After years of C-suite executive titles that have focused on technology, operations, marketing, finance, and sustainability there is a new addition at the round table: the Chief Wellbeing Officer (CWO).
The triple bottom line
It's taken some time but the world of business has been slowly expanding its priorities beyond looking at financials and the balance sheet. Prior to the turn of the century, the "Triple Bottom Line" or TBL concept in accounting principles was coined by John Elkington.1 Comprised of "profit, planet and people", the TBL is a business model that incorporates economic, environmental and social bottom lines.
However the power of people and their work experience has taken longer to be accepted, than its counterparts in the concept. For example, already in 2005 nearly all of the 150 largest companies in the world were creating Sustainability Officer positions.2 A Chief Wellbeing Officer position was unheard of at the time.
Chief Wellbeing Officers gaining momentum
Healthcare systems and hospitals were the some of the first organizations to be instrumental in appointing Chief Wellbeing Officer positions to tackle physician burnout. Other industries took note and started to follow their lead. As Chief Health, Safety and Wellbeing Officer at Thames Water, Karl Simons has been relentlessly leading wellbeing and mental health initiatives for over eight years.3
Deloitte and Kirkland & Ellis LLP appointed wellbeing leaders in 2015.4 A quick search on LinkedIn yields other numerous leadership positions such as Health and Wellbeing Manager, Wellbeing Managers, Head of Wellbeing, and various similar titles at leading companies such as Oracle, Mondelēz International, Skanska, Mace, British Council and Tetra Pak.
A key aspect to a health conscious culture is having leaders that support it, preach it and practice it. That's precisely why having someone in the C-suite who holds the "wellbeing strategy reins" is so important. As the designated and empowered executive to help with every employee’s wellbeing efforts on behalf of the organization, a CWO works to integrate and embed these efforts into the company's performance.
So what exactly does a CWO do?
A CWO is a unique position, a combination of the roles of strategist and change agent. They drive cultural transformation that will involve a broad, comprehensive approach to health and wellbeing including mental, physical, emotional and financial aspects.
With an ultimate goal of increasing employee engagement, they focus on restoring balance between professional and personal lives, helping people with their purpose, all while cultivating their strengths and tending to their needs.5
In today's ever-changing work environments, they could also undertake creating healthy workplaces - either virtual, hybrid or in the office. Biophilic design may be looked at. Depending on the organisation hierarchy they might work in conjunction with a Chief Human Resources Officer. Together they'd identify areas where health and wellbeing efforts could be included in recruitment processes, benefits, rewards and recognition initiatives.
Health and wellbeing oozing everywhere
As Jen Fisher, Chief Wellbeing Officer of Deloitte, points out in an interview: "Retention is huge for us. There’s definitely a war for top talent. We’re in the war as much as anyone else. There is a great cost to replacing high performers. The last thing we want to do is lose those people because we couldn’t make work and life work for them."6
The CWO will ensure that health and wellbeing starts from the top, in the boardroom, and trickles down throughout all hierarchy levels. Putting people first is the corporate mindset for the future. When people feel well in all aspects of their lives, they are healthier, more engaged, and more productive. In the end, the business reaps the benefits, as part of a positive circle of growth and success.
- 1. 25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase "Triple Bottom Line." Here's Why It's Time to Rethink It. Harvard Business Review, June 2018.
- 2. Chief Sustainability Officer, Wikipedia, August 2020.
- 3. Karl Simons, Chief Health, Safety & Wellbeing Officer, Thames Water: Why You Have to Be Relentless to Achieve Culture Change, Make a Difference, Accessed August 2020.
- 2. Scary truth about sleep deprivation and chronic diseases, Unity point at home, 2015.
- 4. The Rise of the Chief Wellbeing Officer. Forbes, July 2020.
- 5. Meet the new C-suite leader: The chief well-being officer, Denver Business Journal Leadership Trust, Accessed August 2020.
- 6. Uma talks with Jen Fisher, Deloitte's Managing Director of Well-Being, UMA. Accessed August 2020.