What is Workplace Well-being?


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From the Conference

Well-being at Work—what is it? with Nancy Costikyan, MSW, LICSW, Director of the Office of Work/Life at Harvard University and Teaching Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Session Description:

Strong work cultures have 14% turnover rate, while poor work cultures have 48% turnover rate. Join us for a Well-being at Work Q&A session addressing how we can individually and collectively change our message and advocate for a well and strong work culture that is more productive, collaborative, and healthy.

Hear an overview of what well-being at work is, its importance, and how having a well workforce leads to success.

Presented by:

Nancy is the Director of the Office of Work/Life at Harvard University, supporting Harvard’s recruitment and retention of a high performing workforce and the wellbeing of a diverse community of staff and scholars. Trained as a clinical social worker, she has worked for 30 years as a psychotherapist, organizational consultant, department director and clinical supervisor. Nancy and her team contribute to the development of Harvard’s policies and special initiatives and administer several University-wide programs focused on mental health, workplace flexibility, dependent care, faculty diversity, behavioral risk, and mindfulness training. Each of these programs serve in some way as a path to sustainability, manager effectiveness, and a psychologically safe, inclusive workplace. In addition to her work/life role, she is a Teaching Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Nancy is the mother of 26 year old twin sons who regularly note that she is a poster child for work/life balance irony. She’s working on that.

Workplace wellness is any combination of holistic workplace characteristics that support healthy behavior in the workplace, improve health outcomes, and strengthen workplace culture. Workplace wellness practices have been proven to aid in recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees. Practices that support workplace wellness help reduce health risks, enhance productivity, improve employees’ quality of life and happiness levels, benefit the organization’s bottom line, and help the organization recruit and retain top talent (Proto, 2016; Society for Human Resource Management, n.d.). 

Workplace culture can be framed as, “The personality of an organization from the employee perspective” (Siu, 2014). More specifically, it is the environment and atmosphere that employees work in, combining the leadership, beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and interactions within the workplace. A positive workplace culture successfully creates a space where employees feel comfortable, trusted, valued, and empowered in their work. An organization’s culture is interwoven into everything they do, stand for, and how they treat their employees (Siu, 2014).

Workplace well-being and culture encompass every topic from physical and mental health to teambuilding, aspects of the work environment, and beyond. Many of the practices discussed will have overlapping benefits, such as improved productivity, retention, collaboration, job satisfaction, mental health, and engagement. We hope this guide serves as a resource for Michigan State University faculty and staff, from leaders to employees, looking to improve their workplace well-being. The WorkLife Office is here to help!


Proto, E. (2016, December 1). Are happy workers more productive? IZA World of Laborhttps://wol.iza.org/articles/are-happy-workers-more-productive/long 

Siu, E. (2014, October 21). It Really Pays to Have a Rich Company Culture. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238640#  

Society For Human Resource Management. (n.d.). SHRM’s Effective Workplace Index: Creating a Workplace That Works for Employers and Employeeshttps://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/special-reports-and-expert-views/Documents/SHRM-NSCW-Effective-Workplace-Index-Summary.pdf 

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