Pollack Peacebuilding offers fractional or part-time Chief Wellness Officers (CWOs), also called Chief Wellbeing Officers, to organizations looking to enhance wellbeing across their workforce but which are not yet ready to bring on a full-time CWO. With a focus on preventing burnout, increasing employee health and happiness, and turning conflicts into opportunities, a Chief Wellness Officer is uniquely positioned as a senior executive wholly focused on balancing the bottom line with elevating employee wellbeing.
Professional burnout is on the rise and is an increasingly studied phenomenon. According to the American Psychological Association, burnout levels are the highest in recorded history. According to a 2022 Report by the U.S. Surgeon General, 84% of workers suggest their workplace has contributed to a mental health challenge, and 81% report they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health. To combat these and similar issues, more and more companies are employing chief wellness or wellbeing officers. CWOs are critical to organizations not only for the sake of employee well-being but also for the sake of fiscal health, as employee well-being has been shown repeatedly to be a significant predictor of company innovation, productivity, and the bottom line.
If a company truly aspires to a culture of wellness, someone at the senior level must OWN employee wellness priorities. An organization may have all the intention, all the strategy, and all the money in the world for employee health, but if no one in senior leadership is wholly focused on employee wellness, such initiatives will NOT likely be carried out effectively. Creating a culture that supports employee well-being requires a senior leader who possesses the necessary skills and talent to enhance employee health and happiness at both the high-level strategic and ground-level interpersonal levels and who has no other priorities other than employee wellness.
Chief Wellness Officers are senior leaders responsible for creating and maintaining workplace environments where employee wellness is supported and optimized. While developing and implementing a strategy that carries out this mission, the CWO endeavors to track burnout, turnover, productivity, and other key metrics to prove that people are feeling better and that this is resulting in improved organizational effectiveness and cost-efficiency. Finally, Chief Wellness Officers are also tasked with assisting in change management to ensure employee wellbeing is maintained through disruptive organizational change.
No matter who the CWO is speaking with or helping, the overriding goal remains the same: to enhance employee wellbeing across the organization. To do this, the CWO meets with individuals to help assess and optimize wellness at the individual level and works with senior leaders to drive organizational initiatives that support employee wellness while tracking budget and ROI. In other words, CWOs and/or their offices work with other senior leaders at the strategic level and with individuals at the interpersonal levels.
A skilled CWO will view wellness holistically, aiming for both broad and acute assessments of each individual and of the organization that supports those individuals. A CWO must use a biopsychosocial approach — that is a mind-body-environment framework — for assessing the level of employee wellness across the organization. The following elements should be included in assessments:
When companies are not yet ready to hire a full-time CWO, either for budgetary or other reasons, hiring a fractional or part-time Chief Wellness Officer is the preferred option. In addition to helping keep costs reasonable, fractional CWOs offer many other benefits that make them critical additions to any workplace:
Perspective: Many fractional CWOs have worked with a diverse range of companies that allow them to infuse work environments with fresh perspectives. They quickly identify issues that need addressing, many of which might not be obvious to management or employees. It can be challenging for those in-house to see their way out of different work challenges, something fractional CWOs are there to assist with.
Best Practice Suggestions: Identifying the best practices for different workplaces simplifies a wide variety of corporate wellbeing problems. With guidance from a seasoned wellness executive, managers and supervisors have easier times making decisions that support employee wellness, enhance company productivity and creativity as a result of employee well-being, and utilize tools that enhance well-being and track the ROI of wellness programs.
Increased Leadership Productivity: By owning employee wellness initiatives, fractional CWOs allow managers, supervisors, and senior leaders to focus on their jobs rather than on employee health. In other words, initiatives aimed at improving employee health and happiness are wholly owned by a senior leader and taken off the plates of other leaders.
Happier Workforce: When employees feel their company deeply cares about their health and happiness, they are more likely to enjoy their jobs and contribute to a harmonious work environment. Turnover rates typically decrease, since staff members don’t feel the need to look elsewhere for work. Interpersonal conflicts often decrease as well because as people are less stressed or burnt out, they are better equipped to handle interpersonal issues. Happy team members are also more efficient and loyal employees, because they are motivated to do the best job possible for a company they know cares about them. Team members are happy to come to work instead of looking for other jobs or taking multiple mental health days because they “just can’t take it anymore.”
Improved Business Reputation: Companies with low turnover rates that are increasingly regarded as healthy places to work enjoy increasingly better reputations. Potential hirees won’t be put off by rumors of a negative work environment or by disgruntled employees who leave poor reviews on Glassdoor. Good reputations often help businesses grow and expand with customers as well because consumers want to support companies that care about their employees. The opposite is usually true for businesses that do not treat their staff well, which can ultimately result in company losses.
More Revenue: Research has shown that employee wellness initiatives have at least a 2:1 ROI. That is, for every dollar spent on employee wellness, companies typically see at least twice as much return on that investment. This is due to many of the reasons discussed above, such as improved productivity, innovation, fewer sick days taken, less time spent in interpersonal conflict, and a better reputation, which leads to more customers and recruiting top talent.
According to the APA, three out of five employees cited severe work-related stress, motivation issues, low energy levels, and minimal interest in their work. Fractional Chief Wellness Officers are here to break work cycles that result in employee burnout and unhealthy working environments. By prioritizing mental and emotional wellness, CWOs add something fresh and fun to the workforce that reduces burnout and creates healthier, happier employees. Healthier, happier work environments will hopefully become the “new normal,” as more and more companies opt to bring in Chief Wellness Officers.
Hiring a fractional CWO is something your team will deeply appreciate because it shows your investment in their wellness. As positive changes keep happening, pay attention to your employees’ attitudes. You’ll probably notice how much happier they are to come to work every day, which exponentially builds on company morale and overall culture.