Man with head resting on desk with sticker on his face that reads HELP with text overlay: What Is Occupational Wellness?

What Is Occupational Wellness?

What do you think of when you think of Occupational Wellness? Do you think of it as having a good job? Being happy at work? Choosing a career that you plan to work at for the rest of your working life?

Has your concept of Occupational Wellness been reshaped by the world we find ourselves in now, where so many people are working from home?

Some of us, like those of us who live with chronic illness, do not work at a traditional job/career, but there are still aspects of occupational wellness that can apply to us.

What Is Occupational Wellness?

First, let’s take a look at some definitions for the occupational dimension of wellness:

According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Occupational Wellness is “personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work.”

Princeton University defines Occupational Wellness as “finding fulfillment from your work and study, contributing meaningfully, and continuing to expand your skills and strengths.”

Another definition, this one from the University of California Riverside, looks at it a little differently: “Occupational Wellness is the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress and building relationships with co-workers. It focuses on our search for a calling and involves exploring various career options and finding where you fit.”

If we marry all these definitions, our definition might look something like this:

Occupational Wellness is having meaningful work, paid or unpaid, from which we derive satisfaction, enrichment, and fulfillment. Whether it’s something considered traditional work or an activity that allows us to fulfill our calling, that work allows us to contribute meaningfully and continue to expand our skills and strengths. Regardless of the type of work we do, we are able to balance that with other dimensions of wellness.

As you can see from the definitions above, although this dimension of wellness is most often thought of in relation to a traditional occupation, anything you do that is meaningful and has the ability to impact others could be considered work.

Right now, many people are finding new ways to fulfill their calling, contribute meaningfully or expand their skills and strengths. Occupational wellness isn’t all about a career.

Zucchini plant with orange blossom with text overlay: "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant." Robert Louis Stevenson

How’s Your Occupational Wellness?

So now that we know what Occupational Wellness is, how do we ensure we’re working toward being where we need to be in that area?

Here are some questions we can ask ourselves:

  • Am I using my skills and talents to contribute positively to the world around me?
  • Do I enjoy the work I’m doing?
  • Is my work meaningful to me?
  • Am I learning new skills to help me accomplish my goals?
  • Do I have the tools I need to manage stress in the workplace?
  • Is there balance between my work and leisure time?
  • Do I have a manageable workload?
  • Have I learned to handle criticism? (For some tips on handling criticism, check out these from Northern Michigan University.)
  • Do I have good work relationships? (NMU also has tips for that….)

A need to contribute in some way to the world around us seems to be wired into our DNA. Having something meaningful to do gives us a sense of purpose, whether that “something” is a traditional occupation, raising children, volunteer work, or even a hobby.

Do you feel the occupational dimension applies to your life? Why or why not? How are you doing with your Occupational Wellness? Please share!



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  1. An excellent topic to cover. With ‘typical’ jobs, especially where it’s full time and around 37 hours or so a week, we have to consider just how much of our lives are going in to work; if it’s not enjoyable or serving us well, then it’s likely detrimental to our wellbeing and that over time will take a toll. My career goal was to be a clinical psychologist and to try to make a difference and do some good, where I’d also enjoy the work and I wouldn’t mind that work would be a big part of my life. On the other side of that, there’s a job for the sake of a job, where you work to live and put food on the table. We can’t always get the jobs that satisfy and fulfil, or even the ones we find half way pleasant. But things can and do change, so if we’re doing something we’re not happy with or that’s downright awful for our wellbeing, then we can look to remedy that, even if it’s not immediate.

    I like that you’ve mentioned how occupation wellness is both paid and unpaid activities, as this will be the case for many of us will chronic illness that have either lost our jobs, can’t work, or have had to take on different roles/less hours etc. xx

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Caz! You make some great points here! As you said, we can’t always get those jobs that are “the job” and a job that we find fulfilling. Sometimes we have to do jobs that fulfill the purpose of supporting our families, and that’s okay too. The nice thing is that if we’re not happy where we’re at, we have to option to work toward something else by improving our skills or education, etc.. I like that the definitions include unpaid work as well…. Even if we’re not working a traditional job, we’re occupying ourselves with other things that can make a difference. Speaking of that — CONGRATULATIONS on your THREE Wego Award Nominations!!! Way to go!

      1. You’re right; if we’re not happy with where we’re at, we can seek to change that. It might be in a practical sense, with courses and updating our CV and looking for other work, or more of a chance in perspective with how we view jobs and our self-worth in relation to careers.

