpose, mission statement and brand values
  • Encouraging meditation and mindfulness
  • Foster a diverse and inclusive environment, in which every employee feels valued
  • Offer volunteer opportunities for employees for good causes

Many companies are ahead of the curve with spiritual wellbeing due to their hardline stance on values, ethics, and diversity.

Intellectual wellbeing

Every day is a learning day, and the intellectual dimension of wellbeing is all about how we grow intellectually though curiosity and lifelong learning, responding positively to intellectual challenges.

How open are you to creative and challenging mental activities, or new experiences? This all relates to your intellectual wellbeing.

Intellectual wellbeing can be developed through academics, employment, and hobbies.

In the workplace, it can be addressed in a few ways:

  • Professional development opportunities (any kind of professional training)
  • Frequent creative meetings (brainstorming sessions, collaborations)
  • Resource accessibility (books, research, contact with industry experts, industry events)

Employees will often be drawn to a company more when they believe that there is room for growth, personal, and professional development, so the importance of it can’t be understated.


Environmental wellbeing

In a nutshell, environmental wellbeing is our awareness of nature and our surroundings, and our ability to protect these surroundings.

In the workplace, this may be addressed by:

  • Focusing on more sustainable options (electricity, water, air filters)
  • Natural lighting
  • Green spaces in the office/premises

It doesn’t require much of an explanation, because it’s already becoming a bigger priority for companies, particularly as the UK aims to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050.


Financial wellbeing

Ever heard of the phrase ‘live within your means’?

Financial wellbeing is our ability to make informed financial decisions, set realistic goals, and prepare for both short-term and long-term financial needs.

To address financial wellbeing, an employer might:

  • Invite a financial adviser to educate employees on good financial practice
  • Encourage employees to prioritise financial planning and solid saving habits
  • Provide employee discount or affiliate programs
  • Give clear information around pension schemes, and all other workplace-related finances

Financial wellbeing can often be drastically overlooked, even though it can be detrimental when not addressed – two thirds of employees who are struggling financially also cite signs of poor mental health affecting their ability to work2.


Occupational/vocational wellbeing

Ah, an employers worst nightmare – vocational wellbeing is all about how satisfied a person feels with their job and their chosen career path.

It’s also about how involved an individual feels in showing their talents towards work that they see as meaningful or rewarding, whilst finding a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment consistent with their values.

(Roll in, occupational health!)

Maximising vocational wellbeing in the workplace can include:

  • Regular risk assessments
  • Incentives/reward schemes for employees
  • A collaborative approach to leadership decisions
  • Facilitating healthy work/life balance by offering flexible and remote working options, on-site childcare, and family-friendly policies

Maximising workplace happiness will only reap benefits, so the suggestions above are a good starting point.


As you will have seen by now, wellbeing is a multi-faceted, complex thing, with each of the dimensions playing a key role in our overall sense of wellbeing.

By implementing some of the measures mentioned above, employers can begin to take note of how these measures perform, and test employee response.

In the long-term, this provides a more integrated approach and method for assessing wellbeing in the workplace, and across general life, as we are aware of how each dimension affects us and each-other more individualistically.


If you’re an employer looking for an occupational health provider, why not use our easy platform

1, 2 https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consultancy/deloitte-uk-mental-health-and-employers.pdf

Related Articles