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The Importance of Improving Employee Wellbeing

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Improving employee wellbeing comes with a range of benefits. Learn more about the advantages and how you can design a wellbeing strategy that makes the most of them.

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What is Employee Wellbeing?

Employee wellbeing is a holistic approach to a person’s physical, emotional, social and mental health. It’s more than simply wellness, which typically only emphasizes physical health. When managers prioritize wellbeing in the workplace, employees are better able to unlock their potential, work productively and stay engaged, build positive social relationships, and develop healthy stress management strategies.

The question of employee wellbeing at work — whether that’s in a remote work environment or an in-person office — has become a hot-button issue. With the increased stress caused by the pandemic and the challenges associated with remote and flexible work, many employers are seeing the fallout stemming from a decrease in workplace wellbeing. From increased physical health issues and stress levels to decreased employee retention and higher levels of absenteeism, there’s no doubt that low employee wellbeing can have a serious impact on both individuals and an organization as a whole.

At ActivTrak, we know that an organization’s most valuable asset is its employees. However, we also know that figuring out the best way to support them and foster wellbeing at work can be a challenge. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of improving employee wellbeing both in-person and remotely, offer guidance on how to create an effective wellbeing strategy, and demonstrate how ActivTrak’s workplace analytics software can be used to promote wellbeing in the workplace.


The State of Employee Wellbeing in the Workplace

Employee wellbeing encompasses the economic, physical, social, and mental health of your employees. It is influenced by a variety of factors including company culture, interactions with coworkers, available tools and resources, work-life balance, pay, and working hours and workload.

For many employees, the pandemic has made maintaining their overall health and wellbeing increasingly difficult. We’ve seen numerous issues surrounding employee mental health, social wellbeing, stress levels, burnout, and more — all of which have a significant negative impact on wellbeing at work. A Gallup report from March 2020 found that 76% of employees admitted to experiencing symptoms of stress and burnout related to work. A report from the UK further found that employee mental health is responsible for 56% of long-term absenteeism.


Remote Employee Wellbeing

Remote work comes with its own unique challenges that make increasing employee wellbeing difficult, particularly burnout and feelings of isolation or loneliness.

When working remotely, it’s easy for employees to let work bleed into their personal time, which compromises their work-life balance and increases the risk of burnout. Beyond that, working extensive hours can seriously compromise a remote employee’s physical health and wellbeing. Overworked employees — those who work at least 55 hours a week — are at a greater risk for stroke, heart disease, and other serious cardiovascular conditions.

Also, the isolation and loneliness that accompany some employees’ shift away from an in-person work environment can wear away at employee experience and remote team engagement. When employees can’t interact with their colleagues during the workday as freely as they used to, their social wellbeing can suffer, which increases stress levels while decreasing employee engagement.  Any employee wellbeing program for remote workers needs to focus on these specific concerns in order to support employees at home.

Remember: Employee wellbeing initiatives are essential in any working environment. No matter where your employees are working, it’s an employer’s job to provide employees with the necessary care and support they need for their physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing.


Employee wellbeing vs. Engagement

Employee engagement and employee wellbeing go hand-in-hand, but there are some distinct differences between the two. As previously discussed, employee wellbeing consists of several categories of overall health and wellness including physical health, mental health, social wellbeing, and financial wellbeing.

Employee engagement, on the other hand, focuses on the employee’s relationship to their work. While employee wellbeing can certainly drive employee engagement and engagement may be an indicator of wellbeing and job satisfaction, it is not a contributing factor. An engaged employee is fully invested in their work, and they genuinely care about their job, their company, and their colleagues. They often gain a real sense of fulfillment from their work on a daily basis. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their level of employee wellbeing is high. For example, if an engaged employee is so fully invested in their work that they sacrifice their work-life balance and don’t take enough time off, their employee wellbeing is low.

It’s best to view the relationship between employee wellbeing and employee engagement as complementary, not causative.


The Benefits of Making Employee Wellbeing a Top Priority

Any company looking to maximize productivity and create a better work environment needs to make wellbeing initiatives a top priority. Without such initiatives, you may face some of the concrete costs associated with poor employee wellbeing. Due to the effects of burnout on productivity and employee retention alone, organizations across the globe have lost $322 billion.

Preventing Employee Burnout

One of the biggest benefits of implementing a wellbeing strategy is that it can help prevent employee burnout. If you’ve noticed your employees exhibiting these signs of burnout, it’s time to start a wellbeing program right away.

  • Employees working longer days and working outside of their standard working hours
  • Canceled or hastened meetings designed to free up additional working time
  • Errors in work or a decline in the quality or thoroughness of work
  • Missed deadlines
  • Disengagement after an extended period of high engagement

Additional Employee Benefits of Wellbeing Programs

Prioritizing workplace wellbeing is about more than just preventing burnout and other adverse outcomes. There are numerous other benefits for employees and businesses alike. The benefits of implementing employee wellbeing programs from an employee experience standpoint are clear — when employees feel better, they perform better. In fact, research shows that employees are 13% more productive when they’re happy.