        Thank you so much, Terri! I don’t know who the crazy ones are that did it, but I’ve been nominated for 5 awards now. I’ve no chance of winning whatsoever and yet that doesn’t matter at all – I am so, so grateful to have been nominated and for any votes. We’re Wego sisters! Identical sisters in fact as you also have 5 nominations. Endorsed & keeping my fingers crossed for you – so you deserve to win, and I hope these votes show you just what a difference you’re making to so many people, Terri.xx

      2. Thanks so much Caz, and wait — what???!!! I had gotten notes from a couple of people saying they were nominating me, but I didn’t hear anything from Wego, so I assumed I wasn’t eligible since my shift to wellness. I’ll have to check it out. I’m so happy for you — you definitely deserve the nominations and wins. You are such an encouragement to so many of us here! I hope you know what a special person you are and what a difference you make for so many of us! Sending lots of love and hugs your way!

  2. Another excellent post, Terri! We live in a world that often likes to judge us by our so-called ‘productivity.’ How often do we hear that we should just stay in a dead-end miserable job because at least it pays the bills? I’m not implying we should be irresponsible, far from. Sometimes life calls us to be in uncomfortable situations in the short-term. Yet, it’s this notion that we should sacrifice our physical and mental well-being for an occupation that concerns me so much.

    I’m grateful you are tackling this topic, because I believe it’s an important one. I love how you frame this topic in such a healthy, positive way. Occupational wellness really is about fulfilling the call on our lives, using our unique set of God-given skills and abilities, making a difference in our lives and the lives of others. How much better of a world would this be if we all were living out our purposes? How much more joy-filled would our cultures be if we embraced uniqueness and celebrated creativity?

    You’re right about balance too. Even when we are blessed enough to do something we love – burn out can still happen. Compassion fatigue is a very real condition of the heart.

    Sending love to you, Terri. Thanks for sharing yet another fantastic post! ♥

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Holly! Sorry for the delay in replying — somehow your comment ended up in my spam folder. I just don’t understand WP sometimes…. You bring up some excellent points about our culture being so obsessed with productivity. It can be a delicate balance sometimes, doing what we need to do to support our families and finding fulfillment in our work. It definitely would be a wonderful world if each of us could, as you said, live out our purpose, embrace uniqueness, and celebrate creativity. AND if we could realize that we don’t have to be productive every minute of every day. Blessings to you sweet friend!

  3. I really needed to read this – it is a good reminder for me that what truly matters is that I love what I do, not that I make no money. xo

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful Sandy! I’m afraid many of us get caught up in the trap of thinking that if we’re not making a lot of money at something that it’s not important…. There are lots of things that are more important than making the big bucks…. Blessings to you sweet friend!

  4. Hi, Terri! Before I became unable to work due to poor health, I worked as a registered nurse. It was a job I loved, but it was very stressful. Now that I’m not able to work I find fulfillment in writing my blog and in some volunteer activities that don’t overwhelm me. So I guess that means I have occupational wellness. Great article!

    1. Thanks so much Kathy! It’s wonderful that you’ve found something that fulfills you and gives you purpose without overwhelming you. That sounds like great Occupational Wellness to me. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  5. I loved my profession and having my own practice. After MS put an end to it I was totally lost until I as asked to be a peer counselor. Passion was restored, and it took some occasional reminders to keep my time and interests in balance.

    1. What a wonderful transfer of skills George! It’s good to know that even when we may not be able to do everything we used to, there are still ways to contribute, sometimes in ways we never would have thought of when we were in our traditional careers. Thanks so much for sharing! Blessings to you!

      1. In one year I was told “God bless you” more than I’d heard in my entire life. That is an invaluable intangible. (How’s that for 2 big words? 😳)

  6. Love seeing the seven dimensions of wellness covered here! I work as an activity/wellness Director in a memory care unit and part of our company’s motto is to make sure each activity targets specific dimensions, and to ensure every dimension is covered daily. It’s given me a whole new perspective on wellness to be so conscious of why we do each activity – and then in my own life to bring awareness to why I do the things I do. Thanks for sparking this conversation!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing! I love that your company addresses all the dimensions of wellness – that’s so important to make sure your residents are as well as possible. I’m doing a course right now about combining physical and brain training to help clients fight the impacts of aging on the brain, improve cognitive abilities, and keep their brains healthy in general. What you’re doing is so vital for your patients – thank you! Blessings to you!

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