Employee well-being has become an increasingly important topic for businesses and companies. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the importance of prioritizing the well-being of employees even as remote working is gradually blurring the line between work and personal life, as many people have faced unprecedented stress and uncertainty.
Before now, many companies rarely valued or never considered well-being initiatives as essential. They were just never a priority. But things are changing fast. The Society for Human Resource Management’s studies on employee well-being found that 46% of employees feel burned out, and 35% say their mental health has declined since the pandemic began.
The CIPD 2020 survey report on health and well-being at work found that stress-related absenteeism has increased by 37%, while 89% of employees admitted to working while unwell. According to McKinsey, workplace stress costs US employers nearly $200 billion annually in healthcare expenses.
As documented in the post-pandemic 2021 report, employee well-being is significantly declining. The importance of employee well-being lies in the fact that if employees have consistently positive experiences in the five areas that contribute to it, they can thrive in their personal and professional lives.
This flourishing encompasses both their experiences within and outside of work. This glossary will explore employee well-being, why it matters, and how companies can prioritize and improve it.
What is employee well-being?
Employee well-being refers to an individual’s overall mental, physical, emotional, and economic health. The scope of employee well-being is vast and determined by various factors, such as relationships with coworkers, access to tools and resources, pay, hours, and workplace safety.
Employee well-being encompasses various components, including physical, financial, career satisfaction, emotional, and mental health. Factors contributing to employee well-being include job satisfaction, work-life balance, stress management, and overall quality of life. Therefore, employers must prioritize access to healthcare and mental health resources, create a supportive leadership structure, and foster a positive work environment.
When companies prioritize the well-being of their employees, they benefit from a more engaged and productive workforce, higher retention rates, and improved organizational performance. HR is responsible for safeguarding the company’s most valuable asset—its workforce—so they should prioritize employee well-being. Well-being goes beyond physical health and includes thriving in all aspects of life, functioning optimally, and achieving personal and professional potential.
Elements of comprehensive programs
Employee well-being comprehensively encompasses an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Gallup researchers have identified five critical components of employee well-being, which are as follows:
- Career well-being: Pertains to how satisfied an individual is with their work responsibilities and daily job-related tasks.
- Social well-being: Involves healthy and meaningful relationships with friends and family.
- Financial well-being: Refers to an individual’s ability to manage their finances successfully.
- Physical well-being: Pertains to the individual’s health and energy levels, enabling them to carry out basic functions and accomplish tasks.
- Community well-being: Involves having a sense of belonging and connection with others in the place where an individual lives.
Employees who feel supported, respected, and valued are more likely to intentionally stay with their current employer and be motivated to perform at their best. Hence, prioritizing employee well-being can lead to increased productivity and creativity, even in a digital workplace, as well-rested, energized, and engaged employees are more likely to perform at their best. Lower stress levels and less burnout are also related to better physical and mental health outcomes, which can result in lower healthcare costs for employers and employees. To promote employee well-being, it is necessary to consistently listen and measure it through practices such as conducting regular employee surveys through social intranet.
Benefits of prioritizing employee well-being
A considerable benefit is attached when managers and employers prioritize employees’ well-being. These include:
- Increased productivity and job satisfaction: When employees feel that their employer cares about their well-being, they are likely to be happy and satisfied. This can increase productivity, as happy employees are more motivated to do their work well.
- Lower healthcare costs: Prioritizing employee well-being can lead to fewer sick days and fewer chronic health conditions. This can result in lower healthcare costs for the employer and the employee.
- Reduced turnover: Employees who feel valued and supported are likely to stick with their employer for the long term. This can reduce employee turnover and lower costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.
- Improved company culture: Prioritizing employee well-being can help to create a positive company culture where employees feel valued and supported. This can lead to increased employee engagement and a more cohesive team.
- Enhanced reputation: Companies prioritizing employee well-being are often viewed more positively by customers and job seekers. This can lead to a better reputation and improved brand image for the company.
- Reduced stress and burnout: Prioritizing employee well-being can help to reduce stress and burnout among employees. This can result in a healthier, happier, and more engaged workforce
- Improved creativity and innovation: Employees who feel supported and valued are likelier to be creative and innovative. This can lead to new ideas and approaches that can benefit the company.
Employees with high levels of well-being in the workplace are three times more likely to recommend their employer to others. Companies prioritizing employee well-being are also more likely to be viewed positively by customers and stakeholders. This can lead to increased brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Factors that influence employee well-being
Numerous factors could lead to frustration in the five elements of employees’ well-being. Most of this can, however, be averted as the bulk lies on how the employer, HRs, and the managers handle the employees in the company. Some of these factors include:
- Work environment: The work environment can impact employee well-being. Noise, lighting, and air quality can affect health and productivity. Good indoor air quality can reduce respiratory-related illnesses by 35%, according to the World Green Building Council.
- Company culture: This significantly impacts employee well-being. Prioritizing values such as empathy, diversity, and respect can lead to a more engaged and productive workforce. A recent Deloitte study found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is vital to business success.
- Management style and leadership practices: Regular feedback, recognition, and development opportunities from supportive leaders can boost employee engagement and satisfaction. According to Gallup, employees who receive daily recognition from their managers are three times more likely to stay with their company.