Increased employee wellbeing is also associated with higher retention, lower absenteeism, better physical health and mental health, reduced stress levels, and increased job satisfaction.

Organization/Overall Business Benefits

The employee benefits that accompany increased wellbeing are often translated into benefits for the organization as a whole. For instance, increased job satisfaction and employee retention mean less turnover for employers. This then translates directly into increased financial savings. Increased productivity, reduced stress, and absenteeism similarly can all lead to a more engaged, motivated workforce and a healthier workplace culture, all of which benefit any organization.


Developing a Wellbeing Strategy

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for developing an employee wellbeing program. Each program should be based on the unique characteristics and needs of your organization and employees. However, there are some general approaches that will be useful for any business creating its own wellbeing strategy.

In general, it’s important to build support systems for employees, and that includes creating opportunities for them to improve their mental health, physical health, and social wellbeing. Fostering a healthy company culture will help you improve the employee experience and increase wellbeing. Start by encouraging employees to take time off, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and take advantage of any perks or wellness programs your organization offers. Managers, members of the C-suite, and HR leaders should also make sure to model these behaviors to encourage employees to embrace them. This helps make wellness programs a cultural norm rather than a temporary project.


Other Tips to Improve Employee Wellbeing

  • Promote strong communication: Poor communication compromises teamwork, job satisfaction, workplace culture, and much more. Any wellbeing program designed to support employees should focus on creating a culture of open communication and offering avenues for that communication. This is particularly important when it comes to remote or flexible work where employee wellbeing can suffer due to feelings of loneliness. Try creating channels both for professional communication and for social chats. “Water cooler” video chats or remote happy hours can also help promote more open communication.

 

  • Emphasize better wellbeing, not just performance: While increased employee wellbeing can certainly lead to increased performance and productivity, wellbeing initiatives should never be designed exclusively as a means to that end. Workplace wellbeing is a worthy goal in itself!

 

  • Create and measure goals: The success of your employee wellbeing strategy depends on gaining insight into whether or not your efforts are having an impact. Offering incentives and mental health resources looks great on paper, but if your employees aren’t using them, they won’t move the needle on employee experience or wellbeing.

The best way to make a difference is by creating goals for your wellness programs and using engagement metrics and burnout assessments to gauge how your wellbeing initiatives are helping you achieve those goals. A workforce analytics solution can deliver the data you need to understand the impact of your wellbeing initiatives and identify ways to improve them.


Support Employee Wellbeing with ActivTrak

ActivTrak’s Workforce Analytics platform is the best way to effectively support employees through data-driven decision-making, bolster an employee wellbeing strategy, and increase productivity. Our platform delivers the metrics you need in context to help you take a holistic approach to employee wellbeing. The platform’s Personal Insights, Productivity Coaching, and Workload Management features are particularly helpful when it comes to implementing wellbeing initiatives.

  • Personal Insights: ActivTrak’s Personal Insights dashboard lets employees see metrics related to their personal work habits so they can understand and improve their work-life balance, wellness, and productivity. The dashboard gives insight into how employees spend their time throughout the workday and when they work best. It can also guide employees toward healthier work habits that promote wellbeing and reduce the risk of burnout. Far too often employees don’t realize their habits are interfering with their wellbeing. With the Personal Insights dashboard, they can make positive adjustments on their own.
  • Productivity Coaching: ActivTrak’s Productivity Coach helps you create a more positive company culture where everyone is empowered to achieve their goals. Our virtual productivity coach will analyze your team’s collected metrics and deliver personalized recommendations for fine-tuning workload balance, operational efficiency, and productivity across your teams.
  • Workload Management: Poor workload balance is of the biggest contributors to poor employee wellbeing and burnout. When overworked employees find their workday filtering into their personal life, disrupting their work-life balance, and increasing stress levels, their wellbeing will suffer. For managers, it can be difficult to see when workloads are unbalanced from the outside. ActivTrak can help by giving you visibility into workloads across teams and identifying both over-and under-utilized employees. That way you can keep a pulse on workloads and productivity and ensure no one’s wellbeing is suffering due to preventable workload balance issues.

Start Boosting Employee Wellbeing Today

Implementing an employee wellbeing strategy can seem daunting. With so many different elements that make up wellbeing, finding a holistic approach will take some work. You can use ActivTrak to simplify that work with the help of data-driven insights derived from our workforce analytics software. Contact us today to learn more about how ActivTrak can help you improve employee wellbeing to create a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.

Pro-Tips:

  • Make creating a company culture of frequent, open communication a centerpiece of your employee wellbeing program.
  • Leverage coaching — not criticism — to empower employees to focus on their overall health and wellbeing.
  • Give employees visibility into their data so they can understand how they’re working and make healthy adjustments that support their wellbeing at work.

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