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Well-being – a systemic approach

Commentary by Dorota Osiecka, Director, Workplace Innovation, Colliers International

For several years now, well-being has been considered one of the key elements of building an employer’s image. COVID-19 has intensified the trend of focusing on employees’ health and well-being.

In the past, well-being was often confused with fitness or workplace ergonomics initiatives. However, it should be defined much more broadly. In a workplace environment, employees’ well-being includes all aspects of their professional lives, from the quality and safety of the physical environment created for our employees, through promoting and fostering habits conducive to good health and mental condition, to all aspects of the managerial approach, which determine the organisation’s character and atmosphere at work, significantly affecting employees’ engagement and comfort levels.

Therefore, the proper definition of the concept is systemic care for employees’ well-being. In a knowledge-based economy, for organizations whose biggest asset are people, creating a workplace where they can fully leverage their potential is one of the key factors affecting the organisation’s long-term performance.

A friendly workplace

Traditionally, well-being research has concentrated on health interventions, and publications in this respect have emphasized primarily the business risks related to work absences and health issues resulting from non-ergonomic equipment, a sitting lifestyle, stress, alcohol abuse, or mental problems.

The growing awareness of relevance of these issues has made the well-being trend increasingly popular. However, a common risk in this case is focusing on initiatives promoting a healthy lifestyle which are superficial and have limited impact. While not denying the value of such activities, it is worth noting that well-being understood as an end-to-end approach to creating a healthy and engaging organizational environment should be one of the central elements of a business strategy. From such a perspective, well-being has impact on key decisions made by the employer, from selecting the building and designing the workplace to making managerial decisions to the extent of shaping the organizational structure.

Areas of activity

Many factors affect the broadly understood well-being of employees. When preparing for implementing a well-being strategy, we should identify the factors we have control over as the employer and direct the efforts at the areas with potentially best results. In this context, it is worth looking at the following three key areas:

  • Physical aspects of the workplace
  • Promoting the right habits and types of behaviour
  • Management culture

As regards physical aspects, the key factors include the quality of air and water delivered to the building; the use in the interior of healthy finishing materials which do not emit substances harmful to the user; ergonomic, well-lit workplaces; and proper thermal and acoustic comfort.  When choosing the location and planning the space and furnishings, it is worth taking into account the standards of physical space as they have direct impact on employees' health and performance. The effectiveness of initiatives aimed at promoting healthy habits and all the activities related to building a proper organizational culture is more difficult to measure, but they are no less relevant. Caring for employees’ well-being includes, among others, creating an environment in which, thanks to a clear strategy, precisely defined goals and the right managerial approach, they have the sense of meaningfulness of their work, autonomy with regard to how they perform their job duties, as well as good relations with their supervisors and colleagues. Therefore, before implementing well-being initiatives, it worth taking effort to accurately diagnose the organizational situation and employees’ needs. Such diagnosis will allow for consciously shaping the company’s policy in the above three key areas, i.e. intervening where there is the highest potential for tangible results for the organization and measuring the effectiveness of the undertaken activities to continuously modify the strategy.

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Dorota Osiecka




  • Workplace Strategy, Research, Space Planning and Change  Management expert
  • 12+ years of strategic consulting, project management and  business development across various sectors and  geographies
  • Ample experience in managing  start-up teams and  new  markets
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