Why ‘Well-being’ Trumps ‘Wellness’

Young woman, eyes closed portrait_83812897When you think about “wellness,” what comes to mind?

You might imagine sitting in a johnnie on a doctor’s exam table, waiting to get blood drawn. Maybe you think about your bathroom scale (and how it’s casually collecting dust in the linen closet, if you’re like me). The treadmill at the gym could come to mind, or the blood pressure station at your local pharmacy.

Seeing a trend?

For most of us, the term “wellness” is synonymous with physical health (an important part of our well-being, for sure), but that’s pretty limiting. Think about it: you may be getting annual physicals or hopping on the scale each month, but how good is your health bound to be if your finances are a disaster or if you haven’t caught a wink of sleep all week? Not very.

Why “Well-Being”?

Over the past couple of years, there’s been a shift away from “wellness” and toward “well-being.” This change may seem more about word choice and less about meaning, but there’s actually a big difference between the two. While wellness focuses on physical health alone, well-being takes a holistic approach to health and includes five components.

  1. Purpose: Enjoying what you do everyday and being motivated to hit your goals
  2. Social: Having supportive people, relationships, and love in your life
  3. Financial: Managing your money and finances to limit stress and drive security
  4. Community: Liking where you live, and feeling safe in and proud of your community
  5. Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get through your day

Some might argue that the areas sound a bit fluffy at first glance, but the five components of well-being actually have a tremendous impact on people – particularly your employees.

For example, people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their careers nearly 50 percent more than those without a close work friend. What’s more, 30 million U.S. workers say they’re financially distressed and dissatisfied with their personal financial situation – and that kind of stress has a direct affect on their work.

Here’s Where You Come In

Feel like your hands are tied when it comes to helping employees across all of these areas? You’re not.

You can have a major affect on all aspects of your employees’ well-being – even those seemingly fluffy areas – by offering tools and resources that support them in forming habits that matter. Put programs and policies in place that tap people’s true motivations and give them a range of ways to improve what they want to change. Once they start improving one area of life – be it their physical health or social well-being – they’ll naturally start improving other areas, too. And that means major outcomes for them and you that go beyond what wellness alone will provide.

Want to learn more about the shift from “wellness” to “well-being,” and why it’s one you should make at your organization? Read our whitepaper, “Making the Case: Supporting Well-being, Molding Better Business”.


Kaite Rosa is Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Virgin Pulse, where she leverages her personal passion for health and happiness to write compelling content about employee well-being and engagement. Outside of work, Kaite likes to hit the road with her favorite running buddy, her 1-year-old rescue dog Marlee. Follow her on Twitter: @kaiterosa.

5 Tips for Keeping Culture Intact as Your Company Grows

This article originally appeared on Virgin.com.

Most companies face a common challenge at one point or another: maintaining culture as their organization grows.startup meeting

When you think of today’s typical start-up, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s all-night hack-a-thons, or Friday happy hours and free beer on tap, or laid back offices where even dogs are welcome to come to work. Whatever you think of first, one thing’s clear: start-ups care a lot about culture. But, once a company’s crossed that start-up threshold, how can they preserve their culture and ensure it thrives as they scale?

The examples above are nice, but corporate culture goes well beyond benefits and perks. Real company culture comes from shared values and people working together to support an organization’s mission and the problems it’s trying to solve. Company culture is fostered when you support employees’ well-being and empower them to bring their best selves to work each day.

Creating a great culture isn’t easy. But here are a five ways you can work to keep your culture intact and your people thriving as your business grows:

1. Care about your staff

People want to work for companies that care about them and want them to be well. To create a great culture, it’s critical you support the well-being of your workforce – both on the job and off. Founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson’s long said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” That’s true for businesses of all sizes, and something to consider while working to create a great place to work.

2. Focus on your infrastructure

As your company grows, communication, training, and knowledge sharing becomes harder. When scaling, putting more investment into and emphasis on systems and processes is key. But it’s critical that you do so in a way that’s designed for simplicity, efficiency, and collaboration – rather than one that’s highly bureaucratic. Nobody wants another software system for the sake of software or a process for the sake of process, so be mindful of what you’re putting in place and why.

3. Support your managers

Empowering you staff is one of the most important things you can do. As your company grows, managers become even more important in helping to shape culture. Great companies promote from within whenever possible. When people prove themselves in their roles and within your culture, help them grow. Give them the training and support they need so they can help others grow, too.

