A lot of people use the terms “wellness” and “well-being” interchangeably. However, Jill Kane draws a distinction between those two terms and what exactly they mean for the development of the organization. Today’s blogpost will explain the difference between those two terms and explain the role of leadership in implementing and utilizing the programs for well-being within the companies. 

Jill says that historically we thought of workplace wellness as more pertaining to medical health: keeping health insurance premiums down was really the biggest driver of why that started getting traction and attention. The physical health aspects of wellness have always been at the forefront, even before the pandemic, but especially in the last year it became even more discussed. Therefore, Jill views wellness looking more at the physical health.

The definition of well-being is much broader. It’s about looking at the whole of the person’s health, not just physical, but also emotional, social, financial health, etc. And it matters because you take your whole self to work. You can’t put one dimension of it apart and hope that everything else in your job will work out perfectly. Sooner or later the problem that you had will kick you back, if you didn’t resolve it, because all parts are integrated. So looking at well-being means looking at what’s going to help people thrive and be their best.


When is the best time to start working on well-being in your organization? It’s never too early  Jill thinks that from day one, even if you are just starting to build the company, you can start with yourself and your own well-being. Most likely, soon enough you will have employees to hire, so first and foremost you need to know how to take care of yourself.  Same goes if you lead a big company: oftentimes big companies have a lot of great programs and opportunities, but there’s a lot of stress going on, and a lot of unclear changes happening, different departments feel siloed, disconnected. In such environment, there won’t be a lot of participation in and effective development of well-being programs. Well-being is always about the whole. Not only offering various programs, initiatives and opportunities to get involved in, but also about communicating them, advocating them and leading people to participate in them. You as a leader are the one who makes or breaks a workplace wellness and the effectiveness of that initiative.

If a leader is being visible and seen participating, advocating, communicating about the initiatives frequently, then employees get an invisible message that the initiatives are there for everyone to be used. And it’s okay to participate in them and not worry about deadlines or taking a break, because your leader initiates you to participate.

Although one can start thinking about well-being at any time, it’s still better to start early on. When the company is starting out, startups are employing the sales and marketing people, engineers and other people who are delivering the product or service. Only afterwards HR people are brought on, and that’s when the questions of “What should be done next?” are discussed, and the leadership realize that growth happened very fast, but well-being wasn’t taken into account.


If before wellness was seen as a set of programs or a set of benefits, a set of services that you do alongside work, now the focus shifts from wellness to well-being which is integrated into everything you do. It’s not necessarily just about programs, but about taking breaks and making sure that you have what you need to perform at your best. It’s now more about the stress and anxiety caused by work, and how to deal with it. Wellness and well-being really became integrated into workplace conversations and into the culture, the employee experience.

All employees have access to certain programs and things, but now the leaders are thinking of those programs more holistically, as a part of the work experience, and as something that has to be there and lead to creating the best employee experience possible. So the leader has to step up and show his employees that he cares not only about production, but about his people’s  health and feelings as well. 

If you are interested in hearing about the value of investment vs. return of investment, listen to the whole episode here.

Stay tuned and be genius!

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