The pandemic, increasingly divisive politics, international conflicts, and economic downturns place an inordinate amount of stress on workforces everywhere. That stress has taken a toll. Employee engagement, measured by how much an individual feels dedicated and invested in their job and to their organization's goals, has plummeted since 2019. In 2020, the world’s workers reported stress at work had reached an all-time high, at over 44% – a data point which rose even higher in 2021 and 2022. Negative emotions at work (anger, sadness, etc) continue to surge. View that through the lens of ROI, and Gallup estimates that low engagement has cost the global economy US$7.8 trillion.
The bottom line? When employees have an improved sense of wellbeing, they work better, are more creative, stay longer, and take fewer sick days. When their wellbeing is neglected, the opposite is true, resulting in poorer quality of work, missed deadlines, and burnout. The ill effects are carried beyond the office as well. Employees with higher levels of burnout report difficulty balancing family responsibilities and a 23% increase in emergency room visits. Across the globe organizations face a stark challenge–only 9% of employees fall into the thriving and engaged category. The rest, according to studies, are 61% more likely to suffer from burnout.
So, how can your organization foster wellness among employees?
1.Scale beyond the workplace and typical work day.
The work-life balance of your employees is a key factor to prevent burnout. Consider how providing space for both their personal and professional priorities can help them stay on track, productive and engaged with the company culture. And while group activities might seem helpful, they could make employees who perceive these offers as obligatory, more anxious. “Space” can mean different things to different employees. For one it could mean unscheduled time to pick kids up from school, for another it could mean a chance to blow off steam with colleagues a half hour before the end of the work day. Take it upon yourself to get an honest read of employees’ needs, and enable a variety of options.
2. Don’t wait for employee crises before integrating wellness initiatives.
Offering a variety of opt-in confidential wellness options, such as therapy, personal development courses and wellness coaching gives your employees the opportunity to take charge of their own wellbeing. Consider sponsoring opt-in group activities such as yoga, book clubs, or running groups.
3. Consider flexibility in addition to, or in lieu of, office perks.
In today’s office environment, ping pong tables and free laundry service pale in comparison to freedom over one’s schedule as an office perk. While COVID restrictions in many workplaces may have been lifted, other impacts to employee experience, such as access to childcare or affordable transportation, may still be restricted. Reinforcing performance assessment based on results, versus facetime, can boost employee morale by lifting unnecessary stressors.
4. Enable self-guided pathways to personal and professional growth.
Employ tools that enable employees to up their personal and professional game at their own pace. This can be done by providing access to tools and resources that allow employees to up their game at their own pace. Some simple ways to do this include providing access to online learning resources, setting up mentorship programs, and offering opportunities for employee development. When employees are given the chance to grow and develop, they will be more likely to stick around and contribute to your company's success.
Arguably, companies have a moral responsibility to ensure their employees are healthy, appreciated, and cared for. But if the moral argument isn’t enough, look to your ROI. Wellbeing fosters positive change across the board, the most compelling of which equates to productivity, loyalty, brand affinity, and profit. Invest in employee wellbeing. It pays.