What is a Workplace Wellness Leader?

What is a Workplace Wellness Leader?



It’s no secret that workplace mental health and wellbeing is now one of the biggest issues facing organisations. The COVID pandemic pushed mental health and wellbeing to the front of what was already an emerging trend in progressive workplaces. Even beyond the impact and fallout of the COVID pandemic, employee mental health and wellbeing has an increasing need to be proactively addressed with an integrated approach, as workplaces and lives continue to become busier and more connected.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that many organisations were ill-equipped to effectively navigate the disruption. Disruptive events (e.g. natural disasters, public health crises, economic disruption) are likely to occur far more frequently impacting workplaces and, for that reason, it is critical that individuals are equipped with the skills and knowledge to identify, manage and respond appropriately to the effects of organisational disruptions.

In the covid-context, it’s estimated workforce exhaustion is contributing to the ‘Great Resignation’; with 73 per cent of working professionals reporting experiences of burnout and exhaustion (BLIND, 2020). According to a 2021 Gallup poll, only 20% of Australian and New Zealand employees feel engaged at work, so this leaves 80% of employees not feeling engaged at work.

The business impacts can be severe, including legal ramifications, low productivity, escalating benefits spend and damage to employment value proposition and brand for organisations. More than Mental Health First Aid training is required to enable organisations to embed mental health and wellbeing into how things are done in workplaces for effective risk management.

The pandemic may have sped up the focus on wellbeing, but it’s here to stay as organisations compete in the war for talent, navigate global uncertainty, and embrace workers from the next generation who have had greater exposure to mental health literacy opportunities.

Research shows that wellness is an inside job, meaning that it’s most effective when driven from within. Both employers and employees benefit from a whole-person, whole-organisation, strategic and sustainable approach to employee wellbeing.

Findings from the 2021 Mercer Marsh Benefits Report show that while employers are investing more in mental health, the same priority isn’t being given to workforce exhaustion. This is the number-three people risk overall, but it ranks down in 14th place in terms of steps being taken to address it. Over a third of organisations said that they are confused over which department is responsible for this risk, including physical and mental, work-related and non-work related illness and injury.


Although wellbeing is on the radar of nearly every CEO, it nearly always falls to an external specialist or a manager within the organisation to develop a wellbeing strategy and oversee the day-to-day management of the initiative.

At the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy, we define a workplace wellness leader as the person (or people) responsible for employee (and/or community) wellbeing strategies, initiatives and programs in organisations. This may be a full-time role or may be combined with other functional responsibilities, such as human resources, or health and safety.

The Wellness Leader ensures that the health and wellbeing initiatives developed are consistent with, and contextualised to, the needs of the business and the people. The Wellness Leader promotes and supports employee wellbeing, through the development, implementation and monitoring of initiatives that will engage employees, enrich their physical and mental health and wellbeing, and continue to cultivate a healthy performance working culture in the long term. The Wellness Leader role involves networking to build and maintain partnerships with safety, health and wellbeing professionals to drive positive and change in the workplace.

As Benjamin Franklin so perfectly put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The critical takeaway here is that no webinar, mental health day or week, fruit basket, gym membership or wearable device can take the place of a professional wellness leader in workplaces.

Common role titles include:

  • Wellness Leader
  • Health and Wellbeing Advisor
  • Workplace Wellness Consultant
  • Wellbeing Business Partner
  • Wellness Director
  • Specialist Wellbeing Manager
  • Chief Wellbeing Officer
  • Health, safety and wellbeing manager, advisor, or business partner


Broadly, workplace wellness leaders:

  • Develop, implement, evaluate and monitor workplace wellness strategies that addresses risk areas and supports a positive and healthy work culture. Strategies align to organisational objectives and have goals, measures, and targets.
  • Design and deliver workplace wellbeing programs and initiatives.
  • Develop leadership capability and improve organisational health and wellbeing literacy through learning and training programs.
  • Develop and manage a wellbeing support model with appropriate internal and external support.
  • Measure employee wellbeing and evaluate workplace wellbeing programs and initiatives.
  • Undertake reporting to senior leaders and boards on strategy progress and any risk areas.
  • Communicate about wellbeing with employees and develop promotional campaigns.
  • Manage relationships with stakeholders, including senior leaders, departments such as internal communications, and external providers.
  • Manage a budget and seek additional funding from senior leaders as required,
  • Stay up-to-date on external workplace wellbeing campaigns
  • Organise wellbeing events and may facilitate wellbeing information sessions or support external speakers.


As both workplace wellbeing and leadership are special skills, there simply aren’t enough professionally qualified people currently available to fill the ever-growing skills need in our workplaces and communities. This means that most organisations are choosing to upskill or reskill a current team member to drive a strategic approach to wellbeing. This helps boost engagement and cultivate a healthy performance culture through having a professionally qualified ‘in-house’ Leader to embed wellbeing into policy, systems, process and culture to strategically enable their people and strengthen organisational outcomes. The wellness leader may also have support from an external wellness consultant or mentor, depending on their experience and the goals and objectives of the organisation.

To support the wellness leader, many organisations also create a formal or informal team committed to making a difference or a network of wellbeing champions who combine the work with other unrelated functional responsibilities (e.g. operational or technical roles).

When individuals collectively thrive, then our organisations and communities are more likely to thrive.


Here’s what to do next:

  1. DOWNLOAD the course information guide on Australia’s Nationally Recognised 11047NAT Diploma of Wellness Leadership Qualification course and talk with your leader about this professional development opportunity that provides a sustainable solution for your organisation.
  2. EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST to ENROL (opening soon) to avoid missing out as placements are capped to ensure that all participants receive quality training, expert mentoring and support.
  3. CONTACT US to answer any questions that you may have or to discuss how the practical and relevant work-based projects will deliver tangible benefits for the mental health and wellbeing needs of your people.

Lived Experience of a Wellness Leadership Graduate

“My life-changing self-discovery began when commencing the Diploma. It was an excellent opportunity for growth; and a reminder of how wellbeing is personal, fluid, evolves with time, and looks different for each of us. The course has taught me to nurture and apply functional wellness solutions into my life and those around me, at home and work.” – Caraline Enniss, Warrant Officer, ADF (Navy).

Angela Derks MBA, BHSc, BComm, is the Founder CEO of the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy (ASWA) - Australia's award-winning workplace wellbeing advisory and training organisation. Angela is the course developer and lead facilitator of the Nationally Recognised Diploma of Wellness Leadership qualification for workplace wellbeing professionals. The ASWA Business Solutions Team provide consulting services using the award-winning ASWA whole-person, whole-organisation approach to workforce mental health and wellbeing.