August 25, 2023 •

6 min reading

Cultivating a happy workplace with wellbeing-focused leadership

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  • Workplace wellbeing is a leading factor for employees when choosing and remaining in a position, and happy employees bring better business outcomes
  • A wellbeing-focused leadership mindset is essential for the creation and implementation of successful workplace health and wellness programs
  • Six leadership attitudes and practices help to improve employee happiness by making people feel more healthy, heard, empowered, and successful


As employment trends and workplace technology continue to evolve quickly, it’s hard to predict what future jobs and careers will look like. One thing remains clear: the most valuable asset of every organization will always be its human capital. Recent studies prove that happy workplace and positive human interactions remain the key to success for any organization that employs people, or provides services and/or products for people, no matter what digitalization and AI technology brings.

As a leader, you can try anticipating the evolving nature of work, and keep an eye on emerging trends, but those things won’t have an immediate impact on your organization’s outcomes. Instead, you should proactively equip yourself or your organization for what lies ahead by focusing on what matters most: the happiness of your people, in your workplace.


The importance of wellbeing in the workplace

Recent studies have overwhelmingly concluded that happy employees are a key factor for business success, and workplace wellbeing is a priority for the most effective business leaders who deliver the best results.

Susie Ellis, Chair & CEO of Global Wellness Institute, said:

“Health and wellbeing should be a top priority of all organizations today. My congratulations to the leaders who brought this very important topic into the spotlight. The timing is ideal”.

Prioritizing the happiness and wellbeing of workers generates significant benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency. According to studies by Harvard Business Review and Gallup:

  • Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%;
  • 70% of executives say that employee engagement is critical to their company’s success;
  • Happy salespeople produce 37% greater sales;
  • 83% of millennials consider work-life balance to be the most important factor in evaluating a potential job.

Happiness at work is directly related to satisfaction and a feeling of fulfillment. Your workers can experience these positive emotions if you apply a leadership mindset grounded in wellbeing.

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Wellbeing leadership: What is it really?

This type of leadership consists of adopting a mindset in which the wellbeing and satisfaction of workers are a priority. It means accepting that their happiness is as important as customer satisfaction, meeting sales targets, effective branding, and other strategic objectives. And it requires leaders to prioritize the wellbeing of their collaborators and act accordingly.

To boost happiness at work, as a leader, you must work on yourself and reflect on the psychological, mental, and emotional aspects involved in your workspace. As a leader who prioritizes wellbeing, you can begin by taking two simple steps to jumpstart your knowledge and skills:

Get targeted training on supportive leadership

Evaluate your workplace using an employee satisfaction survey

These first steps will prepare to take action with fresh knowledge and a clear view of the challenges, so you’re ready to move forward with the implementation of a wellbeing-based leadership strategy.


Employee happiness at work: How to implement wellbeing-based leadership practices

If you're wondering how to make employees happy at work, consider the following universal actions that are frequently present among strong, wellbeing focused leaders, no matter what type of business or department role they are in:

1. Lead by example

Leaders are motivators and their behavior sets the example to follow for others in the organization, so it's important for the leader to make healthy decisions.

In companies, the practice of better habits is often subject to social contagion. Leaders should adopt the behavior they expect to see in their talents. It's the difference between: "you can do it" and "we can do it and achieve it together".

This way of leading by example demonstrates a high level of commitment and generates employee engagement.

2. Aligning people on a clear and shared purpose

When the company and its employees and stakeholders share the same goals and aspirations, it creates a powerful environment of wellbeing.

These goals don't necessarily have to be economic. They can be focused on social impact or making a difference in the industry beyond financial aspects, such as industry modernization, innovative service schemes, and new customer loyalty strategies. The key is that the purpose holds meaningful significance and that everyone is aligned around it.

It is important to involve the team in identifying the purpose and evaluating its fulfillment. Metrics and tangible analysis methods can be created for this purpose.

3. Emphasize the importance of wellbeing

Leaders have the mission of teaching their talents about the value of physical and emotional wellbeing.

Encouraging conversations about how employees feel about their work-life balance, and their interactions within the organization, is a good place to start.

This exercise offers a picture of the most important points for action and helps answer questions such as: What makes people happy at work?

Guidance should focus on helping team members make better decisions for personal care. Training in this area also allows people to discover what wellbeing activities they feel most comfortable with.

4. Practice open communication

Leaders with a wellbeing mindset cannot be isolated from the reality of their team because open and constant communication with collaborators is essential for happiness at work.

  • Employees feel more confident approaching communicative leaders and dare to express their concerns and ideas.
  • The talents need to know that their feelings are taken into account.
  • Empathy is essential in new leadership models.
  • Effective communication is a tool for maintaining solid and healthy work relationships.

A good leader invests time and energy in ensuring that directives and other important messages reach their people in a positive way, and they know that poor communication will negatively affect any wellbeing plan.

5. Adopt wellbeing programs

Better work-life quality is the goal of many modern companies. Wellbeing programs are the secret to achieving this goal. These 3 tips will help you create effective programs:

  • Provide a healthy and safe environment: Leaders have the mission to create a pleasant organizational climate. In a positive environment, talents can develop their skills safely and improve on important aspects of their work such as customer service.
  • Implement recognition and reward policies: This type of action affects the emotional wellbeing of people. Celebrate achievements and make sure to address the interests of your talents.
  • Promote interpersonal relationships: Current leaders care about ensuring their team has good interpersonal relationships. If there is trust and integration among group members, it will be easier for everyone to participate in wellbeing programs.


Is wellbeing-based leadership truly necessary? 

As the facts have shown, improving the physical and emotional health of employees is directly related to business outcomes, and it’s also the key to recruiting and retaining good talent in today’s tricky hiring market. The benefit of having leaders focused on wellbeing and happiness at work is clearly ten-fold.

Considering the tips mentioned in this article will help you build a wellbeing environment and avoid the so-called “Wellbeing Paradox”, which is a counter-intuitive situation where despite organizations investing heavily in health and wellness programs for employees, overall levels of workplace wellbeing do not seem to improve significantly, or may even decline.

A more holistic understanding of wellbeing will allow you to effectively address this paradox. Your efforts to provide wellbeing to the team should not be isolated: everything should be interrelated, and wellbeing should be considered from a 360º perspective.

This means taking into account not just physical health, but also psychological health, social connections, a sense of purpose and meaning, and a supportive work environment.

Written by

Head of Management Workshops & Seminars at EHL