#WeAreWELL: Heidi Dening

#WeAreWELL: Heidi Dening

Thursday, September 27, 2018

WELL faculty

This past month, IWBI welcomed its 200th WELL Faculty member from New South Wales, Australia. Heidi Dening is not only the Founder and CEO of Workable Wellness but also a member of the WELL Mind advisory and a WELL AP. We asked Heidi about her deep engagement in the WELL movement and how her WELL credentials contribute to her leadership in the workplace wellness industry.

How did you become involved in wellness education and workplace consulting?

I have always believed in the saying, ‘If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. If you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.’

For over twenty years now I have been teaching wellness in some shape or form. Firstly, when I was a secondary school teacher, I would educate teenage girls on how they could move more, nourish their bodies and form lifelong friendships. Then as the owner of a thriving personal training company I educated my staff how to teach adults about incorporating movement, self-care and realistic nutrition into their busy lifestyles.

Currently, as a workplace wellness consultant and keynote speaker, I educate leaders on how to create policies and frameworks specific for their workplaces that ensure their staff can come to work and be productive, enthusiastic, optimistic and strategic. I also educate the team members about self-leadership, stress, burnout, resilience, vitality and performance so they can live their best lives – professionally and personally.

What does wellness mean to you both professionally and personally and how does it relate to the five pillars of a successful wellness model?

We live in a world where the demands on our time, our energy and our focus are so unrelenting that some of the best people in organisations are shutting down and burning out. Personally, I know what it’s like to be extremely time-poor and close to burn-out due to juggling so many responsibilities and ongoing challenges, and the impact that this has had on my ability to prioritise my own health and wellbeing. It takes strong self-leadership skills and the knowledge that the daily habits that we put in place are crucial if we want to go from surviving to thriving.

I believe the pillars of a sustainable wellness model must include these five areas to ensure we have the physical and mental capacity to work and live effectively:

  1. Move – move more doing something you love, e.g., walking meetings, desk stretching, dancing, playing soccer with the kids, walking the dog

  2. Eat – nourish your body with fresh food to increase your cognitive output

  3. Treat – increase the joy, connection and laughter in your life to ensure fulfillment

  4. Rejuvenate – self-care strategies that will refresh the mind and body

  5. Eliminate – habits (and/or people!!) who drain you of time, energy, focus and money

As a Mind advisor, you advise on how WELL can best support cognitive and emotional health. What drew you to the Mind concept and how does this relate to the work you’re currently doing in Australia?

We spend approximately 90,000 hours of our lives at work. This means that workplaces have a responsibility to create environments that support, maintain and hopefully improve the health and wellbeing of their number one asset - their people.

My passion and expertise is educating leaders and their teams how to make micro-changes to their current policies and education programs so that individuals at all levels within the organisation aren’t as reactive to stress, can better deal with adversity and don’t spiral out of control into burnout. When companies are proactive with these physical, mental and social health policies and education programs that are specific to their workplaces, they attract and retain the very best people within their industry.

I was drawn to the Mind concept because I see first-hand the impact, both positive and negative, that our workplaces are having on society’s cognitive and emotional health. I want to lead the charge here in Australia and be instrumental in supporting the companies who do want to make a difference. Having access to cutting edge strategies from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and also to a talented and passionate group of global experts, means that I can be of the greatest service to Australian companies, Australian leaders and Australian society. This makes me very proud.

You’ve been involved in health and education for over 20 years now. What inspired you to pursue your WELL AP credential and how does it support your career goals and your work as a leader in the healthy building movement?

When I first read about the WELL AP credential and what it meant, I got goosebumps. To tell you the truth, still to this day when I explain what this movement is doing and the changes it is creating, I still get those goosebumps.

My initial goal of gaining the WELL AP credential was to increase my knowledge and my credibility. I never imagined that it would open as many doors as it has for me and lead to further opportunities and responsibilities with IWBI. For example, becoming the 200th WELL Faculty member, and my most proud achievement, being the only Australian selected from a global pool of applicants as a Mind concept advisor. These achievements have lead to being contacted by companies such as Evoke Projects (an Australian boutique commercial fitout organisation) and Matrix LED (an Australian high-quality and eco-friendly lighting solution company) to collaborate with them on pitching for a range of offerings based on the foundations of WELL.

I often say that I feel a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I am not sure what the Emerald City will look like at the end of the yellow brick road, but I know as long as I keep taking one more step forward, it will lead me to a wonderful destination. Getting my WELL AP credential was this first step.

How do you go about making the case for healthy design and programming? What quantitative and qualitative data do you rely on?

I love that I now have access to up-to-date, science-backed wellness strategies, and also an experienced and knowledgeable team of people who are willing to share latest research and current statistics.

KPMG recently published a report called ‘Investing To Save – The Economic Benefits for Australia of Investment in Mental Health Reform.' Here are some of the relevant data points that I use specific for the Australian market.

  1. Workplace interventions can generate return on investment of $1.30 to over $4.70 for every dollar spent

  2. Mental ill-health reduces output and profitability for workplaces due to the impact of absenteeism and presenteeism

  3. Mental ill-health issues in the workplace cost the economy $12.8 billion each year

  4. Quality resilience training and stress management programs have been identified as having a strong evidence base for success, and are effective in getting results

Congratulations on becoming the 200th WELL Faculty member! What do you hope to accomplish in the next year? What does the future of workplace wellness look like to you?

Knowing that the rates of stress and burnout are escalating in this country and around the world, my goal is to educate and inspire 20,000 leaders by 2020 on how they can strengthen their resilience, focus more and stress less so they can lead more effectively. This will send a ripple effect of vitality, resilience and optimism into their teams, potentially improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and creating a more sustainable future for everyone.

In the next year, as a WELL Faculty member and Mind advisor, I want to reach more people with the message that we can collectively make a difference. All we need is a willingness for leaders to take action and make the micro-changes to their policies and education programs so that everyone has the tools and resources to thrive at work and in life.

Learn more and start your journey towards becoming a WELL AP here.


Heidi Dening is an award-winning workplace wellness consultant and speaker, and the CEO of Workable Wellness. With over 20 years experience in education and health, Heidi specialises in workshop programs and presentations that educate busy professionals on how to reduce their stress levels, strengthen their resilience, boost their productivity and business potential, and improve their vitality.