No jargon, just impact. 3 guaranteed ways to improve wellbeing at work

Dr Amanda McNamee
March 27, 2023
min read

What is the Jargon approach?

Psychological safety, engagement, productivity, burnout, turnover, compassionate leadership….. 

At work, we are exposed to overly complex concepts and phrases when discussing wellbeing i.e. Instead of talking about how we feel at work we talk about psychological safety

This jargon approach can make it hard to talk about important topics and can lead to inaction. Being overly focused on a concept rather than the behaviours that help lead to it, doesn’t make work any better, in fact it likely makes it less inclusive.  

We spoke to 150 people (working 30 + hours per week) across a variety of ages and salary bands in the UK and US. Unsurprisingly only 14% felt confident they could explain the term psychological safety. And concerningly, of 75 of those who work in HR/wellbeing (or as a manager) only 4% felt completely confident putting strategies and training in place to improve psychological safety at their organisation.

 And it’s not just the really complex jargon terms that cause problems, well-known terms like employee turnover and burnout are better understood yet only 3% and 7% respectively of people who work in HR/wellbeing or as a manager are completely confident they could put strategies and training in place to reduce these challenges to wellbeing. 

At Fika we understand that employee wellbeing is key to a productive and engaged workforce. However, despite the best efforts of HR and executive teams, wellbeing strategies may not be as effective as they hope. So let’s remove the jargon and look at 3 small behaviour changes we can make to genuinely improve wellbeing at work. 

1. Making time to connect

Improving wellbeing at work isn't just about one strategy or idea. It involves the normal ways we behave at work, how we solve problems, and how we handle stress. It's important to focus on how to make these behaviours better instead of losing any hope of action in a spiel of complex language. In our research, 60% of people felt that job satisfaction, work-life balance and burnout were the 3 areas most urgently in need of improving in their organisation and we know that having a friend or close colleague at work significantly improves job satisfaction and also reduces burnout

Actively listening (not multitasking) when people come to talk to you and keeping your tone calm and being inclusive when communicating (e.g. not excluding remote workers) are small but effective ways to let your team know you are approachable and open. It also makes for a more enjoyable workplace as we take the time to know our colleagues and their interests and challenges.  This can be as simple as starting a conversation with no agenda other than to say “how are you?” or “what did you enjoy doing this weekend?”

2. Avoid exclusion, keep your language simple 

Using jargon can also make people feel excluded or intimidated, especially if they're not familiar with the terms. This not only creates division in teams but prevents connections and collaborations from developing. It's essential to ensure that everyone feels valued, included, and heard. 

Using jargon such as "mindfulness" and "resilience" can also create a sense of "otherness" and can make employees feel like they need to adopt a new identity or persona in order to fit in. This provides a general sense of inaccessibility to the area of wellbeing i.e. it’s hard to engage if you have no idea what it means.  This can lead to feelings of alienation and can actually decrease wellbeing. 

  • If you want to ask someone if they feel psychologically safe ask them if the are comfortable speaking up
  • If you want to ask someone if they have a compassionate manager ask them if their manager is someone they can talk to
  • If you want to ask someone if their workplace is inclusive, ask them if they feel part of their team

3. Do, don’t say

Talking about wellbeing won’t change wellbeing. And jargon related to wellbeing can actually increase stress and anxiety in the workplace. 

Instead of talking about a wellbeing idea like compassionate leadership (a concept that is only understood by 35% of people) make time for 1-2-1 meetings with team members and practice giving and receiving feedback, especially positive feedback. 

In addition, making time to build meaningful relationships with team members creates a work environment where everyone feels valued, which leads to improved wellbeing and a more positive workplace.

Using jargon related to wellbeing can inhibit effective approaches to wellbeing at work by creating confusion, misunderstandings, and a sense of otherness. It is important to use language that is accessible, relatable, and inclusive in order to promote effective communication and support employee wellbeing.

Our Fika courses for teams have techniques to train these and other workplace behaviours, so you can share them with everyone in your organisation. If you want help to improve wellbeing at your organisation then drop us a line on to see how our jargon free behaviour training can help your people feel valued and well.

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Dr Amanda McNamee

Dr Amanda McNamee is a Senior Mental Fitness Scientist at Fika. Amanda is a chartered Behavioural Psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Amanda is passionate about developing Fika's scientific evidence base and rigorous evaluation process in both workplace and education settings. Before Fika, Amanda spent time at Ofsted as an Evaluation Lead and more than a decade in academia. Her primary research focused on positive and social psychology and their underpinnings in behavioural change.

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