Wellness Days Generate More Good

My former Ph.D.mentor and and dissertation chair at Arizona State, Dr. Bill Arnold, recently sent me this NBC News article, “Employees are tired, stressed and burned out. That’s why I give mine ‘wellness days” with the header, “Your Point”. The article makes the point I promote that employers should treat employees as adults and give them freedom to use their days as desired. If employees are misusing the policy, attention should be directed toward a better culture. Work should be rewarding, as Dr. W. Edwards Deming often explained:

image of quote by Dr. Deming: People are entitled to joy in work.

To enable people to have a better work experience, to enable joy, employees should be provided “general leave” days, rather than sick days, to use. If people are sick, then those general leave days are used for sickness and cannot be used for desired activities. This policy therefore rewards people who are healthy by giving them the opportunity to have days off with pay to use as desired. This type of “Wellness Day” Policy can generate more good, not just less bad or fewer sick days (see Beyond Order and Status Quo). This policy will also encourage people to strive for higher levels of health, which will also benefit productivity and research shows also results in less sick days, as a by-product.

In other words, give employees wellness days so they can use those days to fulfill their potential. After all:

Are we living in Orwellian’s world? Why should we only paid for a day off if we are sick? Doesn’t this policy reward sickness?

Of course providing for sick days is important, which a General Leave Policy also accomplishes, but more is needed. People need days outside of work for importantthings in life such as attending a child’s performance, a child’s graduation (personal experience), or going to see a fantastic exhibit. All these things are important to help the employees have a better life. Keeping employees from doing what they want will negatively impact their productivity and attitude about work. This policy also means when they will miss work, it won’t be a surprise. With his policy employees will plan for the days missed which will also boost productivity when they miss without preparation. The policy highlighted in the article described their wellness days as:

With our five annual wellness days, we encourage people to stay out long before they become ill, no questions asked. If they do decide to share what they did, we love hearing how the concert, bike ride or time with their kids helped them recharge and feel even better.

The idea of Wellness Days is similar to the famed Google 20% time rule that encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on whatever they want. They trust the employees to do the right things and the payoff has been powerful (as noted in the linked article below).

Google Says It Still Uses the ’20-Percent Rule,’ and You Should Totally Copy It: Do they still really do this at Google? In a way, it doesn’t matter. You should copy it regardless

The idea is pretty simple: It’s that you, or a team, or a company–anyone, really–should divide your time working, so that at least 20 percent is spent exploring or working on projects that show no promise of paying immediate dividends but that might reveal big opportunities down the road. 

“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20 percent of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google,” co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote in 2004, before the company’s IPO. “This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”

A Wellness Day policy that provides paid time off work for general leave, rather than sick days, is a way practice paneugenesis because it is likely to generate more good, not JUST less bad. Wellness Days are more likely to enable employees and their organizations to generate comprehensive improvements because they will now have the capacity to create net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Please share wellness days policies that work and also let us know how they have helped. Thank you.


Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!


Please share your thoughts and questions below.
Contact me: BeWellr@gmail.com

Short SWPS Article Published in American Journal of Health Education

One of my main professional accomplishments has been the development, validation and use of the Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS). I developed this tool to measure the presence of health and its active creation. As has been shown in this research, those who are doing the most to actively promote their health in multiple dimensions, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational, physical, and environmental on this scale, score highest. Results document that those doing the most to promote health, have the highest health and higher life satisfaction.

I developed the SWPS because my review and that of many professionals agreed that health measurements were inaccurate because they were measuring and assessing for the absence of disease and risk factors, rather than the presence of health. This scale measures actions to promote health, which also can be referred to as salutogenic, or health causing actions.

The research with this scale also supported the idea that health was multidimensional, that is, many factors cumulatively contribute to an overall status of health rather than the traditional unidimensional attempt to measure health. The traditional measurement of health is unidimensional because it measures if people are engaging in risky behaviors or actions that cause disease. Traditional scales assume if you are not engaging in risky actions, you are healthy. As most of us know, just because we are not doing a specific wrong thing, does not mean we are doing the right things.

The SWPS uses the salutogenic or health origins paradigm rather than the traditional pathogenic, or disease causing paradigm. The video below explains more about pathogenesis and salutogenesis, specifically how pathogenesis is designed for acute, or short-term care, while salutogenesis focuses on regular lifestyle actions.

