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How to Develop a Culture of Wellbeing

NOTE: The opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Shortlister

Many employers create a wellbeing program but fail to build a culture of wellbeing. Behavior change happens because of a movement, not a mandate. As an organizational leader your wellbeing offerings alone are often not enough.

Remember the story of the 3 little pigs? In the story, a trio of pigs decide to build houses to escape their nemesis, The Big Bad Wolf. The first pig builds his house out of straw, which the wolf promptly blows down. The second pig builds a house of sticks, and the wolf easily destroys it. The third pig, whom the other two ridicule for taking so long to build his house while they are out playing, constructs a proper home out of bricks. The wolf can’t blow it down, and the pig is safe. The moral of the story: shortcuts waste more time than doing things right.

The ROI and VOI of your wellbeing program is built on durability. It doesn’t matter how big or cutting-edge the offerings are if the program itself doesn’t have good bones.

Creating a wellbeing culture brick by brick creates the foundation of your program to stand the test of time. It’s about people-2567915_1920building with intentional, sustainable materials which allows your organization and the people who work there to live happily ever after.


What is culture and why does it matter?

Culture is a way of life. It is the heart and soul of an organization. It includes values, beliefs, roles, communication, attitudes and traditions. Culture is reflected in everything a company does. When people are highly engaged with the company they work for, they are happier, more productive, loyal and enthusiastic about their work. This has a direct spin-off on the quality of their work, and if they are customer facing, their interactions with your customers.

Just like in any other personal relationship in our lives, if we don’t feel seen, heard and valued at work – we disengage. We don’t trust the message, we don’t feel supported in our mission and we can’t understand the purpose. This is human nature.

Through a deliberate investment in creating a wellbeing culture, your employees will develop a sense of belonging and purpose. You can then gently nudge personal and cognitive growth that encourages intrinsic behavior change. Quite simply, if the culture allows for people to feel authentically valued and supported, then we trust the intentions behind any call-to-action to engage in wellbeing.

The tricky part is while it’s clear that culture is important; culture itself and how to change it can feel like the big bad wolf. It can often feel like something separate from day to day operations. However, if we view wellbeing culture as part of the foundational bricks to build the house, it can feel less elusive. Your organization and its culture are interdependent. Each little change in culture impacts the whole house.


Investigate. Design. Ignite.

First, investigate what your culture is today and if sticks and straw need to be blown down.  Second, once you understand where you are and how far you are from your ideal, it’s time to design it building it brick-by-brick. Finally, it’s time to ignite the movement.


INVESTIGATE if you need to blow down the house.

1.  Take active steps to understand and learn where your culture currently stands. It’s important to know where you are starting from, to know where you want to go.

2.  Determine what motivates your employees. Ask everyone on the team how they define wellbeing. Remember wellbeing in your finance department could be different than wellbeing in the human resources department.

3.  What’s your WHY? Spend time to analyze why your organization wants to create a culture for wellbeing? Encourage your workforce to take an active role in telling you why they want a wellbeing program. Make sure your leaders share their why too.

4.  Connect with your wellbeing provider to understand the services they offer to help you evaluate, refine or improve your organizations culture.

5.  Define wellbeing. Be clear on what you and the team need to be well. Don’t cut and paste to design your wellbeing program. Instead create a program that works for your culture and your workforce.

6.  After your discovery phase, determine whether you need to change, update or maintain your culture and be persistent to achieve your goal.


DESIGN your culture to build the bricks of trust.

1.  Provide employees with the training and resources they need to understand your offerings. Hold small group meetings to create an in-person forum for Q & A.

2.  Is wellbeing one of the core values of your overall mission statement? If not, consider adding it. Train your leaders to incorporate this core value into everything they do.

3.  Be consistent. Make sure wellbeing and culture are deeply linked in daily work practices, language, decision riccardo-annandale-140624-unsplashmaking and symbols.

4.  Deep culture change can’t happen without deep relationships. Develop meaningful relationships at work. Create a formal time for your team to share authentic stories and radical gratitude around wellbeing values.

5.  Provide a wellbeing platform that meets the employee where they are on their own journey. Develop a personalized wellbeing journey by integrating and analyzing employee data from multiple sources, including demographics, assessments, biometrics, interests, preferred modalities and more.

6.  Create a wellness champion network that empowers a critical few to ignite a critical mass. Provide the network with the tools they need for on-the-ground culture development strategies.


IGNITE to make sure even the wolf can’t blow it down.

1.  Be Bold. Model your pillars of wellbeing in every action of every day. For example, be mindful of flexible working arrangements, encourage walking breaks, create time for mindfulness in formal activities, encourage high-performance habits by teaching “out of the box techniques, allow for gut checks and create space for emotion.

2.  Make sure your wellbeing vendor offers meaningful lifestyle coaching that allows your employees to feel seen, heard and supported – not just accountable.

3.  Remember everyone is watching the house. Leadership and middle management must buy in to embrace culture change and wellbeing.

4.  Check in frequently with everyone participating and not participating in the wellbeing program. Perform quarterly culture checks to collect data. Value their opinion. Make changes.

5.  Be intentional on how you encourage everyone to enjoy the process of wellbeing. Be mindful to communicate support for failures as well as excitement for victories. Share inspirational stories that create raving fans for the wellbeing program.

6.  Constantly communicate and communicate well! The story or narrative of your wellbeing culture must be clear, inclusive and reasonable. It must be able to motivate and organize a large group of people around a common helena-lopes-463976-unsplashvision/goal. Work with your wellbeing vendor to use words that specifically resonate with your organization.

Culture sustains employee engagement and enthusiasm. Your wellbeing culture can retain and maintain a top-talent workforce that is healthier and happier at work and at home. This impacts the bottom line in more ways than one. Once wellbeing becomes something you are, not what you do, intrinsic behavior change is the prize. This is a multi-prong, multi-year approach that requires trial and error. However, a wellbeing strategy that understands the power of culture is sure to succeed.

Peter Drucker nails it best in the most embellished version of his original quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, technology for lunch, products for dinner, and soon thereafter everything else too!”


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Article By  Priya Lakhi J.D., Wellbeing Officer at Alyfe Wellbeing Strategies

At Alyfe Wellbeing Strategies, we design and execute purpose-driven comprehensive wellbeing programs that help organizations understand the importance of culture and environment to attain a positive ROI and VOI.