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The 6 lesser-known dimensions of wellbeing and how to improve them

Cigna Corporation CHRO Cindy Ryan
Cindy Ryan
Cindy Ryan is the chief human resources officer at Cigna Corporation. As CHRO, Cindy is responsible for aligning Cigna’s talent strategy with the needs of the business to help the company grow and employees thrive. Cindy also oversees the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and oversees the company’s charitable giving strategy, inclusive of the Cigna Foundation.

We’re all familiar with burnout and have likely experienced varying degrees of it over the course of our careers and life. The World Health Organization classifies burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress, characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.

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To address the growing impacts of burnout, Cigna started a multi-year effort to improve the vitality of our employees, our clients’ employees and our communities. Vitality is a person’s capacity to pursue life with health, strength and energy. It’s comprised of eight interdependent, dynamic dimensions: physical, emotional, occupational, social, spiritual, financial, environmental and intellectual.

Most companies have programs in place to support employees’ physical and emotional health, including a comprehensive health plan and behavioral health support programs. The other six dimensions are not as well-known but, if neglected, can cause employees to have lower work performance and higher rates of absenteeism, turnover and workplace dissatisfaction.

Occupational wellbeing

Occupational wellbeing is what employees experience at work, such as work/life balance, work-related stress, healthcare opportunities and supervisor relationships. Cigna’s research on vitality shows a strong connection between work culture and employee vitality levels.

To boost occupational wellbeing, organize and empower employee resource groups to foster community connection, education and networking opportunities. Employee assistance programs can also help managers with supervisory needs and provide coaching on improving workplace productivity and employee wellness.

Social wellbeing

Employees need opportunities to connect with each other in healthy, meaningful ways at work, home and in the community. Cigna’s study found that employees with high vitality overwhelmingly felt connected to people at work (79%), compared to only 12% of those with low vitality.

Especially with today’s increasingly hybrid or virtual workforces, it’s essential to foster connections among co-workers, managers and senior leaders through collaborative team meetings, town hall events and wellness or volunteer activities. This includes opportunities for connection outside of the workplace, too.

Environmental wellbeing

Work environments should feel safe and comfortable. Cigna’s research found that 43% of workers with high vitality said they could easily express their opinions or feelings about job conditions, compared to 26% of all workers.

You can enhance employees’ environmental wellbeing by refreshing policies and programs that promote a safe and supportive workplace and by hosting an ergonomics workshop for remote workers. If it’s been a while since your office had a refresh, consider updating the space so it’s inspiring and motivating to be there.

Financial wellbeing

Money worries can take a toll on physical and mental wellbeing. A 2022 study by the American Psychological Association found that money is a significant source of stress for 65% of Americans. Employees with high vitality in our survey were significantly more likely to have received a raise (38% vs. 27%) or promotion (19% vs. 9%) in the last year than those with low vitality.

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People need to feel secure about their ability to live within their means. Employers can drive wellness in this area through retirement, savings and supplemental health benefits, such as accident, hospital and critical illness insurance. Providing access to easy-to-use apps and other financing and counseling services can help employees stay on top of their personal finances. Employers should also be prudent about providing opportunities for employees to increase their compensation, such as through additional trainings and certifications, stretch projects and internal rotations.

Intellectual wellbeing

Employees feel inspired when they can engage in mentally stimulating ways to expand their knowledge and skillsets. Offer opportunities for employees to learn new skills. This can include personal and professional development, cultural involvement, community involvement and hobbies.

Feeling appreciated and rewarded for quality work and excellence can also boost feelings of intellectual wellbeing, so have a solid rewards or recognition program in place. High-vitality workers are 48% more likely to feel they receive appropriate recognition and rewards at work than their low-vitality counterparts.

Spiritual wellbeing

Making workers feel valued, nurturing a sense of autonomy, encouraging mindfulness and providing growth opportunities are all ways companies can help employees find more meaning and purpose in the workplace.

Cigna defines spiritual wellbeing as the ability to manage everyday stresses, be productive and contribute at home, at work and in the community. One of the ways we do this as a company is by providing space for our employees to manage everyday stresses with free online guided meditation, physical exercise or breathing exercises.

By helping employees improve their vitality—at work, at home and in their communities—companies can create a culture of health, address the challenges that burned-out and disengaged employees face and stimulate better business outcomes.

Learn strategies for meeting employees’ wellbeing needs at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, May 3-5 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.