Employee wellbeing is the combined state of an employee’s physical, emotional, and mental health.
Numerous variables can influence this holistic approach to wellbeing, affecting an employee’s health and happiness for better or for worse. These variables can be both internal and external to the workplace.
A Gallup study identified five essential elements of wellbeing, universally present across different cultures and regions.
- Career wellbeing is influenced by person’s satisfaction with their work and work environment
- Social wellbeing is determined by the quality and strength of the relationships in a person’s life
- Financial wellbeing relates to a person’s ability to manage their economic life successfully
- Physical wellbeing depends on a person’s physical health and having the energy to meet their daily needs
- Community wellbeing focuses on the sense of group belonging and the engagement a person feels in the area they live in
Why employee wellbeing is important
Happy employees who are unburdened by the uncertainty of their future or their finances tend to perform better, be more creative, and can express their full potential.
Thus, employee wellbeing is one of the pillars on which the success of your organization rests.
Moreover, employees whose wellbeing is prioritized are less likely to face burnout or fall into negative and unproductive patterns of behavior such as absenteeism (stress-related absences from work) or presenteeism (working while feeling unwell).
These adverse outcomes can carry steep costs for organizations, which can be avoided by preventively implementing an employee wellbeing program and workplace wellbeing activities.
It is up to the employer to create a work environment that supports employees who contribute to the organization’s growth and success, ensuring their wellbeing is prioritized.
Common employee wellbeing initiatives
To ensure the wellbeing initiatives you implement have maximum impact, choose and shape them to fit the specific needs of your organization and its employees. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Numerous initiatives can be included in an employee wellbeing program. Below is a list of the most common ones, grouped by theme.
Building a better workplace
- Providing adequate compensation and benefits
- Adopting flexible work hours
- Providing hybrid or remote work options
- Providing the best tools to work with
- Granting a home office budget
- Promoting teamwork and collaboration
- Ensuring workplace facilities are fit for purpose
- Ensuring processes and workflows are effective
Defining a stronger culture
- Focusing on DEIB
- Promoting open communication
- Constantly improving company culture
- Defining values that align with employees’ needs
- Ensuring values are put into practice
- Gathering feedback regularly
Promoting healthier practices
- Providing health insurance
- Granting a wellbeing budget
- Providing a gym membership
- Providing resources for employee mental health support
- Arranging on-site activities, such as massages or yoga sessions
- Facilitating participation in healthy activities
Benefits of employee wellbeing in the workplace
The benefits of wellbeing initiatives in the workplace can hardly be overstated. Both employees and the organization as a whole will feel their positive effects.
Wellbeing initiatives have been proven to benefit workers in ways that include:
- Lower stress levels
- Better work-life balance
- Better employee experience
- Increased sense of belonging
- Decreased health issues
- Increased stamina
- Higher emotional intelligence
Companies that promote employee wellbeing, on the other hand, see positive outcomes that include:
- Improved employee retention
- Better employee engagement
- Improved company culture
- Reduced burden on human resources teams
- Better teamwork
- Higher productivity
- Lower healthcare costs
- Reduced absenteeism
- Reduced employee burnout
Effectively measuring employee wellbeing
It can be difficult to measure wellbeing objectively, as employees might not be comfortable sharing details about their personal life. Still, gathering and analyzing data that will help track your success and inform new wellbeing initiatives is crucial.
Tools and metrics to effectively gauge the success of your wellbeing program include:
- Pulse surveys measuring stress levels, happiness, and workload
- Absenteeism rate
- Productivity levels
- Retention rate
- Employee engagement
- Exit interviews
Obstacles to wellbeing in the workplace
Wellbeing initiatives are tightly connected to company culture and the values and practices the organization embraces.
Improving existing workplace culture and habits that negatively affect employee morale and job satisfaction is equally important as actively implementing new initiatives.
Below are some common obstacles to the success of employee wellbeing initiatives.
Poor leadership style
Your leaders' behavior at all company levels can strongly impact employees’ motivation, drive, and mental health. Poor management and leadership can quickly undo the benefits of a culture that promotes positivity and belonging.
Negative leadership style traits to look out for include:
- Expressing little appreciation
- Being unavailable
- Communicating unclearly
- Being opposed to change
Increased responsibilities and tasks spark excitement under favorable circumstances. However, in less optimal circumstance, they can be detrimental to employee wellbeing.
Understaffing, rapid growth that doesn’t see resources scale accordingly, and abrupt changes, can all lead to employees feeling they are facing an unmanageable amount of work.
It’s important for people to feel supported, and this is true in the workplace too. A community that works through difficult moments and celebrates success can positively affect employees’ overall wellbeing.
On the other hand, environments that promote unhealthy forms of competition, toxic interactions, and lack of teamwork, will quickly see the negative impact of these behaviors.
Employee’s personal life events can influence their wellbeing, just as much as internal workplace factors. While personal factors cannot be controlled or addressed directly by the company, creating an environment where being mindful of struggles and issues is prioritized can be an essential step in ensuring employees feel supported.