4 tips to develop an award winning wellbeing strategy

Enhancing wellbeing has become an increasing focus for modern workplaces. But what does that mean in practice?  This case study investigates Medibank’s internal wellbeing journey to date with a focus on the key challenges and lessons learned. 

Medibank, a leading private health insurer and winner of the AHRI Martin Seligman Award for Health and Wellbeing in 2016, and recognised in  HRD’s Innovative HR Teams report for health and wellbeing in March 2017, has been on its wellbeing journey for a number of years. Deloitte interviewed Medibank’s General Manager of Wellbeing and Community Karen Oldaker, to understand the challenges faced and lessons learned when developing a workplace wellbeing strategy, and the importance of a holistic and interconnected wellbeing framework that incorporates design, purpose, flexibility and connections.

  1. Design a holistic wellbeing strategy

Karen observed that without a clear definition of ‘workplace wellbeing’, organisations can find themselves with a spur of disconnected initiatives with varying levels of impact. Medibank set out to define wellbeing back in 2013, finding that for them it actually spanned the four pillars within the new Wellbeing@Work Index™: Mind, Body, Purpose and Place, albeit under different headings back then. This holistic approach to wellbeing was the basis for the health insurer to shift to a more focused and structured approach when embedding its wellbeing strategy internally.

  1. Align strategy to purpose

Organisations must keep wider organisational goals in mind while leading from within, said Karen. As a health organisation, any wellbeing strategy at Medibank had to align with its broader organisational ‘For Better Health’ purpose. Having this connection brings authenticity to the wellbeing strategy. The easier that leaders and employees are able to connect to the ‘why’, the more receptive they are to the ‘what’. While not every organisation is a health organisation, there will usually be a purpose or vision that can be linked to wellbeing, for example through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Employee Value Proposition and /or Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).

  1. Flex and tailor your approach

Karen observed that operational peaks and troughs, the growing uptake of flexible working and increasing employee dispersion all present challenges when delivering an inclusive wellbeing strategy with organisation-wide reach and impact. To address this, Medibank’s approach to wellbeing is customisable so that it can reflect the different needs of its organisation and employees at different times, different places and in different circumstances. This flexibility, which allows initiatives to be corporate-led, business-led, locally-led and individually-led, has a positive impact on uptake. Importantly, a wellbeing strategy and programs within it must be ‘choice driven’. Karen shared a recent example of a business-led wellbeing initiative aimed at a team during a busy and high pressure time. Senior leaders and employees from other parts of the business cooked nutritious meals for the team, leveraging Medibank’s community partnership with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. This was a simple yet impactful way to demonstrate understanding, care and commitment to employees’ wellbeing at a time and place that suited all. The benefit of a customisable approach is consistent with findings from the Health Fitness survey which found that almost 75% of employees said incorporating a customised approach is an important part of a wellness program (McManamy, 2016).

  1. Connect the dots

Workplace wellbeing is often perceived as a ‘soft’ topic and can struggle to receive adequate buy-in across organisations. To overcome this obstacle, Karen recommended that organisations explore wellbeing connections and overlaps across other parts of a business, such as D&I, people policies, safety and CSR. For Medibank, the ‘bring your whole self to work’ concept within its D&I framework had obvious links to wellbeing and provided an opportunity to combine inclusion and wellbeing messaging. Measurement is also important, with Medibank leveraging the insights from the Wellbeing@Work Index™ (Index). Medibank developed the Index with Deloitte to help companies better understand, measure and improve the wellbeing of their organisations. The Index provides employers with a data-rich method of assessing whether their approach to wellbeing is effective and identifying areas where resources should be directed.

In summary, Karen’s advice is that we are all custodians of wellbeing and should  focus on design, purpose, flexibility and connections when developing a workplace wellbeing strategy:

  1. Design a holistic wellbeing strategy
  2. Align strategy to purpose
  3. Flex and tailor your approach
  4. Connect the dots

For more information, contact Anna-Marie Tolic at:



Or visit:


Wellbeing@Work Index


McManamy, S (2016) Why People Do — and Don’t — Participate in Wellness Programs. Available at:


Want to stay up-to-date?

Stay on trend and in the know when you sign up for our latest content