What is a Chief Well-Being Officer?
These turbulent times have proven that it’s no longer enough to focus only on physical health. We now recognize that we are multidimensional beings. And that every aspect of our wellness contributes to our holistic health and ability not just to live but to thrive.
Because our physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, professional, financial, and spiritual wellness play roles in our overall well-being, organizations are now more proactive about their responsibility to focus on the whole person. And now we see the rise of the Chief Well-Being Officer (CWO) – leaders that oversee the creation of programs that promote work-life balance and a culture of wellness. We increasingly see organizations that aim to reduce burnout, improve employee retention, and increase employee happiness.
The Qualifications of a Chief Well-Being Officer
Traditionally, the role of ensuring the wellness of employees belonged to human resources. However, HR already has many duties and responsibilities, including compensation, recruitment, administration, performance management, and training and development. While employee relations are a primary HR activity, it has often yet to involve strategic planning for programs that increase satisfaction and happiness by managing employee health.
The Chief Well-Being Officer or Chief Wellness Officer is a C-suite position that was rare during the pre-COVID era. Unilever was one of the first organizations to make the news about their dedication to their employees’ well-being. The professional services firm appointed Diana Han as its Chief Medical and Well-being Officer. She leads the company’s strategy to empower its people to “perform at their best in both their professional and personal lives.”
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hired its first-ever CWO, Jennifer Posa, in 2022 as part of the agency’s “push to increase mental health resources and provide additional support to its workforce.” However, this was a familiar role for Posa, who was recently the Global Head of Employee Mental well-being and Workplace Effectiveness for Johnson & Johnson.
Before joining Aon as the first-ever CWO, Rachel Fellowes founded Yoke, a consultancy specializing in organizational performance and well-being and delivering solutions to clients on building resilient and sustainable workplace cultures. Fellowes has also developed the Human Sustainability Index (HSI), a performance tracker of corporate well-being.
Because the CWO role is relatively new, it’s still evolving. And the requirements and qualifications for the role will be specific to the organization. For some companies, a degree in a health-related field is necessary, such as psychology or social work. Other organizations promote from within, transitioning a leader from their HR team.
Understanding the factors that influence and motiemployees’ well-being is one of a CWO’s main skills of a CWO. Therefore, the CWO needs to recognize what type of culture and environments support the employees’ health and positive attitudes and behavior, the CWO requires skills such as effective communication, strong leadership, and planning for success. To encourage employee participation, the CWO should also be able to create engaging health and wellness programs.
Continue reading Part 2.