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Reflections on Well-Being as We Look to The Year Ahead

In June 2021, ChapmanCG and Development Beyond Learning (DBL) partnered to deliver a World Well-Being Week roundtable, looking at how to promote talent well-being in the hybrid future of work. Matthew Chapman and Josh Mackenzie, Founders of ChapmanCG and DBL respectively, reflect on what they have learned about well-being since; both as individuals, and as leaders committed to supporting their people’s well-being.

Matthew Chapman, Founder, ChapmanCG

Well-being has exploded as an area of concern for much of the world, especially in the context of “work.” We have seen an expansion of the employer’s responsibility for employees to one which extends much further than merely time spent in the office. We now have an expanded view of an employee’s whole life and how this plays into performing at their best.

Wellness has always been of great interest to me. As an ultra-marathoner, who crossed some of the world’s harshest deserts by foot, I learned the importance of staying in equilibrium with the right formula of nutrition, water, and pace. Similarly, as we juggle the same ultra-marathon “of life,” I have found the same philosophies of being conscious of the finite bounds of body and mind just as important.

As a leader, the focus of the well-being of people in the ecosystem in which I operate has always been of importance, including that of employees, clients, and other stakeholders. The greatest challenge is the overall well-being of a collective group, and then there is individual well-being at a personal level. Both require different responses and levels of perceptiveness.

Looking across the global HR community and the HR philosophies at play, we see an exciting era dawning where we appreciate that focusing on wellness as individuals, leaders and companies is not an afterthought or negotiable; rather, it sits at the core. In the future, we will use wellness as our baseline to build even more compelling and resilient cultures that will enhance creativity, ingenuity, and effectiveness in organisations. Organisations that demonstrate support for employee well-being and employ innovative programmes to do so have experienced gains in employee engagement, performance, and job satisfaction. Looking at the current landscape of talent well-being, and with the disruption caused by COVID variants continuing to wield disruption over the year ahead, we can see that there has never been a more pertinent time to support the well-being of the global workforce.

Josh Mackenzie, Founder, Development Beyond Learning

Employee well-being has gained increased organisational focus and prioritisation over the last decade. At the same time, there has been a reported decrease in the lived experience of well-being globally. Indeed, global well-being levels have been on a downward trajectory for the last decade, while in the UK depression rates have more than doubled during the pandemic.

With the impact of COVID-19, successive lockdowns and global restrictions to freedom detrimentally affecting societal well-being, our behavioural scientists at DBL have been closely tracking the impact of the pandemic on the well-being levels of the global workforce.

Leveraging research methodology utilised by the UK government under the guidance of LSE Professor Baron Richard Layard, we commissioned research surveying over one thousand senior executives, talent, HR and L&D leaders, early career employees, students and established talent across our core markets in the UK, Australia and Southeast Asia. 

We discovered that well-being is the number one concern due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, for both business leaders and employees. Our research also demonstrated that the impact of COVID-19 on well-being in the workplace has not been democratic, with certain groups particularly vulnerable to depleted well-being, specifically:

  • The led versus leaders
  • Women versus men
  • Early career versus established talent

Myriad factors play into these well-being gaps, including levels of autonomy, resource, and confidence, as well as opportunities for connection—all of which employers will need to navigate as we transition to the hybrid future of work.

There are clear commercial and human benefits to supporting well-being, thereby improving overall business performance, and amounting to a compelling case for any business. And with many commentators predicting the current situation is likely to become increasingly urgent, combined with the projected impact of future hybrid working on this negative well-being trajectory for employees, the onus will be on employers to mitigate the well-being gap and support their people through this crucial next phase.

To this end, DBL commissioned a rigorous literature review and meta-analysis, which have informed our recommendations for supporting employee and organisational well-being. These are outlined in a model we have named C-A-L-M.

In a snapshot, the tenets of C-A-L-M are:

Confidence: Essential to success in life, and a key is component of our mental health and well-being.

Adaptability: As humans, we are hardwired to dislike uncertainty, so learning how to adapt and to adopt positive mindsets and habits is essential to thrive and sustain our well-being in the long-term.

Links: Feeling connected is one of our core psychological needs and feeling that we belong is one of the most direct correlates to the lived experience of positive well-being.

Motivation: The catalyst, compass, and fuel for goal-oriented behaviours, motivation has a direct impact on performance. Understanding what drives our motivation—when to use different types of motivation and how to motivate ourselves—helps move us towards experiencing a happier, healthier, more rewarding, and successful life.

Personally, my sense of purpose—and being able to lead a purpose-driven organisation—has been instrumental in supporting my own well-being. Amidst the constantly changing circumstances and ambiguity that continued throughout 2021 and into 2022, I have valued being able to draw energy, motivation, vision, and focus from the stability of purpose. And I have also had the privilege of bringing this to our team and our clients.

As a business leader navigating through the uncertain context of 2021 and into 2022 with my management team, the data uncovered around the well-being gap for ‘the led vs leaders’ has been particularly illuminating and, being mindful of this, we have put our people’s well-being at the core of our response to the pandemic, leveraging the C-A-L-M model. From providing training for our global team in areas such as Confidence, Purpose, Adaptable Mindset, Promoting Belonging, to providing a training budget and access to training platforms so that employees can build their own capability and confidence.

We have removed or reduced uncertainty for our people wherever possible, providing regular communications from our management team, and highlighting areas of and opportunities for autonomy, for everyone. We have created new moments for connections across teams, and successfully built a sense of community and inclusivity throughout our multiple regions, with a team that is larger and more diverse than ever before.

2021 was an exceptional year, in many ways and for several reasons. Despite the uncertainty that lies ahead for all of us this year, as a leader and as an individual I am grateful to feel confident about the year to come and equipped to support my own and my people’s well-being as the world navigates its way through 2022 and into the future of work.

This article has been abridged and updated from DBL’s ‘Keep C-A-L-M and Build Wellbeing’ paper. If you would like to read the full white paper, you can access it here.


Development Beyond Learning (DBL) delivers human skills development for the future workforce; informed by behavioural science and with an unparalleled heritage in early talent development. Winner of the Institute of Student Employers’ 2020 ‘Best Employer/ Supplier Partnership’ Award, DBL are on a mission to support one million young people each year by 2025.

In 2021 our development programmes supported talent at all levels across industries including heavy industries, financial services, technology, education, government, media and communications, consumer goods, conglomerate and legal. We are also proud to have supported more than 10,000 young people globally through pro bono digital programmes since the start of the pandemic.

If you would like to discuss your team’s well-being, please get in touch.


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