Wellness vs. Well-Being

What is the difference?

Employee wellness programs have been around since the 1980s.  Historically these programs have focused on physical health and have included initiatives such as biometric screenings (blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc), health risk assessments (questionnaires to assess health behaviors) and fitness and nutrition components.  However, in recent years employee wellness programs have expanded into much more holistic programs which may be referred to as employee well-being programs.

Well-being is much broader than wellness.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Well-being generally includes global judgments of life satisfaction and feelings ranging from depression to joy.”  It is a “measure of what people think and feel about their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions and resilience, the realization of their potential, or their overall satisfaction with life” (1).  Research has found that people with the highest levels of well-being, which includes five domains: career, social, financial, physical and community well-being, enjoy “decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury, better immune functioning, speedier recovery and increased longevity, are more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities” (1).  

One of the primary initiatives of GMHEC is to support employee well-being and to create a culture of well-being at each of the member colleges.  It is our mission to support faculty and staff to bring their best selves to work and life everyday. Our program coordinator, Rebecca Schubert is working closely with the well-being teams at each school to provide a comprehensive program which supports employees in each of the five domains of well-being.  

We have conducted a thorough needs assessment of the current status of well-being by assessing demographic data, medical claims data, pharmacy claims, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) usage, worker’s compensation claims and climate/culture survey data.  We are now in the process of adding to this quantitative data by conducting focus groups at each of the member schools. Together, this data will provide support to the employee well-being teams and enable the teams to develop a rich plan to support employees in moving toward their own well-being.  We welcome your feedback and ideas as we move forward with this process. We encourage you to reach out to Rebecca or the well-being team at your college. You can reach Rebecca at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org and your well-being team through your human resources department.

For more information about well-being check out the book “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements” by Tom Rath and Jim Harter.  A summary article can be found here. 

Here’s a good article about taking control of your well-being by getting into the driver’s seat: 

Who is driving your health and wellness?

“Triggers: Creating Behaviors that Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be” by Marshall Goldsmith is another excellent read that will provide you with the tools to achieve your highest level of well-being.  Here’s a video where Marshall talks about triggers and creating a great life for ourselves.


  1. CDC. Wellbeing Concepts (2016, May 22).  Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/wellbeing.htm