As a leader, you want your employees to have a healthy, positive wellbeing. Increased wellbeing in employees has good outcomes for an organization, including better productivity and lower turnover rates. All leaders have different leadership styles. But how can you and other leaders in your organization develop a cohesive approach to improve employee wellbeing?

There are three key ways managers can become leaders who support and enhance employee wellbeing.

  1. Focus on your own wellbeing

Without understanding and prioritizing your own wellbeing journey, it’s difficult to advise and support others. When people have a deeper understanding of what wellbeing means in their own life, they can better understand what it takes for employees to take control of their own wellbeing, and they can serve as an important model for their group. Here are some key strategies for improving wellbeing.

  1. Be self-aware. Ask yourself where your wellbeing is struggling and where are you doing a good job. This is important because your level of wellbeing can affect not only your current mood but also your professional life. Ask yourself questions such as “What do I do when I feel the most stress?” and “Am I able to bounce back from challenges?” Chances are, some of your answers are similar to those of your employees. When there is alignment, you will be better able to empathize.
  2. Educate yourself on what wellbeing looks like for you. How do your own work–life balance, emotional health, physical health, and social relationships look? Are you happy with the state of these areas in your life?
  3. Hold yourself accountable for your own wellbeing. Once you have identified areas in which you want to improve your wellbeing, create a plan and stick to it. For example, if you determine you want to have stronger social connections, try to call a friend once a week. If you want to improve your sleep, work on maintaining a sleep schedule.
  1. Establish trust

Employees must be able to trust you in order to share their concerns about their wellbeing. Without trust, they may believe they will be punished for revealing their struggles, or they may think their concerns won’t be heard. Consequently, they may avoid talking about their wellbeing challenges and ignore them instead. In order to develop trust, leaders can incorporate the following behaviors: 

  1. Show respect by listening to what employees have to say and consider their viewpoint.
  2. Be open and honest in your communication about all aspects of work that are appropriate to discuss, not just wellbeing.
  3. Follow through on wellbeing initiatives that you, the company, or employees organize, implement, or discuss.
  4. Build relationships by actively checking in with your employees. Employee check-ins can be as formal as one-on-one meetings or as informal as having a monthly department lunch.
  5. Support your employees by providing timely feedback aimed at helping them develop and maintain an open-door policy to show you are available when they need support. This helps increase the perception of fairness within your team—often a key driver of wellbeing [1].
  6. Ensure your decisions are fair by taking time to review and consider all options, involving others in the decision when possible, and explaining your decision to others. This will also help you make better decisions.

It’s important to note that both establishing and maintaining trust are important. Once trust is lost, it’s often difficult to get it back.

Related article: 6 steps to build a culture of trust

  1. Shape and maintain your wellbeing culture

Once you have a solid understanding of your own wellbeing and have cultivated an environment of trust, you will be ready to create and sustain a strong wellbeing culture within your team. The following actions will help you improve the wellbeing of your employees.

  1. Communicate the importance of wellbeing to your employees. If you don’t indicate that wellbeing is a priority for you, it will be hard for your employees to make it their priority.
  2. Find ways to incorporate wellbeing into your conversations. For example, you can mention wellbeing before meetings or when discussing deadlines, or you can share with others what you did this week to work on your own wellbeing.
  3. Let your employees know that bringing up their own wellbeing concerns is always welcomed and encouraged.
  4. Set aside time to have a conversation with each of your employees about their wellbeing. It’s important to schedule this meeting in a private place. Listen attentively with appropriate eye contact, and ask the employee what they need and come to a solution together. Then set future time aside for follow up to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution, and change track if necessary. During these conversations, it’s also crucial to avoid assumptions if an employee mentions they are struggling.
  5. Model wellbeing to your employees through your actions. It’s important not only to communicate your intent but also to align your words with your actions. To do this, promote and attend wellbeing activities within your organization, make a personal change such as bringing healthy lunches or scheduling walk breaks, or share helpful tips about improving wellbeing with your employees. Avoid sending emails and expecting replies outside office hours.
  6. Provide opportunities for wellbeing by being flexible with your timelines and schedule when appropriate.
  7. Remove roadblocks to wellbeing such as tight deadlines and heavy workload when possible.
  8. Recognize employees for improving their own wellbeing by celebrating their success stories or taking the time to note when others make a healthy change.
  9. Provide resources to employees such as webinars or articles that will help them learn about and improve their own wellbeing.

Through modeling, establishing trust, and focusing on your own wellbeing first, you can have a significant influence on your employees’ wellbeing.

For a FREE, complete guide to how leaders can shape the wellbeing of their employees, click here.


[1] InVista. (2020). [Unpublished raw data on wellbeing for Beta Client 3].

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