Fostering the 5 Essential Elements of Well-Being in the Workplace

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5 September 2023

Fostering the 5 Essential Elements of Well-Being in the Workplace

The old saying, "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" actually has some basis in fact.
Since 1935, scientists from have been exploring the demands of a life well lived. They have recognized that optimal well-being comes from not simply one, but from a number of factors. Research has identified five essential elements of well-being. Addressing each of these 5 factors can improve the morale and productivity of your workforce while reducing health related costs.

The 5 Essential Elements of Well-Being

  1. Career
  2. Social
  3. Financial
  4. Physical
  5. Community

All of the areas are important and require care and attention. However, of the five areas, career well-being has been acknowledged as being the most important. Gallup researchers have found that people with high career well-being are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.


Fundamentally, this is about enjoying what you do. It's about getting up each day and looking forward to the day that lies ahead. Employees with high career well-being and sense of accomplishment are purpose-driven and have a plan to achieve their goals. They are able to be a part of fulfilling work that matches their strengths.

Researchers have found that people who lack career well-being can quickly experience a negative knock-on effect to other areas of their well-being.

Ideas to improve career well-being in employees

  • Have a clear professional development pathway for employees to progress through their career.
  • Ensure that no jobs are dead end jobs. All positions must have a chance for advancement, whether to a higher level of that specific job or to another position. Job enlargement and job enrichment are also options.
  • Make the workplace a more enjoyable place to be. (Learn more in "14 Ways to Create a Workplace Culture of Wellness".)
  • Ensure the workplace is not physically, mentally, or emotionally damaging. Consider starting an ergonomic program if you don't already have one.
  • Inspired and motivated employees need a visionary leader. As an employer, consider your own path of career well-being and professional development. Be the role model that your employees can aspire to follow.


Each element of well-being can easily be linked to the other areas. Social well-being can be closely linked to career well-being. For example, enjoying more social time with people at work can result in a greater sense of career well-being.

Social well-being is about all the relationships a person has in their life, including home, work, religious gatherings, friends and extended family, and in the community. People with high social well-being have a number of close relationships and positive social interactions with others. This helps to energize them on a daily basis and lift their morale and energy levels.

Ideas to improve social well-being in employees

  • Maintain effective and friendly communication. This might involve one on one meetings, team meetings, and/or regular check-ins to see that everyone in the team is on the same page and is motivated to move forward.
  • Ensure employees are not skipping breaks and lunch times. Rest breaks and lunches are prime times for socialization by employees.
  • Allow social time and areas for relaxation at work. This could be something like Friday night drinks or having a ping pong table available for break times. Or it could be something as simple as letting employees chat to each other (within reasonable limits) without making them feel like they're not doing their job.


Researchers found that financial security and the ability to effectively manage one's economic life are important factors in a person's financial well-being. These aspects were found to be more important than the amount of money a person has overall.

People with a high level of financial well-being have good money management skills and the ability to make choices about what they do and when they do it. They will often spend more money on experiences (rather than items) and will give more money to others. They are able to avoid the stress and worry that comes with having debts.

Ideas to improve financial well-being in employees

  • Ensure you provide a living wage, not a minimum wage. There is a psychological effect to being paid the bare minimum allowable under law. Every increase over the minimum can have a profound psychological impact on the employee. The same can be said for yearly raises. A raise over the minimum company raise, no matter how small over the minimum, can have a strong impact on how the raise is perceived.
  • Consider benefits and incentives that relieve financial pressure on the employees. Items such as company-provided uniforms, a company car (or a limited use company car for times of need such as when the family car is being repaired), health insurance with low deductibles and premiums, or even discounted gym memberships can help improve the financial well-being of your employees.
  • Hold workshops and seminars to help employees with money management. Bring in a professional financial consultant to teach them skills that will help them to make solid financial choices. A company provided financial consultant available to help with future financial planning (such as saving for a child's future college tuition) or answer questions in a one on one manner is particularly beneficial to employees.


Physical well-being encompasses more than just exercise. It also includes food choices, optimal sleep, and managing stress. People with high physical well-being make time for exercise and healthy food choices. They get enough sleep and have the ability to wake up feeling refreshed and energized. They also take time to manage stress levels that could otherwise damage physical health.

Overall, people with high physical well-being lead a healthy lifestyle that helps them to function effectively and enjoy what life has to offer.

Ideas to improve physical well-being in employees

  • Take them through regular goal setting sessions. This enables them to feel empowered about what a fit and healthy lifestyle looks like to them. It will help them get ready to take the next step towards achieving their goals. (Learn more in "A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Employees Set Personal Wellness Goals".)
  • Allow time for physical activity during lunch breaks or work hours. Include stretch and exercise breaks. Consider organizing either on or off-site workout classes that the whole team can get involved in.
  • Consider an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Stress is generally considered a mental health issue and treated under those programs but the effects of stress can be drastic on the physical health of an employee. Managing stress (or other emotional issues) are a vital component in keeping employees physically healthy and fulfilled. (Learn more in "Supporting Employee Mental Health in the Workplace".)
  • Have a high quality shower and dressing room facilities available for use at work. For some employees this makes all the difference to whether they exercise on work days or not. Provided with the chance to have a shower when they arrive at work, many employees will opt to run or cycle to the office.


People with high community well-being have various interests, hobbies, and causes that they connect with. They might be involved with charities, church groups, local civic groups, or sports clubs related to their passions and sense of purpose.

Community oriented people benefit from a sense of fulfillment from giving back, and the community itself benefits from their contributions. Being actively involved in a local community can help a person move from a good overall level of well-being to a great one.

Ideas to improve community well-being in employees

  • Allocate paid time for community work so employees can give back without an added strain on themselves. This might be one paid workday per quarter allocated to helping a charity of their choice.
  • Organize team initiatives to give back to the community. These could include charity fundraisers via team challenges or special social events that raise money for a specific cause.
  • Work with the community to provide an outlet for employees to work on community events beyond standard charity events. For example, employees may wish to assist with a city-wide cleanup effort or volunteer at a town fair or other town celebration.
  • Prepare a written policy and plan for employees who wish to participate in charity events on company property and time so that every request is dealt with in a uniform manner. For example, there should be a policy to evaluation where (or if) the company will allow a charity (angel) tree to be placed in the lobby at Christmastime and how donations will be handled.