Carl Chapman, associate & head of workplace health, Barnett Waddingham writes a blog series explaining what wellbeing really means

wellness on a budget

It has long been my opinion that the word wellbeing has been tarnished by a tick box type approach involving fruit in the office and half priced gym memberships. I think we are all aware that wellbeing is important and if done properly can have a profound impact on business performance; however I have found over the years when talking to clients that the word itself fuels images of lycra clad colleagues participating in yoga type activities or turning the boardroom into a meditation or ‘quite reflection’ room. The concept of wellbeing is at best vague and at worst nonsensical.

We take an analytical approach to wellbeing when working with our clients to understand what wellbeing risks exist ensuring that any strategy is pertinent to those risks and provides a tangible return on investment. Our approach is award winning and different and as such we wanted to find a new word to replace wellbeing and to better describe what it is that we do.

Our search led us into the past and all the way back to the ancient Greeks where we came across the word, Eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia was penned by the Greek philosopher Aristotle over 2,300 years ago, roughly translated it means ‘human flourishing’. This led me to realise that wellbeing isn’t a new concept at all, it has been around as an ideology for thousands of years and there are words in all languages and cultures and in every corner of the planet that describe in one way or another human flourishing.

So what is Eudaimonia?

As mentioned Eudaimonia roughly translates as ‘human flourishing’, this terminology really resonates with me and I think the question we need to ask of our employees is not “how do we help them flourish personally and professionally” but “what is preventing them from flourishing personally and professionally?”

Wellbeing has always been aligned closely to health and the majority that have a wellbeing strategy will focus heavily, or in some cases exclusively, on the health of their employees. Health is an important part of the bigger picture and forms part of our Eudaimonia thinking but it isn’t the only piece of the Eudaimonia puzzle.

Imagine the Acropolis in Athens, this impressive citadel isn’t supported by just one pillar, it is in fact supported by many and if enough start to crumble then the entire structure would fall. We believe that Eudaimonia is supported by six pillars, job security, financial security, health, support, protection and work/life balance. If one or two of these supporting pillars is weak it will impact the structural integrity of, in this case, Eudaimonia.

Our job is to help our clients figure out which pillars require reinforcing and to help them build a strategy that does exactly that using a framework of prevention, intervention and education.

In the next 8 weeks I will write a further 15 blogs on Eudaimonia using the Greek alphabet as a reference point and give insight into how this old concept can significantly improve your business performance by maximising output from your greatest asset.

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