Wellbeing is defined by the New Economics Foundation as “how people feel and how they function […] and how they evaluate their lives as a whole”. This encompasses the Oxford English Dictionary definition of wellbeing as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. Wellbeing can be financial, emotional, physical, or mental and in order to achieve an overall state of wellbeing, someone needs to be well in all these areas of their life.

What are the effects of poor wellbeing which can be reversed or partially alleviated by an effort to improve it?

  • Stress
  • Sleepless nights
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lower productivity at work
  • Poor colleague relationships
  • Panic attacks
  • Low mood
  • Loneliness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Inability to express and recognise feelings
  • Few meaningful social interactions
  • Lack of motivation generally (to eat well, exercise, attend social events).

All of these can lead to increased absenteeism and therefore greater cost for an employer.

All types of wellbeing can have an impact on other types. For example, poor physical wellbeing may result in poor mental wellbeing as someone may become stressed about a physical health condition. Poor emotional wellbeing involves optimism regarding the future, which may lead to poor financial wellbeing if the person does not feel motivated to forward-plan financially.

How is wellbeing achieved?

From an employer’s point of view, greater communication with employees on the importance of the different types of wellbeing can help a workforce feel better and more motivated at work, as well as in other areas of their life.

This may involve raising awareness so that colleagues understand the importance of wellbeing and the consequences of not maintaining it (stress, mental health issues, etc.), which can, in turn, affect performance at work. 

This is particularly important during the current Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a widespread impact on general population wellbeing.

5 ways to achieve better wellbeing

Wellbeing, since it is as much perception of the self and the extent to which one is succeeding in health and life in general, has a prominent mental dimension. Preserving physical and social wellbeing can help mentally, as illustrated in this list of ways to improve wellbeing.

1) Connect with others

To improve a sense of belonging and self-worth, and to share positive experiences and support others. 

This might involve spending time with the family, such as over dinner, playing a board game instead of watching the TV, or staying in touch with friends using video calls. But it can be important not to rely on the internet as a means of social interaction as this can exacerbate feelings of isolation.

2) Get physically active

To improve self-esteem, give a sense of achievement, and increase levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain which can boost mood. 

Local community groups often provide free physical activities and there are apps and podcasts, such as ‘couch to 5k’ which guide beginners through the first steps to becoming regularly active.

3) Learn new skills

To boost confidence and give a sense of achievement and provide opportunities for social connection.

Skills might include cooking, DIY, gardening or cultivating a community allotment, taking on new workplace responsibilities, or writing a novel.

4) Be generous

To help connections with other people and to gain a sense of having helped someone else. Volunteering, listening to a friend or family member, or helping an elderly relative with daily tasks are examples of this.

5) Be mindful

To better understand oneself, body and mind and feel more present in the wider world. This might involve breathing exercises or meditation, which can help with stress by calming the mind and reducing pent-up tension in the body.

Wellbeing signposting

The Wellbeing Project – organisation providing wellbeing and resilience resources for employers and employees through workshops, webinars and courses and helping to cultivate wellness in the workplace (0800 0856899).

Mind – UK mental health charity with a guide to mental wellbeing and resources to help people stay well mentally (0300 123 3393).

BBC Bitesize – education resources designed for school pupils – however, the page on emotional, social and physical health provides a useful summary of these and what we should aim for regarding wellbeing more generally.

NHS – 5 steps to mental wellbeing – NHS guide to improving wellbeing, from the angle of mental health.

Other Research Resources

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