Designing Workplaces for Wellbeing

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash - Coffee gathering

Workplace wellbeing is a critical need in our world today. Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace report [1] found that only 33% of employees say that they are thriving in their overall wellbeing at work. 67% are surviving, with 19% are miserable. Burn-out is experienced globally by half the workforce [2], 35% of Canadians [3], and in the USA, the number doubled with Covid to 77%[4]. Although there is an individual element to burning out, we know from research, that the problem is not the person but the place. In 2019, the World Health Organization identified burn-out as an occupational phenomenon[5]. Burn-out results from chronic workplace stress, causing feelings of exhaustion, distancing and lack of engagement, and feeling stuck in environments that don’t allow for meaningful or supported achievement. To design workplaces for wellbeing, then, we need to gather community, rekindle enchantment, and stoke the ways we do things for change.

Gathering community

When I was a kid, my quest was who am I? why am I? How can I? As leaders in our organizations, what if we thought in terms of who are we? why are we? how can we? Wicked problems won’t be solved by individuals but by engaging with others to discern collective wisdom. We can do this by intentionally cultivating workplace cultures of belonging where we take the time to be with people again, really see each other and dialogue about what is important.  Leaders know that we create and inspire with and through others, so it is important to connect before tackling content. When was the last time you really saw your co-worker? I have been in meetings, where before engaging in dialogue, we simply start in circle and breathe as a community... aligning our breath in rhythm. We intentionally put in systems and structures to support and enhance our community. This can lead to feeling connected and energized with others.

Rekindling Enchantment

As we consider possible ways to enable meaningful and supported achievement in our organizations, let’s start with what are the dreams of our organization – our vision and mission? Organizations need a north star with guiding values to shine light and enchant, and our leadership ways set the tone and shine that light. Hildy Gottlieb [6] speaks to Building Movements, Not Organizations. What if, we backed up our north stars with movements that are alive, inspired and fused with changemaking for a greater purpose rather than running an organization in traditional ways that, given the statistics, don’t seem to be working for us anymore? This would take courage at the highest levels, by fostering workplace cultures not only of belonging and psychological safety, but of grace. Grace that is infused with purpose, passion, joy, hope and mystery. Thomas Merton said, life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved. Today’s workplaces require creativity, intentionality, and an openness to the unknown given how much change is happening around us. As leaders, what if we considered creating workplace cultures as dynamic entities full of challenge and change, where people can adapt and thrive as they work together to solve today’s mysteries?

Stoking the ways

On December 15, join Dr. Kathy Bishop, Program Head of the Master of Arts in Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Elizabeth Cordeau-Chatelain, MA, CEC, PCC, CMHA-Certified Psychological Health & Safety Advisor to explore these issues and approaches, and see how they might support your organization’s wellbeing strategiesRegister below:

Author Note

A heartfelt thank you to Elizabeth Cordeau-Chatelain for her notes on the earlier version of this blog and delightful webinar collaboration.







6 Hildy Gottlieb (2015)  Building Movements, Not Organizations. Stanford Social and Innovation Review

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash