What does it mean to be employed in a ‘healthy’ workplace? We know that the workplace is an important site for promoting mental health and wellbeing. It is also an environment that can build a culture of respect and collegial support which helps create security and positive regard.

The wide range of research, seminars and publications available on leadership and organisational wellbeing should provide guidance and ideas about what supports employees. Some initiatives that promote wellbeing are within the control of individuals. These include regular exercise; adequate sleep; good nutrition; the ability to positively manage emotions and behaviour. However, wellbeing at work requires additional approaches that need to be taken by the organisation.

Daniel Goleman, author of many publications about emotional intelligence, says in a recent blog that wellbeing at work includes ‘optimal match between job demands and skills’ as well as social connections. He quotes a Wellbeing Index used by Harvard researchers which assesses key areas of wellbeing at work. It is interesting to note that some of the key signs of the Index include a sense of purpose and meaning in our tasks and activities as well as the richness of our relationships with colleagues. The other evidence of a healthy workplace is the awareness and experience of security, trust and respect between colleagues and their line managers.

What is the role of managers in wellbeing at work? Managers have an essential part in creating a culture of wellbeing. Goleman makes the point that the workplace becomes a positive environment when people experience ‘empathic concern’ towards their colleagues. It increases the ways that people work as a team. It also enables a manager to support staff members to learn and develop skills that contribute meaningfully to their own professional learning and the work of the organisation and their experience of wellbeing.

Effective performance management development processes are important for employees too. Ideally these need to:

  • Focus on the health and wellbeing of individual staff members
  • Assist individuals to plan and achieve personal and professional goals
  • Provide opportunities to make decisions about their work and to express their views
  • Put in place confidential 360 degree feedback for all managers and leaders.

Wellbeing in the workplace has a significant impact on human and economic resources. It takes commitment to build wellbeing at every level of an organisation. It requires leaders who develop productive and empathic working relationships, and foster cultures that respect diversity and equality. As Goleman states, managing wellbeing at work is about getting the right balance.

Principals Australia Institute has developed workON, a kit to assist managers to build wellbeing in the workplace. These resources include a Leaders’ Handbook, Staff Handbook and a set of Help Sheets.

– Madeleine Regan – Acting Coordinator, Communications

Principals Australia Institute



Goleman, D, ‘The Right Balance: Managing Well-Being at Work’, June 30, 2015

Principals Australia Institute workON Wellbeing in the Workplace