Putting your people first: developing innovative health and well-being strategies

Employee well-being. Happy female office worker resting at workplace, taking break to prevent stress


In this article, Aerospace Xelerated’s Dr. Mariam Ketait advises on how startups can develop innovative health and well-being strategies so they can navigate the challenges ahead.

Running startups is a challenging task.

More often than not, the pressure of dealing with the demands of startup life can leave founders and their staff burned out. Burnout is also one of the main reasons people quit their jobs, and in the current context, where companies are fighting for talent, keeping your employees happy and healthy is critical.

In this article, Aerospace Xelerated’s Dr. Mariam Ketait advises on how startups can develop innovative health and well-being strategies so they can navigate the challenges ahead.


Mariam is the Regional Lead (MENA) for Aerospace Xelerated, Boeing’s startup accelerator, Aerospace Xelerated, which is managed by the Global Accelerators & Innovation Programs Strategy team at Boeing. Mariam has extensive experience across government, healthcare and the private sector, focusing on establishing public-private partnerships, developing innovative health and well-being strategies, and driving digital transformation initiatives. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Mariam is deeply committed to philanthropy, having served as the CEO of the UAE National MS Society, supporting individuals and families living with multiple sclerosis. Currently, in her role at Aerospace Xelerated and Boeing, Mariam is focused on driving aerospace innovation whilst championing initiatives that prioritise health and well-being.

The relentless pursuit of success in startups significantly impacts founders’ and teams’ well-being, with a majority of entrepreneurs reportedly having struggled with stress, loneliness, addiction and thoughts of self-harm, posing risks to physical and psychological health.

Similarly, a recent Deloitte study indicates declining health and well-being among employees, with less than two-thirds positively rating physical and mental health. The toll on founders and employees emphasises the urgency for prioritising holistic well-being strategies.

Recognising the paramount importance of a healthy work environment is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. Here are nine innovative health and well-being strategies that startups can adopt to prioritise the people driving their success:

Build a Supportive Company Culture that Prioritises Holistic Health and Well-Being

While the significance of health and well-being is widely acknowledged, a lingering stigma often impedes open discussions on these crucial matters due to fear of potential consequences.

Recognising the pivotal role of psychological safety, startups should actively foster an environment where employees feel empowered to discuss their well-being candidly. Startup leaders can encourage this by creating safe spaces for team members to be vulnerable and promoting a culture of trust where sharing ideas and addressing personal challenges can occur.

Teams can also adopt initiatives such as coaching sessions and training programs focused on nurturing active listening and empathy skills to help team members better navigate challenges and support each other.

Further, building a supportive company culture requires a commitment to formal and informal check-ins. These regular interactions serve not only to monitor work progress but also to cultivate a sense of belonging and trust within the team. By prioritising open communication and support mechanisms, startups can lay the foundation for a workplace where holistic well-being is acknowledged and actively promoted.

Embrace Work-Life Balance and Flexible Working Arrangements

In addition to fostering a healthy integration of work and personal life, startups should prioritise the overall well-being of their employees, acknowledging the crucial role physical health plays in professional success. You can do this by encouraging a work-life balance that accommodates individual needs recognising the importance of sleep, exercise, and nutrition.

Some organisations provide flexible working arrangements that allow team members to choose when and where they work. Remote work options, flexible hours, and shorter work weeks improve work-life balance and empower individuals to prioritise their physical health and well-being.

By actively supporting physical health and well-being, startups can create a workplace culture that values the holistic development of employees, fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment.

Invest in Resources that Promote Employee Health and Well-Being

Recognising and addressing physical and mental health early on can prevent stress and burnout and contribute to a healthier workplace overall.

Offer access to regular health assessments and counselling services. Implement mindfulness and meditation sessions, subsidise fitness classes or wellness retreats, and provide resources for stress management.

Startups can also explore project management platforms and communication tools that help teams better manage their time, minimise after-hours notifications, and allow employees to disconnect and focus on their physical and mental rejuvenation.

Lastly, teams can conduct surveys to gauge team well-being, identify potential issues early on, and guide the selection and implementation of targeted interventions.

Promote Workload Management, Time Management and Prioritisation

Encouraging realistic goal-setting and aiding your team in effective task prioritisation are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy work pace. By setting achievable milestones and managing workloads, startups can proactively prevent burnout and cultivate an environment that supports the well-being of their team.

In a culture that often glorifies the constant hustle, it is imperative to underscore the importance of taking breaks. Emphasise the significance of utilising vacation days and consider implementing policies that mandate mandatory time off to ensure employees recharge and maintain peak performance.

Building trust among teammates is fundamental. Cultivating a culture of accountability, where team members have each other’s backs, strengthens collaboration and contributes to a positive work environment.

Additionally, startups should champion transparency regarding workload, deadlines, and performance. Reducing uncertainty and anxiety is critical to fostering a sense of trust and cohesion within the team. Equip team members with tools for effective time management, ultimately mitigating stress and promoting a more balanced work-life integration.

Recognise and Celebrate Achievements and Encourage Professional Development

Recognising the dedication and accomplishments of your team is fundamental to building a positive work culture. Regularly celebrate significant milestones and small wins, incorporating gratitude practices that uplift morale and contribute to a thriving work environment.

In addition to acknowledging achievements, prioritise the continuous growth of your team. Invest in their professional development by offering opportunities for learning, mentorship programs, and skill-building workshops. By fostering an environment that values ongoing learning, startups can empower their team members to reach their full potential and contribute to the organisation’s collective success.

Encourage Social Well-Being and Health with Team Bonding, Volunteering and Social Impact Activities

Humans are social creatures that need meaningful connections and relationships. Startups can promote social health and well-being by fostering solid interpersonal relationships, organising team-building activities, and creating a sense of camaraderie and support.

You can also engage your team in activities contributing to social causes, providing a sense of purpose and fostering a positive company culture.

Alignment with Purpose

Ensure that every team member clearly understands their “why” and comprehends how their daily tasks contribute to the broader objectives. Connecting individual responsibilities to the larger organisational goals adds meaning to routine tasks, making them more purposeful.

Fostering this alignment makes work more meaningful and enhances emotional engagement, a crucial element for sustaining emotional well-being. By cultivating a sense of purpose, team members are more likely to feel motivated and emotionally invested in their work, contributing to a positive and fulfilling work experience.

Seek Regular Feedback to Better Understand Your Team’s Needs

Establish a feedback loop where employees can express thoughts on well-being initiatives. Act on this feedback to continually improve and tailor programs to evolving team needs.

By incorporating these comprehensive strategies, startups can create a workplace that fuels innovation and prioritises the well-being of their most valuable asset—their people.

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