When we talk about well-being, we tend to think that this concept only encompasses people’s physical and mental health. But there’s more. Well-being is related to the peace of mind and satisfaction that a person feels in all facets of his or her life. And yes, health is among them, but from a much broader notion, as the WHO (World Health Organisation) itself proposes, which speaks of health not only as the absence of disease, but as a state of physical, mental and social well-being. To these three spheres, we add work, which is becoming increasingly important in the way people understand themselves and relate to the world.

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The 5 universal elements of well-being

What would the best possible future look like for you? This question was the starting point of Gallup’s research to find common elements of well-being that transcended cultures or countries. What makes us happy? Where do we find peace?

The top two responses were “good health” and “wealth”. According to experts, this is because both money and health-related parameters can be easily measured: income, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.

However, we have no standard way of measuring the quality of our careers or the health of our relationships.

To get around this hurdle, they developed a survey with 50 questions that looked at well-being from different angles. In analysing the responses, five distinct statistical factors emerged – universal elements of well-being that differentiate a fulfilled existence from a less-than-accomplished one. They describe aspects of our lives that are important to people and that we can work on in order to improve. They are as follows:

  • Occupational well-being: you like what you do every day or how you spend your time.
  • Social well-being: you have significant friendships.
  • Financial well-being: you manage your money well.
  • Physical well-being: you have the energy to get things done.
  • Community well-being: you like the place where you live.


How to achieve complete wellbeing

While 66% of respondents do well in at least one of these areas, only 7% thrive in all five. This is a problem: we’re not getting the most out of our lives unless we’re satisfied in all five areas.


“While 66% of respondents do well in at least one of these areas, only 7% thrive in all five”


There are many ways to create thriving professional, social, financial, physical and community well-being. A path that’s shaped by the desires, needs and motivations of each of us, among many other factors.

For example, some people find environmental protection their inspiration to take care of their health, spend their time on a task they are passionate about and surround themselves with a community of people who share their interests and concerns.

The same is true for companies. For organisational culture to thrive and achieve the best results, it needs to focus on the five universal elements of well-being. It’s not enough to focus on occupational well-being alone, although it’s this dimension that will become more central to the strategy.

This does not mean that companies have to take on the role of “well-being gatekeepers”, but that they can and should integrate conversations about wellbeing into their practices and their management of people instead.


Without occupational well-being, there’s no general well-being

People often underestimate the influence of their career on their overall well-being. But occupational well-being is one of the most important of the five elements of well-being.

We spend most of our waking hours doing something related to our work, career or vocation. If you don’t enjoy what you do, your chances of enjoying well-being in other areas diminish rapidly. In fact, according to Gallup, people with a high level of occupational well-being are more than twice as likely to thrive in their lives overall.



“People with a high level of occupational well-being are more than twice as likely to thrive in their lives overall”


Our careers influence our social lives, finances, health and the relationship we have with our communities. By working on our well-being at work, we will benefit all other areas and therefore our overall well-being.


The manager's role in occupational well-being

But how can we achieve this?

The classic role of the boss, based on control and surveillance, as well as the classic model of vertical hierarchy, is destined to become extinct. At least in organisations seeking the best results, aiming for maximum efficiency and attracting talent.

The best managers now focus on training and developing employees. To do this, managers need to get to know their team members and have frequent one-to-one conversations with them. In this way, they’ll know what concerns or interests them, what are their needs and what the company can do to alleviate or reduce their problems.

Gallup shares some practices to achieve this:

* Define what well-being is for your company and the different strategies that help pursue it. Once developed, effectively communicate these ideas and promote them among your staff. It’s essential that you all share a common understanding of well-being, so that colleagues know what’s important to the company and can work in the same direction towards overall wellbeing.

* Lead by example. People often adopt wellness practices through social contagion, where peers learn from leaders and from each other.

* Don’t put up barriers between personal and professional life, at least in day-to-day conversations. A proven and effective way to show that you care about each other’s well-being is to show concern for each other’s personal lives. It increases trust levels and helps to get to know each other’s concerns and needs.

* Promote wellness programmes and evaluate their efficiency: what percentage of employees participate? who do not? why do they choose not to? how do these programmes impact on their personal or professional life?

The importance of workspaces for people’s wellbeing

The well-being of professionals is not only linked to the relationships within the team or the type of leadership of those in charge.

The space in which they carry out their tasks can also be a determining factor in their well-being. In this sense, some organisations are pioneering a design of work environments based on caring for the mental and physical health of people, while making a great effort to understand the particularities of their employees. In fact, there’s already a certification that rates buildings on the basis of criteria that influence the well-being of their occupants, the WELL certification we talked about here.