Championing Holistic Health: A Blueprint for Workplace Well-Being

In today’s fast-paced, increasingly digitized work environment, employees across many industries are experiencing mental health stressors and seeking workplace-centered solutions. Over 90% of American workers say employer-sponsored mental health coverage is important for workplace culture.

Everyone yearns to feel valued, appreciated, and supported, especially when it comes to mental health and well-being. By incorporating a holistic approach to mental health support–including  personalized care for employees and their families–HR and People leaders can show individuals that they are valued as employees and people. 

There’s also an opportunity to incorporate a holistic approach into organizational strategies for HR leaders, managers, and benefits specialists by focusing on the manager experience, utilizing real-time insights and analytics, and driving better clinical outcomes.

What is holistic health?

Holistic health goes beyond physical health, encompassing mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It’s recognizing that these elements are deeply interconnected, and a deficit in one can impact the others. 

Approaching employees through a holistic health lens means acknowledging that many components comprise their well-being—not just their physical health.

As leaders, this allows us to let go of assumptions about whether or not a person is well or why their productivity may have decreased, and approach things from a holistic and compassionate lens.

The components of holistic well-being in the workplace

First and foremost, holistic health in the workplace requires seeing each employee as a whole person with diverse needs. To me, holistic well-being encompasses the following.

Physical well-being

Proper nutrition, regular exercise, and enough sleep are essential. We know that sitting is the new smoking, yet many of us still don’t get enough movement. 

The benefits of sleep go beyond feeling rested—sleep gives us the mental clarity and energy to deal with stress, allows our bodies to detoxify, and decreases long-term health risks like heart disease and diabetes.

Mental well-being

Supporting self-care means encouraging employees to take care of their mental space and capacity, set boundaries, deal with shame or guilt, let go of resentment, cultivate compassion, and practice accepting the things they can’t change.

Spiritual well-being

Spirituality in the workplace is as diverse as the people who work there, and it’s important to respect people’s unique beliefs and practices.

Financial well-being

While not frequently discussed, finances significantly affect our physical and mental health. Providing equitable access to resources is crucial so everyone can access what they need for a healthy life.

Interpersonal well-being

It’s essential to nurture strong relationships in and out of the workplace. Encourage team building and respecting individual preferences for social interaction, whether in-office or remote. 

It’s also important to balance work and personal relationships. A strong support system can positively influence a person’s professional success and overall well-being.

Championing holistic health in the workplace

HR leaders are uniquely positioned to champion the inclusion of holistic health benefits and influence the larger workplace culture. 

Many people—at all levels of seniority—don’t feel like they have enough time to get their work done, so it’s essential to ensure that taking care of their holistic health doesn’t feel like another to-do. 

This is why buy-in from leadership and employees is necessary—the benefits are worth it. 

The benefits of a holistic approach

Holistically healthy and happy employees are more engaged and productive at work. Feeling motivated and present is hard when we don’t feel well. 

From a financial standpoint, holistically healthy employees are less costly, and attrition is lower when employees are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier. In fact, 63% of U.S. employees say the top attributes they seek in their next job are greater work-life balance and better personal well-being.

But delivering on that solution isn’t always so easy. We live in a society that emphasizes busyness and often equates it with productivity. People feel like they have to show they’re always productive, which leads to poor self-care and a lack of work-life balance—whether that’s a mid-day walk or planning a vacation. 

The pressure people feel to be constantly “on” has led to increasing rates of burnout, which contributes to anxiety and depression. 

This makes me think of a quote from author Jeff Foster: “The word ‘depressed’ can be spoken as DEEP REST. We can choose to view depression not as a mental illness but as a state of Deep Rest, a spiritual exhaustion that we enter into when we are de-pressed (pressed down) by the weight of the false self, the mask, the mind-made story of ‘me.’”

Practical steps for incorporating holistic health

Let’s consider how workplace leaders can acknowledge the whole person at work, not just the productive (or unproductive) employee. 

While it would be ideal to say, ‘We’ll provide therapy and coaching for everyone, build a gym and a garden, and bring in healthy food,’ HR leaders are working with limited resources. 

However, there are creative solutions to make holistic health more accessible. Some simple, actionable steps might include:

  • Creating time and space for physical activity: Encourage exercise by providing spaces for workouts, organizing walking clubs, or encouraging walking meetings. Consider hosting yoga or meditation sessions in common areas—and if you can’t bring in a teacher, there are plenty of free videos on YouTube.
  • Promoting stress management: Designate spaces in your office as relaxation areas to calm the nervous system, share simple breathing exercises, or encourage regular stretching to counteract the effects of constant high stress.
  • Encouraging the use of breaks: To be productive, we need rest. Otherwise, we can’t think clearly, and we make more mistakes. Leaders need to model and encourage rest, even by asking, “Do you plan on taking any time off? You deserve it. I see how hard you’ve been working.” 
  • Taking mental health days: Some workplaces offer mental health days (separate from sick days) that can be used for proactive self care, not just because someone is feeling depressed or burnt out.

Centering employees and their families

Adopting a holistic approach to workplace well-being means investing in the mental health of employees and their families. Mental health is deeply interconnected with both their workplace experiences and their overall health and happiness.

A comprehensive strategy might encompass streamlined access to high-quality mental health care and resources, including:

  • Personalized care discovery
  • Preventative support
  • Specialized care for complex mental health needs
  • Well-being resources

Beyond offering access to mental health support, it’s also crucial to cultivate an organizational culture that prioritizes holistic health and well-being. 

Organizational strategies for holistic health

A truly comprehensive holistic approach to employee mental health starts at the top of any organization. 

Mental health support grounded in scientific research and supported by compassionate, clinical expertise empowers workplace leaders to optimize engagement, productivity, and overall employee well-being. 

This might include prioritizing:

  • On-demand insights and analytics
  • Training and community development
  • Critical incident response
  • Organizational dynamics
  • Clinical outcomes and ROI

When a holistic approach to mental health support is embedded within organizational culture from the top down, companies can empower their leaders while driving measurable outcomes.

Using data to underpin holistic health strategies

When assessing the impact of an organization’s holistic health initiatives, tracking specific metrics or indicators is essential so that workplace leaders can understand whether these initiatives are working.

HR and benefit leaders are balancing resources for a number of benefits, and need insight into what’s helping employees or whether a strategy might need adjustment.

Spring Health offers a data-driven, holistic approach to mental health

Spring Health’s comprehensive mental health solution recently obtained independent, third-party certification from the Validation Institute. It shows improvement in clinical outcomes for members, a reduction in overall workplace and healthcare claims costs, and a 2.2x return on investment in health plan spend alone.

Spring Health’s dual pillar approach includes holistic, personalized care for employees and their families and organizational strategies for HR, managers, and benefits leaders.

Reflecting a whole person approach in workplace support

The most important thing to remember is that embracing a holistic approach to health in your workplace requires seeing each employee as more than their job title—instead, consider them as whole people encompassing mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health.

By cultivating an environment that nurtures holistic well-being, HR leaders can ensure that every employee feels valued and supported to perform at their best while living full lives. 

This cultural philosophy demonstrates an organization’s commitment to its most powerful resource: people.

Explore the workplace benefits of offering a comprehensive approach to mental health that considers family dynamics, spirituality, finances, and work.