The importance of employee wellbeing

On average, people spend roughly a third of their life at work. This equates to around 90,000 hours in a lifetime. Work is a major part of our lives and therefore has a huge impact on our overall quality of life and wellbeing. This highlights the importance of wellbeing at work, and ensuring our workplaces are environments that positively contribute to our overall mental and physical wellbeing.

So, what exactly is employee wellbeing and how can business leaders get started with it?

Employee wellbeing goes beyond mere engagement; it encompasses the overall physical, emotional, and financial health of employees. Business leaders can take initial steps towards promoting wellbeing by implementing comprehensive wellness programmes, offering flexible working arrangements, and fostering an inclusive and supportive workplace culture.

As well as the obvious personal impacts of poor employee wellbeing, the economic and business impacts are also vastly detrimental. Low levels of employee wellbeing are likely to have implications throughout an organisation, from loss of productivity due to presenteeism, absence or high turnover, through to how employees communicate and interact with clients and customers.

The total economic and social costs of mental ill health in England in 2022 were £300 billion according to the Centre for Mental Health, and the profitability and reputation of an organisation can be hugely impacted by the wellbeing of its employees. There is a huge potential competitive advantage to be gained for businesses and organisations that successfully prioritise employee wellbeing and build thriving workforces.

Improving employee wellbeing at work

In terms of trying to improve employee wellbeing at work, it’s important to understand the drivers that impact and shape wellbeing.

Something like pay is always going to have an impact on an employee’s feelings towards their work, because it enables people to buy food, shelter and meet their other basic human needs. But too many organisations stop there because it can be hard to appreciate the complexities of other drivers.

To really make a difference, organisations need to understand the drivers that can impact employee wellbeing, and how people feel about a whole host of factors, such as:

  • The demands people face at work.
  • The amount of autonomy and clarity people have in their roles.
  • Relationships with colleagues.
  • The equipment, support and training they have access to.
  • Perceptions of physical and psychological safety and security in the workplace.
  • Organisational changes to structures, roles or environments.
  • Organisational culture.

Employee wellbeing v. employee engagement

Employee engagement is often highlighted for consideration by business leaders as it provides a clear benefit for organisational efficiency and gain. But where businesses can go wrong is how they define “engagement”; often concentrating too much on how much an employee does. This fails to include hugely important areas of employee engagement related to the feelings and emotions we have towards our jobs.

Wellbeing is employee-centric by nature and helps organisations adopt a wider approach to how they see their employees and overall workforce. Wellbeing is about understanding people, how they feel about work and what they want from an employer.

So whilst the two concepts can be thought of as similar, there are distinctions. For example, an employee could be perfectly happy but unproductive at the same time, and it’s no good an employee being highly engaged and productive if it leads to poor wellbeing and burnout, absence or even the employee leaving the company.

This illustrates that although both engagement and wellbeing share the same vision of happy, productive workforces, organisations can often fall short by failing to acknowledge the wellbeing aspect that can have a large impact on employees. By focusing on “sustainable engagement”, you can address engagement and wellbeing together.

Learn more with surveys

One of the best ways to evaluate employee wellbeing and engagement is through tailored employee surveys, interviews and other feedback methodologies. If you’d like to learn more about wellbeing and sustainable engagement at work, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our surveys team. With a wealth of experience and external benchmarks to help provide context to your results, we can ensure you get the insight needed and work with you to create a strategy that will make a significant impact within your organisation.

Contact us today.