What are work determinants of wellbeing?

by Mar 28, 2023

According to the State of the Global Workplace: 2022 report, workers are experiencing alarming rates of both disengagement and unhappiness. Sixty percent of people reported being emotionally detached at work and 19% as being miserable.

Those are strong words to describe a place many of us spend most of our time during the week.

Sonic Boom’s wellbeing model has always appreciated the relationship between work, culture, community, and our health. Put simply, people are tired of being miserable at work. Companies are taking note — to the tune of $11 million spent annually on wellness for organizations with more than 20,000 employees. But what if the biggest obstacle facing employees isn’t rooted in cultural and connection gaps? What if it’s in the actual makeup and behaviors of the organization? 

Work determinants of wellbeing 

Deloitte, a leading global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, risk advisory, and related services, released a report that dubbed the following three systems key “work determinants of wellbeing”: 

  • Leadership behaviors at all levels, from a direct supervisor to the C-suite 
  • How the organization and jobs are designed 
  • Ways of working across organizational levels 

Just as social determinants of health (SDOH) impact a person’s interaction with their own health and the healthcare system, work determinants of wellbeing determine how connected a person feels to their work and organization. While a wellness program like Sonic Boom can help create connection and community on the job, it isn’t the sole solution to larger structural and systematic problems.  

That’s why addressing three fundamental work determinants of wellbeing must happen in conjunction with workplace wellness. This ensures employee wellbeing is prioritized, optimized, and sustained, leading to a better workplace overall. Let’s break them down. 

Leadership behaviors 

Deloitte respondents cited micro- or undermanagement, lack of recognition, and absence of psychological safety as the most harmful leadership behaviors. For too long, society set an artificial barrier between work and home, asking employees to leave their personal woes at the door before logging in for the day. However, that’s not how human beings are built. Caring for a sick child or going through a health issue don’t stop once you’re at work; humans still worry, and it’s not a reflection of work ethic. That’s why colleagues and leaders do have influence over an individual’s quality of life during work hours.  

Now that remote work is the norm for many of us, some would argue that there’s no “work-life balance.” There’s just life. Wellbeing is best established and sustained together, and Sonic Boom is one of many vendors that recognize the importance of this interplay. People leaders do hold a power and responsibility to ensure that the work environment is livable, likeable, and worth showing up for every single day. Leaders can do this through cultivating trusting relationships and safe spaces that allow everyone to know one another as human beings and not just “human doings” at work.  

Tips for leaders

  1. Focus on emotional intelligence (EQ) as much as hard skills. Leaders with a high EQ can create psychological safety and remain empathetic during difficult conversations. When they genuinely care for employees’ daily emotional needs, leaders help improve wellbeing, build stronger bonds, and boost productivity. 
  2. Invest in your own wellbeing. Leaders are people too, which means skimping on best wellness practices can have a negative impact on not only them, but also their teams. Holding leaders accountable for prioritizing wellness on their teams — and modeling those behaviors — empowers everyone else to follow suit. 
  3. Lean into self-awareness. This allows for free-flowing constructive feedback that doesn’t harm the ego and keeps open lines of collaboration. Someone who is self-aware enough to notice blind spots or strength gaps is more likely to receive team feedback and turn it into productive, positive results. 
  4. Invest in a wellness solution. Many platforms, such as Sonic Boom’s Academy, include educational materials to help coach management toward becoming more healthy, sustainable leaders. In turn, this signals company values. If leaders are participating in wellness programs, it can set the tone for the rest of the company too. 

Related: The power of skip-level meetings

Organizational design 

According to Deloitte’s report, employees are spending 250% more time in meetings, many of which are of low value (or could have been an email), compared to pre-pandemic days. Employees also reported that feeling overburdened, limited access to career growth, and monotonous tasks are the negative aspects that drive down workplace wellness the most. We can all relate to that. 

Strategically delegating tasks and assignments, empowering employees to use their strengths, and reconsidering long to-do lists can all help reverse those trends and ensure happiness and productivity at work. Additionally, it communicates to team members that they bring trusted value to the organization and have a say in how things turn out. 

Tips for organizational design 

  1. Assess current workloads. Feeling overworked is one reason why millions of PTO hours are left unused in the U.S. every year. Which tasks are the “always been done that way,” and which contribute to the desired outcome? If there’s something that can be discontinued and replaced with necessary downtime, make the change. Taking a breather isn’t just healthy for overall efficiency; it increases productivity and creativity too. 
  2. Leave room for growth. Thirty-five percent of Deloitte respondents want more opportunities to learn and develop new career skills, whether through workplace experiences, seminars, workshops, or some other medium for growth. This is a good opportunity for someone with more “seniority” to take a back seat on projects for the sake of another’s professional development — and that’s encouraged.  
  3. Purge the meetings. Could it have been an email? Assess the overall workweek structure when it comes to meetings and see where you can free up time for some (or all) invitees. Limit existing meetings to 15 or 45 minutes (down from 30 or 1 hour), or eliminate stacked meetings altogether by creating meeting-free blocks at work. 

Ways of working 

Respondents of the same report said that “being always on, switching tasks constantly, and not being able to make their own decisions about how they work” are the most disruptive to getting things done during the day. Can you relate? (We all can.)  

The average person changes screens or tabs 566 times a day(!), which leads to fatigue and other distraction. Many of us are overstimulated by the number of apps, tabs, programs, and stimuli available to us during the day. The same goes for an oversaturation of “productivity tools” meant to make things easier. One system is good, but what if you’re using multiple management systems? 

Tips for workflow enhancement

  1. Trust your teams. Leave it up to the employee to decide how, when, and where they do their best work. If there’s a “where” and “when” already established, be flexible with the how in terms of break time, communication style, and/or meeting quantity.
  2. Be intentional with management and communication tools. Don’t add more mediums without clear direction on how and when to use them. 
  3. Create team-specific flows and processes. Marketing may collaborate differently than development, operations, or client success. Allow departments to discover which methods fit best. 

Sometimes the most powerful advice is rooted in simple core lessons. Sonic Boom believes that all human beings want to be seen and understood for who we are, know that they matter, and be recognized for their contributions. Our core foundation is built around the value of social connection, which elicits a sense of belonging and inclusion. When those values are facilitated from the top down (through leadership) and baked into organizational systems (through workplace structure and productive ways of collaborating), people can be more, do more, and contribute more at work. 


Work determinants of wellbeing reinforce what many of us already know — that health and work are inextricably linked. There’s no way to separate them. When people feel well, they’re more productive, creative, present, and have a positive impact on those around them — perpetuating the cycle of improved workplace wellness. The bottom line is this: Focusing on wellbeing in the workplace is good for employees, and it’s great for organizations. Win-win!

Sonic Boom helps improve workplace wellness and complements other organization-specific initiatives through targeting messaging and incentive management tools. From contest and challenges, to educational courses and connection opportunities, our digital platform is here to elevate the your wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of every team member. Reach out for more information here.