When looking for new, talented people to join your team, hire for both skill and potential. Value capability and potential and you’ll shape career paths and help people feel like they have opportunities to flourish. Great cultures emerge when everyone rolls up their sleeves, helps the company achieve its goals, and helps each other be successful in the process.

4. Model companies you admire

So many companies have created great cultures… Google, Facebook, Yahoo to name a few. People clamor to work for these companies! So, how can you create a culture just as compelling? First, you’ve got to know what’s critical for your organization and the well-being of your people. Then, take a look at what other companies are doing well and figure out how to emulate those practices while making them unique to your own culture and organization.

You many may not have the money for the same great office features as Google, for example. But there are plenty of things you can do to create an environment that supports accessibility, fun, flexibility, collaboration, well-being, and more.

5. Walk the talk

There’s nothing more debilitating than the hypocrisy of a leader with a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. It destroys culture fast. People want to feel respected, valued for their contributions, and they want to have a say. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone always gets their way. But you can’t create a great culture by dictating, micromanaging, and undermining your staff. Structure roles so people feel appreciated and set leaders up to coach instead of operating with a command and control mindset.

At the heart of it, your company is your people. They’re the ones who design, build, sell, and service your products and keep your customers happy. The second a company forgets that and looks at staff like numbers, assets, or liabilities, that’s when a company gets away from the core of what drives it.

Preserving a great culture gets harder as companies grow. But it’s critical for your business to make sure your culture thrives. Create a great culture where your employees can be their best and succeed, and your whole business succeeds.

Looking for more ways to avoid cultural growing pains? Download our ebook to learn the roles employers and employees play when it comes to company culture.


Derek Ransom is Virgin Pulse’s CFO and a seasoned finance exec with deep experience in driving growth in start-up technology businesses. He oversees the company’s finance, legal, and HR activities. Derek applies Virgin’s “screw business as usual” philosophy to grow the company, drive value, and create a great place to work. Follow him on Twitter: @dtransom3.

What Work & School Have in Common

When it comes to daily work environments, little has changed since our days in school.classroom

Think about it. Assigned desks – whether you’re a student in History class or an employee in an office – are still an idea. Lockers in the hallways have been swapped out for water coolers in the cafeterias, and teachers are now called managers.

But most importantly, what hasn’t changed for employees of all ages is a voracious appetite for learning. In fact, 53 percent of employees say the top reason they love their company is because of interesting and challenging work.

By supporting employees in developing habits around learning new things, you’ll help them meet these challenges head on and drive their professional and personal growth too.

Your Company is a Classroom

You already understand that knowledge-savvy employees are your competitive advantage. And 71 percent of CEOs agree – citing their people over products, customer relationships, and brand as the primary driver of sustained economic value.


Employees are 30 times more likely to leave their company if they feel their goals are not achievable. – IBM Corporation


Developing new habits around learning is just as important to well-being as physical activity and sleep. From better cognitive function to healthy aging, the endless thirst for knowledge keeps employees’ minds thriving.

Retaining and attracting top talent also stems from your organization valuing and encouraging of skill building. Employees are 30 times more likely to leave their company if they feel their goals are not achievable.

Offer plenty of opportunities for employees to get a bit more hands on with meaningful projects. And for more direct learning experiences, add professional development trainings and seminars into the mix too.

Education is Everywhere

Engaging employees’ habits in the workplace will begin to extend to their personal habits outside the workplace too. And there are plenty of areas of learning that may not be given their due diligence by simply being referred to as hobbies.

Learning a new language, for instance, offers employees a unique way to develop skills they might never have imagined would translate to the workplace. Aside from opening up new communication channels, learning a language develops skills like stronger decision-making, more agile switching between tasks, better control over focusing attention to limit distractions, and more aware financial spending.


“There’s magic in language” – Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group


Personal growth doesn’t have to be limited to solitary endeavors, either. Employees who choose to learn a new sport by joining a local club team will find new approaches to physical activity and broaden their social networks at the same time. With 41 percent of employees motivated by friends to get healthier, according to a Virgin Pulse survey, employees who meet more people grow more themselves too.

As with any habit, success leads to more success. By providing employees with skill-building and learning opportunities inside the workplace, you’ll be helping them grow in something they already want to do. And it’s here that your support will start employees on the path towards building even more healthier, lifelong habits.

Looking for more ways to support employees challenging themselves in the workplace? Our Pulse Paper shows you how to drive employee productivity by limiting distractions.


M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.

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Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!