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Wellness Defined

Diane Thompson

What do we mean by wellness? 

Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Edition defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.”

The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.”   The key idea is that wellness is intentional – people decide to be well, stay well, or get well, depending on their current health condition.

The Six Dimensions

The concept of wellness encompasses every aspect of our lives as outlined in the Six Dimensions of Wellness model, developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute.  The model is generally accepted by the wellness community, encompassing the following dimensions:

  1. Physical – bodily health through exercise, nutrition, and abstaining from harmful activities, such as smoking.
  2. Emotional – emotional health through learning to recognize, express, and control feelings and moods
  3. 6 dimensions-wellness-375x324Intellectual – mental health through developing creativity, learning ability, and problem-solving skills
  4. Occupational – job satisfaction through learning individual aptitudes and skills, and finding meaning in work.
  5. Social – community connections through learning the part we play in our interconnected world
  6. Spiritual – larger life questions through learning to choose and live by a set of values that give meaning to our lives

Why Promote Wellness?

The deteriorating state of employee wellness is a proven trend.  Promoting a culture of wellness is a concrete way to reverse the trend.   It demonstrates care and concern for employee health, and it is a commitment to improved organizational performance.  Consider the following:

  • Obesity rates are on the rise
  • The workforce is aging
  • Lifestyles are more sedentary
  • Stress-related conditions are more frequent
  • People continue to die from smoking-related causes 

Most diseases result from a complex interaction between inherited risk factors and environmental risk factors such as diet, lifestyle, and social factors.  Many diseases can be prevented or controlled by adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes being physically active, eating nutritiously, and avoiding tobacco.  Benefits of regular physical activity include a reduced risk of premature mortality and reduced risks of coronary heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, hypertension, and osteoporosis.  Regular physical activity also improves symptoms associated with musculoskeletal conditions and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.  In addition, physical activity can enhance Life and balance-400x265physical functioning and aid in weight control.  Physical activity and a healthy diet play an important role in the prevention of obesity and weight gain.  Poor health habits take an enormous toll on the financial health of business with workplaces shouldering most of the burden of the increased physical health costs of their employees.      

Preventable illnesses make up approximately 70 percent of the burden of illness according to New England Journal of Medicine researchers.   Reversing this upward spiral of ill health and associated financial burden is a pressing concern and, for more and more organizations, the cure is workplace wellness. 

Questions to Ask

Three questions organizations can ask when assessing a wellness approach or initiative are:

  1. Does this help people achieve their full potential?
  2. Does this recognize and address the whole person (multi-dimensional approach)?
  3. Does this affirm and mobilize people’s positive qualities and strengths?

 

What are your experiences with wellness programs in your workplace? Do you find that they have been beneficial for employees? Has this translated into improved performance and success at the organizational level?

note: This post is revised from Diane's previous writing on her blog, Leaderwalk, and appears here with her permission.

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Posted by Diane Thompson
Posted on June 3, 2011
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Categories: hr & talent management, management, organizational development, productivity, wellness