8 Proven strategies to increase employee well-being

8 Proven strategies to increase employee well-being

Employee well-being should be a business initiative — not just an HR program. What if we told you that you could maximize the return on your employee well-being investment by making it a company priority?

Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check 2022 Report identifies everyday workplace stressors for employees, which include inflexibility, long hours, job insecurity, and toxic work environments. The findings emphasize exactly why employers need to make workplace wellness initiatives and employee well-being a priority.

According to Gallup and Workhuman, the adverse effects of low employee well-being cost employers an estimated $2 million in lost opportunities for every 1,000 workers. It’s not all bad news, though. There are many ways to improve employee well-being and the engagement, productivity, and ROI it unlocks. 

When leadership prioritizes employee well-being in the workplace and creates a healthy work environment, organizations and employees can thrive together. Read on to learn more about how essential well-being in the workplace is today, and how you can successfully foster it.

Understanding the crucial elements of employee well-being 

First, you must take the time to understand the elements of an effective employee well-being plan. You need to learn how it can have a positive impact on work culture, environment, and productivity. Then, it’s easy to implement, turning ideas into action so you can see the rewards. 

What is employee well-being?

Employee well-being refers to the whole state of employees’ lives. It’s informed by elements inside (and sometimes outside of) the workplace. Those elements closely align with the holistic scope of employee wellness ideas, which support employee well-being from a mental, physical, financial, professional, community, environmental, and social perspective.

Supporting well-being in the workplace leads to positive outcomes, including greater productivity, improved performance, higher employee morale, less employee burnout, reduced turnover, and a better employer reputation for recruitment.

Research shows that fewer than 25% of U.S. workers strongly believe their employer cares about their well-being. It’s a missed opportunity for employers because workers in this small group are 3 times more likely to be engaged at work.

Key influencers on employee well-being in the workplace include:

  • Workload and responsibilities: 53% of workers are burned out — and 51% quit. Mass layoffs and employee resignations have left employees overloaded. They feel they have less support and more stress as a result of job insecurity fears. Employees also struggle with feeling like they’re expected to always “be on,” which makes things like ending their day a challenge. Many don’t feel that they can access and use PTO, even if they’ve accrued it. Making workloads sustainable and time off accessible is one way for companies to support employee well-being.
  • Working conditions: Remote work and financial pressures have resulted in some employers wanting to exercise more control over employees. The reality, though, is businesses that expect people to be on-site 5 days a week, 9-5, might be creating significant stress that sabotages employee well-being. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) 2022 Work and Well-being Survey, the #1 support workers want from employers is flexibility.
  • Stress levels: 46% of workers say their work-related stress is overwhelming, and 33% report it affects their happiness. High levels of stress also make employees physically unwell. Stress impacts productivity, employee engagement, and can even interfere with healthy sleep. Employers can tackle this by addressing the underlying causes of workplace stress and offering mental health and wellness solutions.
  • Management: Ineffective management leads to burnout, disengagement, and employee turnover. Common management problems include micromanagement, poor communication, and lack of support for a healthy work-life balance. While ineffective management styles can undermine well-being, great practices will nourish it. It will pay off, too — research shows a direct link between leadership and personal accomplishment.  
  • Perceived value: APA research found that only half of the workers feel valued by their employers. Employees who don’t believe their contribution matters will likely disengage, become less productive, and seek work elsewhere. Counteracting these adverse effects is simple when you create a work culture of employee recognition. It’s often as easy as just saying “thank you” or acknowledging a job well done. 

Benefits of prioritizing employee well-being

The most critical levers for fostering employee well-being in the workplace are flexibility, workloads, autonomy, social belonging, employee recognition, work-life balance, and management.

The business benefits of employee wellness programs include:

  • Improved employee productivity 
  • Increased morale
  • Greater company ROI
  • Elevated sales
  • More creativity
  • Elevated effectiveness
  • Stronger company culture
  • Improved mental health and wellness
  • Decreased absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Increased retention
  • Less burnout
  • Reduced turnover costs

Understanding employee well-being vs. employee engagement

Employee well-being and engagement are not interchangeable, but often when we talk about one, we talk about the other. 

  • What is employee engagement? It relates to how much energy employees invest toward positive outcomes at work. 
  • What is employee well-being? This refers to how employees feel in the whole sense.

Some research shows that employees with positive well-being are twice as likely to be engaged — and the findings aren’t unique. Gallup describes the relationship between employee engagement and well-being as both reciprocal and additive, which, when combined, becomes an amplifier for productivity. 

In short, prioritizing workplace wellness and well-being is critical. Both are enhanced by mental health and wellness solutions. For example, research from Talkspace and Columbia University found 12 weeks of online therapy led to a 36% increase in productivity and a 39% greater work-life balance.

