Promoting Wellbeing In the Workplace: A Look at Wellness-Centered Leadership

According to Andrew Naber, an industrial-organizational psychologist, the average person will spend approximately 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetime. As you think about your career, how would you describe your time at work? Are you engaged? Overall, has it been meaningful? Do you spend the vast majority of your time feeling stressed? With current employment trends indicating an exhausted workforce, high employee turnover, and an unstable economy, there has never been a more important time for leaders to focus on employee wellbeing.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report shines a light on several important factors  related to employee wellbeing which are highlighted below.


Employee engagement is on the rise, reaching a record high of 23%. Engaged employees find a sense of meaning in their work and feel connected to their colleagues, supervisors, and/or the organization at large.


Engagement matters more than where workers work. People want/need to feel connected to the people they work with. How people feel about their job has a lot more to do with their relationships with coworkers than being remote or on-site.

6 employees

Nearly 6 in 10 employees are quiet quitting, meaning they are physically present but they have mentally checked out from their work. These employees either don’t know what to do, or why the work they do matters. In addition, they report feeling a lack of connection with their co-workers, boss and/or the organization.


Quiet quitters know what is impacting their motivation at work. 41% said they would change engagement or culture, 28% said they would change pay and benefits, and 16% said they would enhance wellbeing. Common recommendations to make the workplace better included more recognition, opportunities to learn, fair treatment, clearer goals, and better managers.


44% of employees worldwide experience daily stress at work, which is the second highest recorded year in a row. Employee stress has been steadily rising over the past decade.

family and money

Every region of the world, except the United States and Canada saw an increase in the number of workers who reported now is a good time to find a job where they live. According to Gallup, this indicates that organizations will need to pay attention to retaining their talented employees.


51% of employees are looking out for or actively seeking new jobs. Job seekers are looking for increases in pay, as well as improved wellbeing and opportunities for growth and development.

According to Shanafelt et al., the major scholarly approaches to leadership over the last 70 years have implications for leadership models moving forward. We can learn from these models by emphasizing the importance of power dynamics, skills development, balanced leadership behaviors, situational awareness, transformational leadership, alignment with core values, and adaptability to different phases of organizational development. They propose a new integrative model of Wellness-Centered Leadership (WCL) which includes three core elements: care about people always, cultivate individual and team relationships, and inspire change. Outlined below are ways that leaders can integrate these three elements into their leadership style.

Care About People Always:

  • Leaders play a significant role in the well-being, fulfillment, and vitality of team members.
  • Leaders should exhibit curiosity, respect, empathy, and understanding towards their team.
  • Recognition and appreciation of individual contributions and talents are essential.
  • Encourage self-care and work-life integration discussions, adapting communication to individual needs.
  • Provide resources and support for well-being, recognize signs of distress, and model a concern for personal aspects like sleep and vacations.
  • Practice active listening and demonstrate humility in inquiry.
  • Create an environment where team members feel valued, psychologically safe, and believe that self-care is valued and supported.

Cultivate Individual and Team Relationships:

  • Show deep respect for individuals and recognize their capacity for growth and improvement.
  • Acknowledge each person’s unique goals and path of development.
  • Foster respectful and supportive relationships among team members.
  • Recognize that being part of a supportive team provides meaning and purpose.
  • Leaders play a crucial role in team cultivation, success, and communication.
  • Help colleagues focus on their passions and manage their reputation.
  • Support others in their chosen development path, reconnecting them to purpose.
  • Encourage coaching rather than direct guidance.
  • Facilitate interdependence and a shared sense of purpose within the team.
  • Promote alignment of values and norms, advocate for community needs, and foster connections among community members.
  • Keep the community informed of organizational goals and facilitate events that strengthen community bonds.

Inspire Change:

  • Facilitate change through a collaborative effort that ensures that everyone has a voice.
  • Elicit team members feedback on how best to make changes and improve.
  • Create a culture of psychological safety, so that people feel safe to speak up.
  • Model desired change and be consistent.
  • Match employee skills and interests with job tasks -align both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic rewards.
  • Seek advice and input.
  • Create co-ownership of the work among team members (we/us not us/them).
  • Believe that change is possible and see in others their possibility for growth and performance.

This leadership model offers significant advantages, including higher employee retention, increased team engagement, and enhanced recruitment effectiveness. It achieves this by aligning individual goals with team objectives through formal and informal communication. The model prioritizes values alignment to create a culture of teamwork and psychological safety, fostering job satisfaction and higher engagement. It also encourages a sense of community at work, promoting collaboration both within the team and across the broader healthcare community. Additionally, it emphasizes building strong working relationships and collegiality, benefiting both internal organization dynamics and external relationships, ultimately improving overall performance and outcomes.

In essence, this approach to leadership emphasizes the importance of genuine care for individuals, promoting their well-being, and nurturing positive team dynamics and community connections. For those in human services, it bodes that a human-centered approach to leadership is necessary to mitigate burnout and help foster a meaningful work environment that promotes wellbeing.


Gallup. (2023). State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report. Gallup.

Gettysburg College. (2023). One third of your life is spent at work. Gettysburg College.

McRae, E., Aykens, P., Lowmaster, K., & Sheep, J. (2023). 9 trends that will shape work in 2023 and beyond. Harvard Business Review.

Shanafelt, T., Trockel, M., Rodriguez, A., & Logan, D. (2021). Wellness-centered leadership: Equipping health care leaders to cultivate physician well-being and professional fulfillment. Academic Medicine96(5), 641–651.

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