In the past, work and life were treated as two entirely separate entities, and many employers focused solely on an employee’s contributions in terms of productivity, efficiency, and the quality of work produced. However, many businesses realized that was short-sighted, and not necessarily the best approach for anyone involved.
Although life at work and a personal life are two very different aspects of living—and should be treated as such in many ways—there’s no denying that the two are inextricably intertwined. Who we are and how we feel affects the way we work, and the way we work affects who we are and how we feel.
Employers who show care for their employees’ well-being through wellness programs, health benefits, stress management, and by supporting better work-life balance, improve the employee experience by building a positive, sustainable work culture.
What is employee well-being?
To put it simply, employee well-being is how an employee feels, but that doesn’t sum up the complexity of what well-being entails. Employee well-being is more accurately defined as how an employee is doing as a human being, and includes everything from physical health, mental health, financial health, personal and professional satisfaction, engagement, and more.
Obviously, an employer is limited in their ability to improve certain areas of their employees’ existence, but a concerted effort to support employees as individuals has long-ranging benefits, from an improved work environment and an increase in productivity, to a stronger workplace culture and better retention rates.
Making the decision to help employees lead healthier, more positive lives is an investment in your organization.
Why is employee well-being important?
A healthy, happy workforce is a productive, engaged workforce.
An employee who is struggling with health issues or high stress levels is carrying the load of that burden throughout every day. As a result, creativity, engagement, and executive function all suffer.
Supporting employee well-being helps build loyalty and trust, and encourages an atmosphere of communication and authenticity. Offering incentives and benefits that help reduce personal and professional stressors leads to better lives, greater job satisfaction, and the ability to focus on work.
Other benefits of workplace well-being include:
- Reduced absenteeism
- Less employee turnover
- Lower healthcare costs
- Less employee burnout
- Stronger corporate culture
- More empowered employees
- Improved employee engagement
Prioritizing employee mental health is more than an easy way to improve the work environment—it can ultimately help boost your bottom line.
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The challenges of wellness in the workplace
Work can easily be defined as a stressful environment. If faced with the choice between a day at the office or the beach, not too many people are choosing the option that includes work. And that will continue to be true regardless of your success at encouraging workplace well-being. Work is a place we “have” to be, which is never as appealing as something we’ve chosen.
Regardless, there are a few commonly cited workplace stressors, and making an effort to mitigate these potential issues can go a long way in making work a more enjoyable experience.
Leadership has a significant impact on the overall well-being of employees. Communication and trust are two of the most critical elements of good management.
Encourage open lines of communication between employees and supervisors, and avoid micromanaging team members—let your hiring process, stated objectives, check-ins, and performance reviews ensure that work gets done well.
Ensure that work is evenly distributed, and that no one is doing more than they can currently handle, if there are known external factors complicating an employee’s productivity.
If the scope of work changes or if staff is reduced due to turnover, prioritize hiring new team members, reallocating work, or extending deadlines to accommodate the increased workload.
Lack of support networks
Although the popular saying states that “it takes a village” to raise a child, it takes one to support a person, too. Offering health insurance, communicative supervisors, personable HR leaders, and a culture of inclusion can give employees the confidence to seek support when necessary, or simply the comfort of knowing it exists and is available to them.
Purpose is a fundamental aspect of a person’s sense of well-being. As an employer, you can help employees find purpose in their work by aligning their interests and experience with the right teams and projects. Also, offer professional development opportunities that support growth and create a clear career path, so team members have a desirable future to work toward.
The last few years have changed the landscape of work and brought more awareness to the concept of employee well-being. The pandemic had unexpected impacts that persisted far beyond the initial phases of lockdowns and uncertainty.
Fears about job security, struggles to maintain work-life balance while caring for family members, being vigilant about health concerns, and the challenges associated with perceived isolation and remote work created additional anxiety for many employees.
Many of the changes initiated by the pandemic evolved the way employers and employees think about workspace, wellness, and work-life balance, and those changes are very likely here to stay.
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What makes a successful employee well-being program?
A successful employee well-being program takes the entire personhood of each team member into account. Again, you can’t solve all of your employees’ problems, but making an effort to alleviate some of them can improve individual lives, and your organization as a whole.
Consider implementing benefits, programs, initiatives, or perks that improve the following aspects of being a person:
From health insurance to on-site fitness facilities, there are a lot of options for supporting the physical health of employees, and many benefits to doing so.
Flexible schedules, remote or hybrid work options, counseling options, generous PTO, and adequate leave when welcoming a baby, caring for a family member, recovering from an illness, or bereavement are all good examples of supporting an employee’s mental health.
The most obvious solution to helping employees find financial stability is appropriate compensation and regular pay raises, which will also keep your organization competitive and make it easier to attract and retain top talent. But financial wellness programs are growing in popularity as an employee benefit. Learning how to manage money can relieve a significant amount of stress.
A friendly and inclusive company culture can help support employees socially. Organize team-building activities, retreats, or opportunities for employees to network without the pressure of productivity. Building a culture where employees appreciate each other helps create better cohesion, which is a huge advantage when working as a team.
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How to improve employee well-being
Although it may not feel as time-sensitive as meeting quarterly goals or increasing KPIs, improving the overall well-being of your employees will have a ripple effect that will reach every aspect of your business. Investing in employee happiness will pay dividends far into the future.
Use the following suggestions as a “to-do” list to empower employees, improve their well-being, and support a positive work experience:
- Help manage workloads.
- Identify drivers of stress.
- Lead with empathy.
- Prioritize mental health.
- Encourage effective communication.
- Offer flexible work arrangements.
- Encourage personal development.
- Support social interaction.
- Highlight self-care.
- Increase work perks.
Support and respect the personal lives of employees by encouraging good health, work-life balance, and growth to reap the rewards of loyalty and job satisfaction.
Learn more about employee well-being with the following resources:
- “I’m grateful for _____ at work.”
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- Why you should be writing thank you cards to your employees
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- Are your employees thankful? What 50 grateful employees had to say
- The merits of no-meeting blocks when leading remote teams
- 5 steps to stop turnover in its tracks
- Employee expectations are shifting. Can you meet them?
- 4 practical tips to relieve employee stress
- Are your employees weighed down by work pressure?
- How to manage stress at work
- Work hard, sleep harder: Learn how sleep helps employees be more productive