- Employee engagement: High employee engagement can increase productivity, job satisfaction, and well-being. Achievers Workforce Institute reported that highly engaged employees are 21% more likely to report good overall well-being than disengaged employees.
- Job design: Engaging job design with autonomy, challenge, and meaning can boost employee well-being. Human Resource Management revealed that employees with more control over their work environment and decision-making are more satisfied with their jobs.
- Access to healthcare and mental health resources: Access to healthcare and mental health resources is critical for employee well-being. The National Business Group on Health affirmed that 88% of employers now offer mental health programs, up from 73% in 2016.
- Work-life balance: Work-life balance is crucial for employee well-being. COVID-19 has emphasized this, leading to an increase in flexible work arrangements and remote work. According to a Buffer survey, 98% of remote employees want to continue working remotely, at least part-time.
- Communication, feedback, and recognition: This can help employees feel valued and engaged. Folding feedback into strategic communication means the company pays attention. It’s a way to unequivocally show that employees’ needs matter.
How to improve employee well-being
There are many strategies that companies can use to improve employee well-being. One of the most important is encouraging work-life balance and offering flexible scheduling options. This can help employees manage their personal and professional responsibilities and reduce stress.
In detail, here are adoptable strategies that would help HRs, managers, and employers get the best out of their employees:
- Encouraging work-life balance and flexible scheduling: Flexible scheduling options like remote work or flexible hours promote work-life balance, reduce stress, and prevent burnout. Encouraging employees to take breaks and vacations can also improve mental health.
- Opportunities for skill development and career growth: Providing growth and career development opportunities like training programs, mentoring, and coaching can increase job satisfaction, engagement and reduce turnover.
- Supportive work culture and promoting positive relationships: Positive work culture and relationships between employees can promote a sense of belonging and mental well-being. This can be achieved through team-building activities, open internal communication, and feedback.
- Offering employee wellness programs and benefits: Employers can provide wellness programs and benefits to support employee well-being, such as gym memberships, mental health support, and health insurance. Access to meditation and mindfulness apps can promote physical and psychological health, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.
Examples of employee well-being initiatives
Over the years, many companies are taking tons of initiative to improve employees’ feelings as part of employee experience management. Here are a few companies that are consistently utilizing this strategy:
- Google offers free onsite wellness classes like yoga and meditation and provides healthy snacks to promote physical and mental well-being.
- Zappos offers employees life coaching and personal development classes to help them grow and develop their personal and professional lives.
- Salesforce provides a mindfulness program and mental health support to help employees manage stress and promote mental well-being.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 80% of companies offer a wellness program to their employees. In addition, a study by Deloitte found that companies that invest in employee well-being initiatives see a return on investment of up to 10 times the initial investment in areas such as reduced absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, and improved employee engagement.
How to implement a successful employee well-being program
Implementing an employee well-being program requires careful planning and consideration. To ensure success, companies should consider the following:
- Identify their employees’ needs and challenges regarding their well-being and mental health.
- Establish clear goals and objectives for the program.
- Create a budget and allocate resources to support the program.
- Develop a comprehensive corporate and internal communication plan to promote the program and encourage participation.
- Partner with experts in the field to develop and implement the program.
- Collect data and feedback to evaluate the program’s effectiveness and make necessary adjustments.
What makes a successful employee well-being program
A successful employee well-being program should be tailored to the company’s and its employees’ specific needs. It should be well-designed, comprehensive, and integrated into the company’s culture and values. Here are the primary things that define a well-structured employee well-being program:
- Clearly defined goals and objectives for the program.
- Involvement and support from leadership and management.
- Regular communication and promotion of the program to employees.
- A variety of wellness offerings that cater to different needs and interests.
- Opportunities for employees to provide feedback and suggest improvements.
- Accessible and affordable resources, such as health screenings and mental health services.
- Integration with existing benefits and HR policies.
- Encouragement of participation and recognition for employees who take part.
- Measurement and evaluation of program effectiveness.
- Ongoing adaptation and improvement based on feedback and data.
Employee well-being should be continuously evaluated and adjusted based on feedback and data to ensure effectiveness.
How to measure employee well-being
Measuring employee well-being is crucial to understanding the effectiveness of well-being initiatives and identifying areas for improvement. Standard metrics and surveys used to assess employee well-being include:
- Employee engagement surveys assess employees’ attitudes and perceptions toward their work and work environment, which can impact their overall well-being.
- Health and wellness screenings assess employees’ physical health, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels.
- Mental health assessments evaluate employees’ mental health, such as stress levels and depression symptoms.
- Absenteeism and employee turnover rates. These metrics can indicate employee engagement and satisfaction with their work.
- Productivity and performance metrics: These metrics can provide insights into the impact of well-being initiatives on employees’ productivity and performance.
Companies can use data collected from these metrics and surveys with prescriptive analytics to identify risk areas that affect business performance and develop targeted interventions to improve employee well-being.
Prioritizing employee well-being can significantly impact physical and mental health, job satisfaction, and overall performance. It requires a comprehensive approach that includes company culture, leadership practices, employee engagement, and job design. Employers can implement tailored well-being initiatives and regularly evaluate their effectiveness.
A supportive work culture and leadership prioritizing well-being can create a positive work environment, a high employee retention rate, employee advocacy, and engaged employees, resulting in a more resilient and productive workforce.
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