Well-being is built on a solid foundation of inter-dependability

“New research published in the Industrial Relations Journal found no evidence that individual-level mental wellbeing interventions like mindfulness, resilience and stress management, relaxation classes, and wellbeing apps benefit employees.”

Some frame well-being as an individual challenge in which we liberate ourselves from the limitations and burdens others place on us. Another line of thinking places responsibility on the shoulders of management, arguing that it is up to the executives to make well-being a priority in their decision making.

As with many problems, the sustainable solutions tend to be based on an “A + B + ___” calculus. We don’t realize well-being alone, but we also cannot expect our managers to realize it for us. Management cannot just wave a magic wand and change all of the systems and processes to a shareholder return paradigm with well-being at the center. Likewise, it is unfair to expect every individual to have the slack capacity (溶融 in Japanese) to figure out how to maintain their own well-being in a system that is not designed to support it.

Well-being is something we achieve through individual choices made with colleagues in a work environment that has been designed to include space for well-being. Well-being is achieved through a combination of personal awareness AND social connection.

On the personal side:

Whatever our circumstances, we can always find opportunities to assert our “agency” in the interest of a “purpose” that inspires us to take action yielding the experience of “growth.”

On the social side:

Finding ways to align and integrate our actions in “connection with others” to “contribute” to something greater than ourselves yields more “meaning” in work and life.

So what do we need from management?

What we need from management is a work environment that opens up time and space for us to make well-being an active priority expressed in the choices we make as individuals and teams. Well-being events are nice and when done properly they can serve as a trigger to create momentum for a shift toward actions that promote well-being. But we have to be careful how we frame and what we do in these events because they often end up just being a distraction that makes us (and management) feel like we’ve already ticked that box and we can go back to our real job which is increasing short-term shareholder returns.

What we need from management is support for the process of creating and re-creating well-being together as a central part of our daily work and lives.

Inter-dependence is reality; inter-dependability is the choice to make the most of that reality. Well-being is easier to sustain when we, our colleagues and our management choose to make inter-dependability a core part of our culture and processes.

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Employee Resource Groups are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve.  They’re usually led and participated in by employees who share a characteristic, whether it’s gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle, or interest. The groups exist to provide support and help in personal or career development and to create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table. Allies may also be invited to join the ERG to support their colleagues.

ERGs tend to be based on affinities that fit within the rubric of inclusion. There are none among us who don’t need to be well, so the pursuit of wellbeing can be a bridge creating affinity within diversity.

© Dana Cogan, 2024, all rights reserved.

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