Employee wellbeing - smiling in a green field

Why workplace wellbeing is a win-win for employees and businesses

Much has been said and written with seemingly universal support for investing in your employees’ psychological wellbeing. But some organisations are yet to truly back up the rhetoric with real action. So, how can we get them on board?

We look into how poor psychological wellbeing impacts organisations and their workers, drawing on research and our employee benchmark data to statistically link wellbeing with engagement and other business outcomes. And, along the way we offer some suggested ways to improve occupational health in your own organisation.

Psychological block

Our benchmark data reveals that almost 79% people believe their employer cares about their wellbeing. However, 30% feel they are under undue stress in their job and more still don’t feel their workload is fair or reasonable.

It is of course far easier for organisations to focus on the physical wellbeing of their staff; ensuring health and safety is up to scratch, providing a modern and well equipped workspace and offering subsidised gym memberships. Making changes that may positively impact employees’ mental wellbeing can seem daunting (and costly). And it is seldom as simple as just reducing workloads, increasing people resource, or offering more holiday allowance.

So, how big is the problem? Well, a PWC study indicated that a third of British workers have poor psychological wellbeing (PWB) and could be suffering from mental health issues, the most common being stress. As with engagement, there’s plenty of research linking PWB to performance, absenteeism, presenteesim and turnover. And, as with engagement, it’s hard to define. Nonetheless, here are a five key elements that influence PWB:

  • Having purpose or meaning
  • Autonomy and feeling trusted
  • Opportunities for growth
  • Positive relationships and support
  • Mastery/ achieving goals

A quick scan of questions related to these areas in our benchmark reveals one notable area where organisations should focus – career development.

Employee development benchmark statistics in horizontal bar chart

Moreover this should serve as a further reminder that we need to start thinking about wellbeing and the employee experience in much more holistic terms rather than fixating on engagement. Our EX3 model (shown below) was devised with this in mind. It recognises the role the work environment and job characteristics can have on employees’ PWB.

EX3 model of employee experience for wellbeing article

Wellbeing a two-way street

It’s clear that not only does a workforce with poor PWB affect business outcomes, but the organisation can negatively impact their employees’ PWB too. Presenteeism is a classic example of this. Research shows that organisations providing greater emotional support to employees’ (through managers or colleagues) see lower levels of presenteeism as it creates an environment wherein workers feel comfortable speaking up when they feel under pressure.

Loneliness is another big issue in today’s workplaces, and is one which is proven to link to performance. While organisations typically rely on pay and benefit packages to motivate their employees, providing recognition and feedback are far more likely to lead to improved performance (and improved PWB). That’s because this caters to our need for social connectedness. With the continued rise in remote working, this is something organisations must get better at.

What’s the bottom line?

The links between PWB, engagement and performance are now well established. And despite the compelling body of evidence, many organisations are still only paying lip service here. And while it’s natural to question the business impact of investing in employee wellbeing, it’s important not to look at its value solely in monetary terms.

There is clearly something self-serving in an organisation helping its workforce to be more productive and healthy, but the motivation for executives to promote and invest in employee wellbeing so should also be a moral one.

Like it or not, organisations today have a corporate responsibility to both employees and society – and the transparency of our workplaces mean that such practices and policies are laid bare for all to see, and judge. So words are all well and good, but now it’s time for action.


References
Cooper, C. L., & Dewe, P. (2008). Well-being—absenteeism, presenteeism, costs and challenges. Occupational medicine
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne
Miraglia, M., & Johns, G. (2016). Going to work ill: A meta-analysis of the correlates of presenteeism and a dual-path model. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology
Munir, F., Leka, S., & Griffiths, A. (2005). Dealing with self-management of chronic illness at work: Predictors for self-disclosure. Social Science & Medicine
Ryff, C. D. (2014). Psychological well-being revisited: Advances in the science and practice of eudaimonia. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2013). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. In The exploration of happiness. Springer Netherlands.
Wright, T. A., & Bonett, D. G. (2007). Job satisfaction and psychological well-being as non-additive predictors of workplace turnover. Journal of management

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