A Holistic Vision of Well-being in the Workplace

Employee well-being has emerged as a strategic human resources challenge in today’s organizations and law firms are no exception.

Author: Dr. Noémie Le Pertel, Adjunct Professor at the IE School of Human Sciences and Technology, doctor of East Asian integrative medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, Founder of Empowered Wellness and the Center for Positive Leadership.

In terms of people management, today’s corporate world bears little resemblance to that of the past. Taboos have been broken and there is more honesty and transparency. Companies have adopted a more human outlook and are starting to consider workers’ competencies and goals at both the individual and collective levels. At the same time, well-being in the workplace has emerged as a strategic aspect that shapes such crucial factors as productivity and organizational performance.

Well-being involves several essential elements, including attitude and the resources assigned by the company to achieve this purpose. Employees are used to giving customers the best of themselves, making their lives easier, solving their problems, and empathizing with them. Every organization should strive to behave similarly towards its own staff and extend this conduct beyond the workplace.

Problems such as anxiety, stress, and other pathologies are present at not only employee’s desks but also in their homes. In the legal sector, studies by the American Bar Association have found surprisingly high rates of substance abuse, addiction, and mental disorders, including depression and suicidal thoughts.

The financial costs associated with poor employee health management total $2.2 trillion annually in the USA alone, according to the Global Wellness Institute. Corporations and law firms must invest in a healthier form of people management or risk disastrous consequences: suicide, absenteeism, financial ruin and alcoholism. When making decisions that affect their employees, companies must come to grips with these taboos—and many others.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals highlight the importance of healthy workplaces and well-being, issues that are key development areas for companies at the global level. Anything that has a positive emotional impact on workers affects how they interact and engage with the organization.

Mental health in the workplace: Contemporary models of well-being

In the world of psychology, Martin Seligman’s PERMA model shows that engagement, positive emotions, meaning, relationships, and accomplishments are essential for well-being. Nonetheless. to take the holistic assessment of well-being in human capital to the next level, Dr. Le Pertel and Nick Van Dam have developed a vitality model incorporating other dimensions, such as learning, health, and physiological aspects, key elements to achieve wellbeing and sustainable performance. Insights from this area can help us create teams of resilient people.

Research has shown that resilience is more about recovering from problems, not only overcoming them, as obstacles are inevitable in every profession.

In the field of law, where building relationships with clients is of paramount importance, it makes sense to emphasize the emotional dimension. A study carried out at a law firm in New Zealand found that lawyers who experienced positive challenges achieved higher levels of engagement in their jobs.

The best way to deal with obstacles is to put yourself back together so that you can face the next challenge. Practices such as mindfulness can increase your ability to recover from traumatic thoughts and emotions.

Health and wellness in the workplace: Make optimism a state of mind

Through mental effort and training, pessimistic people can become optimistic—to the benefit of their company. With this process, negative things come to be seen as temporary, problem-solving is taken in stride, and on-the-job anxiety decreases. Outside of work, optimistic people have more energy to cultivate relationships, exercise, etc.

With optimism as your natural state, you can acquire critical skills coveted by every human resources department. Companies want people who know how to adapt on the fly to constantly changing environments.

Dr. Le Pertel is a doctor of acupuncture and East Asian medicine and has been treating patients and conducting research in top-tier academic medical centers and hospitals for over ten years. She holds Degrees in Health Policy and Management from Columbia University and Applied Positive Psychology from The University of Pennsylvania, as well as Doctoral Studies in Adult Learning, Leadership, and organizational development from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently earning a second Doctorate, in Education, at The University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Chief Learning Officer Program. Her research is on organizational wellbeing and learning, and assessing for impact. Her vision is human-centered, whole person leadership that helps individuals fulfill their potential, promoting sustainable flourishing from micro to macro-levels. She has designed custom wellbeing programs and clinics for organizations including the United Nations, Columbia University Women in Business, tech companies, international humanitarian/NGOs, business and government organizations. She serves as faculty for the International Master Class on Learning and Development Leadership at IE University.

Note: The views expressed by the author of this paper are completely personal and do not represent the position of any affiliated institution.