The scale I developed, tested, and validated with many helpful colleagues beaome the Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS). The SWPS assessed for health promoting actions in the physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational, and environmental areas. The research has shown that the more people engage in the health promoting actions measured, the better their health and the higher their life satisfaction. I also validated it for young adults, working adults and with an Arabic population. An older adult version has shown to be helpful but has not been validated yet.

The scale is a 25 item 7 dimension measurement. To make it more usable, with my GA, Austin Odom and talented colleagues, Hui Bia, PhD, Ryan Martin, PhD and Kerry Sewell, we developed and tested a short 7-item version of the scale. This test indicated it was a good test and we published the article in the American Journal of Health Education in 2021. The article, Initial Assessment of a 7-Item Well-being Scale (SWPS-SF) among a Sample of College Students was published online in June, 2021 here. https://doi.org/10.1080/19325037.2021.1930611 . Here is the abstract:


Background: Shorter validated health assessment tools are needed. The validated 25-item Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS) measures health status through assessment of engagement in multidimensional health behaviors.

Purpose: To do an initial assessment of the Short Form Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS-SF).

Methods: A convenience sample of 91 college students completed an online survey that included, the SWPS, the SWLS (Satisfaction with Life Survey) and the PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire 9). Correlation analyses among these scales were completed. In addition, a chi-square test was performed to examine the characteristics of SWPS-SF including sensitivity and specificity in predicting GPA.

Results: There were significant relationships between SWPS-SF and the SWPS and the SWLS. The association between the SWPS-SF and PHQ-9 was not significant (r = −.20, p = .052). Analysis indicated that participants scoring over the 20.5 cutoff on the SWPS-SF were four times more likely to have GPAs of 3.0 or greater.

Discussion: The SWPS-SF is reasonably representative of the full SWPS, suggesting it offers a helpful method to do quick, accurate assessments of health behavior engagement and health status, more research is recommended.

Translation to Health Education Practice: The SWPS-SF enables employers, universities, hospitals and schools to perform quick, accurate complementary health status assessments.

Overall, the SWPS measures engagement in net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions that generate comprehensive improvements for everyone and everything. I look forward to hearing how you engage in interactions to generate comprehensive improvements for everyone and everything.

If you are interested, below are a few of the articles related to some of the research related to the Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS).

  • Becker, C. M., Glascoff, M. A., Mitchell, T., Durham, T., & Arnold, W. (2007). Assessing Perceived Health and Associated Health Promoting Behaviors: An Investigation of Methods used to Assess Health Status. Journal of Applied Social Psychology37(2), 227–242.
  • Becker, C. M., Dolbier, C. L., Durham, T., Glascoff, M. A., & Adams, T. B. (2008). Development and Preliminary Evaluation of the Validity and Reliability of a Positive Health Scale. American Journal of Health Education39(1), 34–41.
  • Becker, C. M., Whetstone, L., Glasscoff, M., & Moore, J. (2008). Evaluation of the Reliability and Validity of an Adult Version of the Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS). American Journal of Health Education39(6), 322–328.
  • Becker, C. M., Cooper, N., Atkins, K., & Martin, S. (2009). What Helps Students Thrive? An Investigation of Student Engagement and Student Performance. Recreational Sports Journal33, 139–149.
  • Becker, C. M., Moore, J., Whetstone, L., Glascoff, M., & Chaney, E. (2009). Validity Evidence for the Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS). American Journal of Health Behavior33(4), 455–465.
  • Al, H., Becker, C. M., Mansour-Hamdan, A., Al-Shuaibi, J., & Tharwat, H. (2013). Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale: Validation of the Arabic Version. American Journal of Health Education44(4), 229–234.
  • Anderson, L. M., Moore, J. B., Hayden, B. M., & Becker, C. M. (2014). Test-retest reliability of the Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale (SWPS). Health Education Research73(1), 101–108.
  • Becker, C. M., Chaney, E., Shores, K., & Glascoff, M. (2015). The Salutogenic Wellness Promotion Scale for Older Adults (SWPS-OA). American Journal of Health Education46, 293–300.



Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!


Please share your thoughts and questions below.
Contact me: BeWellr@gmail.com