8 Successful solutions to enhance employee-wellness 

Understanding the importance of workplace well-being is just half the battle — once there’s buy-in, how do you go about achieving this lofty task? What are the components of employee wellness programs in the workplace? Here are 8 ways to go about it:

1. Talk to employees

The first step in supporting employee well-being is to find out what people need and want. Talk to them face to face to learn what’s causing stress. Seek their input on solutions. You may discover an unmet need (and want) for things like social and team-building activities, breaks for physical activity or meditation, relief from financial stress, or career growth support. 

Getting employee buy-in and showing that their ideas matter is an excellent way to improve employee well-being. Listening to and addressing concerns makes employees feel valued. 

These conversations can also mark a fresh start for employee wellness initiatives that have been underutilized. A poll done by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that 1 in 3 workers don’t know how to access their employee assistance program (EAP). Business leaders (including HR and managers) must improve communication to let employees know what’s available and how they can access benefits.

2. Work autonomy 

Employees consistently rank a lack of flexibility as a critical stressor. They seek greater autonomy and control to support their quality of life. For example, one survey found 59% of workers want flexibility from employers more than anything else. The research also found that workers sought autonomy-based flexibility — meaning they want to decide when to work remotely or on-site. Additional research identifies autonomy as a critical driver of employee performance and well-being.

Support employee engagement and productivity by giving people a voice in where, when, and how they work, valuing output over time tracking. Employees are 43% less likely to experience burnout when they have a choice in what tasks they do and when they do them. 

3: Sufficient staffing and workflow maintenance

Understaffing and high turnover rates have led to an uptick in employee burnout. Gallup estimates employee burnout costs employers $322 billion in turnover and lost productivity costs globally. 

While 47 million workers quit their jobs in 2021 to seek better work-life balance and more pay, those left behind suffered, as HR struggled to staff positions.

Ongoing turnover puts a more significant burden on long-time workers who may also have to help train new hires while juggling an increased workload. More work is now being done by fewer people. Addressing staffing shortages should be a high priority for employers who want to improve employee well-being in the workplace.

4. Management training

To their teams, managers are the face of the company. Their attitude and the environment they create shape employees’ work experience and perception of a company. Gallup’s research demonstrates that managers’ have a profound impact on morale and retention. Enabling supportive managers can prevent workplace stress and employee burnout.

Employers can support employee well-being by helping managers be better coaches. With better skills, supervisors can avoid micromanaging and other bad habits that cause employee disengagement and turnover. 

Research indicates employers also benefit by training managers to encourage work-life balance, and that workers whose supervisors prioritize work-life balance experience greater job satisfaction. 

5. Rewards and recognition

Research from Workhuman and Gallup found employees are up to 90% less likely to report burnout at work when their efforts are recognized. 

Recognizing employees lets them know they’re seen and that their work matters. Leaders can set the expectation for this by acknowledging people often and encouraging others to do the same. Investing in rewards, recognition, and career development shows employees that their future path aligns with an organization.

6. Stress management

Talkspace’s research around workplace stress found that 46% of people consider work too stressful. Whether it’s by offering yoga, meditation, or mindfulness apps, employers can support employee well-being by making stress management part of the company culture. Talkspace solutions include self-guided programs to improve employee well-being by addressing anxiety and burnout.

Leaders can model stress reduction by taking breaks, and by expecting employees to take them too. Other effective ways to support stress can include encouraging daily walking, social activities, and time off to keep a work-life balance.

7. Therapy

Sometimes, employees need more than just meditation or a yoga class. In fact, 3 in 4 workers have experienced at least 1 symptom of a mental health condition. 

Talkspace has found that due to stress in the workplace, 2 in 3 workers who’ve considered quitting agree that access to mental health services might convince them to stay. Support your employees’ mental health and wellness needs with on-demand therapy for employees

In a study by Columbia University researchers and Talkspace, 12 weeks of mental health treatment resulted in a 36% increase in employee productivity and a 39% improvement in work-life balance.

8. Value alignment  

It’s critical to show value alignment through the management style and business decisions that impact employees’ day-to-day lives. Consistently communicate and demonstrate your organization’s commitment to workplace well-being

Employers who unlock the productivity benefits of employee well-being and engagement have prioritized it throughout their organization. Those priorities are reflected in company culture — which determines whether a work environment is healthy. Research found that nearly half of all employees believe workplace climate plays a crucial role in their well-being.

Maximize employee well-being with Talkspace

It’s simple: investing in employee well-being is good for business. Employers who create healthy work cultures and prioritize well-being realize significant positive impacts, including more productivity, less absenteeism, healthier — mind and body — employees, and up to 11% less turnover

Talkspace can help you improve well-being in the workplace and, in turn, energize, engage, and retain your happy employees. Learn more today. 


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