A Conversation with Laura Hambley and Richard Safeer, MD

I had the gift of meeting Dr. Richard Safeer when facilitating a panel on Understanding the Principles of Wellness and Wellbeing for the Hacking HR Forward 2023 Conference. I was struck by his expertise, experience, and insights around creating a culture of well-being, and his book that provides leaders and their organizations with a roadmap for creating a happier, healthier workplaceA Cure for the Common Company: A Well-Being Prescription for a Healthier, Happier, and More Resilient Workforce. which just launched in January 2023!

To listen to the full conversation, check out Where Work Meets Life ™ here:

— S03.E50: The Cure for the Common Company: A Chief Medical Director’s Prescription for a Healthier Workforce

Tell us about yourself, Dr. Safeer:

I studied nutrition before going to med school, then became a family physician. After two years I realized there was an opportunity to impact a greater number of people. Working on systems and organizations to influence the health of an entire population became a passion, which is why I began working with Johns Hopkins.


Tell us a little bit more about A Cure for the Common Company: A Well-Being Prescription for a Happier, Healthier, and More Resilient Workforce. What inspired you to write it?

I began writing it a few years ago as I’d seen what employers and companies [were] doing, but a lot of what’s being done is not as effective as they think. There’s a better way to use people’s time, energy, [and] resources.  The book includes stories about Hopkins and other companies and how they’ve been successful at creating well-being cultures.


Who should read this book and how can they order a copy?

The book is meant for leaders at all levels, HR professionals, and anyone who supports employee health and well-being, including occupational medicine, and occupational health and safety professionals. Visit www.richardsafeer.com for links to online booksellers.  



What are the trends you’ve been seeing that are problematic in organizations?

In order for us to support the millions of people in the workforce, we need more leaders and HR professionals to be rowing in the same direction on well-being.

Workplaces offering strategies and programs have the best of intentions, but we need to take a step back and respect the power of the social sciences and the levers that influence the choices we make, and the emotions we carry through our work days.

The six building blocks for a happier and healthier workforce, as described in the book, are: 1) peer support, 2) leadership engagement, 3) healthy norms, 4) social climate, 5) shared values, and 6) culture connection points (i.e., nudges that our employer offers that make it easier to make healthy choices and be emotionally well through the workday). When most or all of these building blocks are used, we stand a much better chance of having a healthy work day.

Each person is on their own well-being journey. This book provides a practical framework. Call outs for the reader to implement practical strategies across their team or organization are included throughout. Leaders need to positively reinforce behaviour they see on their team (e.g., praise team members who are helping each other be healthier).


What are you seeing in terms of wellness initiatives that are not working?

When employers take only an individual approach (e.g., here are the resources, now go and use them).  Versus creating a supportive, team environment around health and well-being. Well-being is a team sport!




The world is full of challenge and uncertainty, whether it’s the pandemic turned endemic, economic uncertainty, war, or polarization…..what’s your top recommendation for not letting these vast challenges impact our well-being?

Everyone needs to have their own well-being/self-care practices. There are ways for us to help each other through these difficult times. The social climate in our organizations is so key – it’s how we feel about working for our team and company.

There are three ways to shape this:

  • Create a sense of community – do we know the people on our team outside of our workplace?
  • Being positive – taking a cup half-full approach or outlook on life; we all benefit when there’s positive energy around us as negativity can drag us down. We need to see challenges as speed bumps and not brick walls.
  • Rowing in the same direction – our well-being is better when we feel the people around us are all working towards the same goal. Think of a dragon boat race – we’re all in it together!


What do you read and or listen to, Rich, to continue evolving?

Check out the latest podcast episodes of Where Work Meets Life™ on your favourite podcast app!