Which Wellbeing Approaches Work Best?

Michelle McQuaid
3 min readJul 7, 2022

Why good science is never proven

New research suggests that 93% of workers are now reporting that they value support for their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing as much as what they are paid. So, it’s not surprising to see more and more workplaces appointing Chief Wellbeing Officers to build a culture of health across their organizations. But what are the best approaches when it comes to caring for workplace wellbeing?

“With so many wellbeing theories and concepts available, it can be difficult to decipher which we should choose in any given setting,” explained Dr. Scott Donaldson, a senior researcher in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC when we interviewed him recently. “Our meta-analysis of 20 years of research found that multidimensional wellbeing theories demonstrated the strongest relationship with improving desirable work outcomes like wellbeing and engagement and lowering undesirable work outcomes like turnover intentions and stress.”

For example, one of the most popular multidimensional wellbeing theories studied was Dr. Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory of wellbeing, which suggests that there are five factors related to wellbeing: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Scott and his colleagues found that drawing upon theories and measurement tools like this can be helpful when developing wellbeing strategies in organizations as they provide evidence-based guideposts on how to measure and care for our wellbeing, in contrast to single wellbeing interventions like mindfulness or gratitude.

Scott and his colleagues also found that the delivery method of workplace wellbeing support can have an impact on workers’ outcomes. For example, when trying to improve wellbeing, group settings had the greatest impact. However, when trying to mitigate negative outcomes, individual and group coaching sessions appeared to be more effective at achieving the desired goal, perhaps due to their higher levels of psychological safety.

What might this all mean practically for your workplace wellbeing approach?

Scott recommends that we:

  • Choose a multidimensional wellbeing approach — Multidimensional theories like PERMA, Psychological Capital, and Strengths are more likely to have a significant impact on workplace outcomes. Multidimensional wellbeing approaches provide more freedom and flexibility for people and teams to focus on the wellbeing approaches that serve them best based on their needs, hopes, and resources. Which multidimensional wellbeing approach might serve your people best?
  • Be mindful of the best mode of delivery — When it comes to improving engagement and wellbeing at work, large group settings appear to be the most effective mode. However, when it comes to reducing turnover and stress, individual coaching appears to be more effective. Issues that are more sensitive — like navigating stress — may be difficult for people to discuss in more open forums. Based on the levels of psychological safety your workplace changes may require, consider what will be the best mode of delivery.
  • Invest in measurement — To confidently demonstrate the value of your wellbeing approaches and know when you need to continue experimenting because you’re not where you want to be yet, measurement of your workplace wellbeing efforts is essential. Look for validated tools and scales to help you reliably assess the impact you are having.

How are you supporting wellbeing in your workplace?

If you’d like to try a free, five-minute version of the PERMAH Wellbeing Survey for Workplaces, just click here.