Do you know the difference between wellness and wellbeing?
Wellness refers to physical health. When your employer talks about wellness, they want you to quit smoking and lose weight to bring down health insurance costs. You know what brings down health insurance costs? Better regulation of health insurance companies and medical providers. But, no, you have to lose five pounds and give up donuts. That’s wellness.
Wellbeing is more holistic and is used to talk about life experiences and feelings. Employers bucket wellbeing into three different categories: physical, emotional, and financial. Your company still wants to lower costs, but there’s a move to cost-per-employee as well as revenue-per-employee to engagement scores.
If you’re happy in those three buckets — and making “good choices” as defined by industry experts who understand healthy outcomes — you’ll make your company more money. If you’re not satisfied with life, your employer won’t be as profitable.
So, how do companies measure things like happiness and engagement?
Well, some employers partner with solution providers to send out surveys and then respond to the data. It’s programmatic and sometimes assumes the outcomes, or, at the very least, has a list of solutions for different scenarios.
Other employers will hire technology companies and look at your calendar — yes, your daily schedule — and try to understand what you’re doing with your day. Then they’ll swoop in with personalized recommendations on meeting with your manager more, finding a mentor, asking for feedback from your colleagues, getting more exercise, doing more meditation, taking a digital detox, or even recommendations for PTO.
And still other employers will use wearables like your badge to see if you’re stationary or getting up and moving around during the day. Google pioneered this with their cafeterias. They would monitor who was eating where, and they’d open and close lunch stations to encourage connectivity between different groups of workers. Wearables help employers monitor physical activity in a bunch of new ways. Now, your company wants you to get up and move around because sitting is the new smoking.
So, I’m here to postulate a new theory about wellness and wellbeing. The difference between the two is how the two are measured. Wellness is self-reported, and wellbeing is surveilled and diagnosed.
Employers are over employee engagement surveys and wellness programs because those are reactionary and, honestly, a lagging indicator of an organization’s wellbeing. They want to surveil you, diagnose you, and treat you before you even know what’s wrong. We live in a world of cameras, sensors, and data tracking tools. Pull everything together, and you get a predictive picture of what’s going right — and what could go wrong — with the biggest line-item expense in your budget.
Welcome to the era of employee wellbeing. Your company loves you and cares about you. And they’re watching your every move to prove it.