We have heard more about employee mental health and wellbeing in the past two years than ever before. And, more and more activities and resources are being placed under this umbrella, including coaching. With the intersection of wellness and coaching, we are moving towards whole-person care.

What is “whole-person care?”

Simply, “whole-person care” is a holistic approach to care; it originated as a healthcare model within the last decade and has evolved to be a part of social services, employee wellness, and other spaces. In healthcare, the focus is not only on the patient’s physical wellbeing but also on their mental and emotional state.

In both healthcare and corporate environments, whole-person care translates into caring for someone’s physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing. As part of employee wellness programs, recent research has shown that whole-person health coaching is one way this kind of care and support can be developed and maintained.

Why health coaches are assets

Although many employers and HR leaders are familiar with the concept of coaching in career development and employee training, the idea of whole-person health coaches as part of a broader wellbeing solution is relatively new. But health coaches share at least one common denominator with other coaches in the workplace: They are trained to deliver expertise in an area that is invaluable for employee growth. With whole-person health coaches, that expertise and focus is targeted in three areas:

  • Fostering healing
  • Optimizing health
  • Enhancing wellbeing

In other words, a whole-person health coach guides the employee to access inner resources that allow their strengths to be “leveraged for positive change.” Those “inner resources” can include any or all of the company’s health and wellness tools, resources, and benefits.

Nothing but benefits

In fact, employee wellness is a particularly high-impact space in which to introduce whole-person care interventions like weight management and preventative screenings based on social determinants of health. In one study, employees who worked with a health coach for 12 weeks experienced “improved personal health awareness, accountability, motivation, and self-efficacy, along with goal setting and barrier overcoming skills.” They also saw a significant drop in body mass index (BMI), which may have been an unexpected but welcomed outcome.

The participants also expressed appreciation for and value of health coaching for encouraging support and using resources. “HC [health coach] was not judgmental. HC was encouraging. HC taught me to forgive myself if I didn’t make my goals, not be so hard on myself,” said one study member. 

The positive results certainly help the individual holistically, but those changes can also affect the company culture in numerous ways, from better productivity to deeper collaboration. 

What’s next?

Consider these two steps for integrating a health coach into a holistic approach to support employees:

  • Take a cue from the VA. The Department of Veterans Affairs has numerous resources about whole health, and learning about the concepts can be a useful first step to understanding how to help employees. 
  • Go to the source. Visit the National Society of Health Coaches and start with a complimentary consultation phone call.