The future of sustainable well-being at work

July 2, 2024


Well-being policy planner

Download the whitepaperHybrid working 4.0 Yes, please! Employees with a high degree of hybrid work are less at risk of a burnout. Hybrid working is...

What do the Blue Zones teach us?

Workplace well-being is a hot topic. Despite all the attention to well-being in the workplace, the number of long-term sick employees continues to rise. According to figures from RIZIV, the number of people absent for a year or longer due to illness has doubled to over half a million between 2008 and 2022. As much as 37% of these individuals are dealing with mental health issues.
Professor Kathleen Vangronsvelt and Eva Geluk conclude from their research (Wellbeing Works 2023) that both employers and employees agree on the importance of well-being, but current initiatives are not having enough impact. Antwerp Management School therefore decided to launch the Learning Network ‘Wellbeing Horizons’. This network combines research with practice and draws inspiration from the so-called Blue Zones.

Wellbeing Works: A 3-year research partnership

Antwerp Management School, together with B-Tonic, bpost, and Elia, has established the three-year research partnership ‘Wellbeing Works‘. This project focuses on improving workplace well-being through innovative and evidence-based interventions. The partnership combines academic research with practical applications and provides a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices.

The role of work in well-being

Research shows that the causes of burnout are attributed to 70% workplace factors and only 30% individual factors (Evangelia Demerouti). This means that organizations play a significant role in the well-being of their employees. Personal factors such as life events or personality are less influential compared to the work environment. Therefore, work can not only be a source of stress but also part of the solution.

Therefore, work can not only be a source of stress but also part of the solution.

  1. We are not focusing on the right interventions.
  2. Interventions typically focus on one level.
  3. There is no alignment among the people involved in well-being.

A successful approach requires a multi-level approach, involving individuals, teams, leaders, and the organization as a whole. This is where Nielsen’s IGLO model (Individual – Group – Leader – Organization) comes into play.

No well-being without IGLO:

iglo EN


What are the Blue Zones?

Blue Zones are regions where people live longer and healthier lives. Examples include Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (USA), Nicoya (Costa Rica), and Ikaria (Greece). People in these regions often reach the age of 90 or older in good health. Important characteristics of these regions are:

  • Move naturally: Not gyms, but an environment that encourages movement.
  • Know your purpose: Knowing what you wake up for in the morning can add seven years to your life expectancy.
  • Low Stress: Taking time daily for relaxation.
  • The 80% rule: reduce your calorie intake by 20%.
  • Healthy Diet: Plenty of plant-based food, often grown locally.
  • Social Networks: Belonging to a group with whom you regularly gather.
  • Family: Prioritizing family and loved ones.
  • Friendships: Maintaining good social connections.

Blue Zones in your own country

The good news is that you don’t have to emigrate to experience the benefits of the Blue Zones. Dr. Kalina Mikolajczak-Degrauwe shows that you can apply these principles in your own environment as well. In California and Texas, projects have been launched using the principles of the Blue Zones to reduce obesity and enhance well-being. In Zeeland, innovative solutions are also being developed to promote healthy behaviors, such as health tourism and projects aimed at helping elderly individuals maintain independence for longer.

Do you want to know more about effective well-being interventions? Curious how we can support your organization? Contact us today and take the first step towards a healthier, more productive workplace. 

Source: ZigZagHR Wellbeing: wat kunnen we leren van de Blue zones?


Do you have any questions?
Need a custom quote?

annelies theunissen

Annelies Theunissen
People Sustainability Expert

Also interesting

May 3, 2024

More and more companies are paying attention to the mental health of their employees. Yet nearly half (48%) of Belgian managers believe that employees with...

May 2, 2024

The Future of HR: An Evidence-Based Perspective In our ongoing exploration of innovative workplace practices, we now focus on the crucial role of Evidence...

April 15, 2024

Wellbeing Works 2.0: research meets practice After a year of thorough research, it has been found that the role of leaders is crucial for wellbeing...

Download the Trend Report 2024: 'Well-being & Sustainability'

Want to know more about the social weight of ESG in sustainable business​?

e book 2024 en