What Is Employee Wellbeing? How To Improve It

In the early to mid-1900s, employee wellbeing was hardly a concern for businesses. Work was hard, long, and dangerous. Factory workers frequently suffered from physical injuries on the job. There was little concern for employee wellbeing outside of ensuring employees had enough food and rest to do their job.

In the past few decades, however, there has been a shift in thinking about employee wellbeing. Today, businesses understand that employee wellbeing is not only good for employees, but also for the business itself.

Employee wellbeing is essentially the state of being in which employees are able to function effectively and happily both at work and outside of work. When employees are burnt out, stressed, or overwhelmed, it shows in their work. They may be less productive, make more mistakes, or have a lower quality of work.

Are your employees in a state of wellbeing? If not, what can you do to improve it? In this article, we’ll be covering the following:

Let’s get started!

What is employee wellbeing?

Put simply, employee wellbeing is a measure of how happy and healthy your employees are — both in and out of the workplace.

According to Wrike, “Employee wellbeing is defined as the overall mental, physical, emotional, and economic health of your employees. It’s influenced by various factors such as their relationships with co-workers, the decisions they make, and the tools and resources they have access to.”

a person with good employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing isn’t a constant; humans are constantly evolving and changing, so what makes one person happy and healthy at one point in their life may not be the same thing that makes them happy and healthy later on.

That said, there are some key factors that usually contribute to the wellbeing and mental health of employees. These include things like:

  • Having a sense of control and mastery over one’s work. As people, we crave consistency and predictability — especially when it comes to our livelihood. When we feel like we’re in control of our work and our lives, it can have a positive impact on our wellbeing.
  • Having good relationships with co-workers. We’re social animals, and having strong relationships with the people we work with is crucial for our overall happiness and wellbeing. This doesn’t have to mean a super close friendship with everyone at work, but simply feeling like we’re part of a supportive team is hugely beneficial.
  • Feeling appreciated. A sense of appreciation is essential for our wellbeing — both in and out of the workplace. We all want to feel like our work matters and that we’re making a valuable contribution to society, and if not society, then at least the business we work for.
  • Having a sense of purpose. This one is huge, especially in the 21st century. Having a sense of purpose is what gets us out of bed in the morning. Does our work have meaning and significance beyond just making a profit? Do we feel like we’re serving a greater good?
  • Having access to resources and tools. This includes everything from having the necessary equipment to do our job, to having the right training and development opportunities, to being able to take time off when we need it.
  • Feeling safe and secure. This could be anything from feeling physically safe at work (no bullying, harassment, or intimidation), to feeling financially secure (knowing that we have a job to go back to).
a teacher smiling at the camera while carrying a book on her left arm

If you’ve ever been unhappy or unhealthy in your personal life, it’s likely to have had a negative impact on your work life too. The same goes for if you’ve been unhappy or unhealthy at work — it’s going to spill over into your personal life.

That’s why it’s so important to focus on employee wellbeing as a whole, not just individual aspects of it. When we’re happy and healthy in all areas of our lives, we’re more productive and engaged at work too.

The opposite of employee wellbeing

Unfortunately, many employers today are not interested in the wellbeing of their employees. In fact, an IBM study revealed a devastating fact: 80 percent of executives believe they are supportive of employee wellness, but only 46 percent of employees agree this is the case.

So, what happens when employee wellbeing is neglected? What is the opposite of employee wellbeing?

The opposite of employee wellbeing is a stressed, unhealthy and unmotivated workforce, with a suffering culture to boot. They experience burnout, which can lead to decreased productivity, low morale, and even job loss. There is a lack of fulfillment in their work, which can impact every other area of their lives.

The opposite of employee wellbeing is characterized by:

  • Low morale
  • Low retention rates and frequent turnover
  • Poor communication
  • Low productivity
  • Lack of engagement
  • Low job satisfaction

These employees are just managing to get by, but their work isn’t sustainable for your company or their own health and happiness.

a person holding their forehead while being stressed due to lack of employee wellbeing

So, what causes these characteristics to appear in the workplace? Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons:

  • Lack of communication. Communication is crucial in the workplace. When employees feel like they are not in the loop, they can feel left out and unimportant. They might also feel stressed or paranoid that they are doing something wrong.
  • Poor management. If employees feel like their boss doesn’t care about them or is constantly giving them impossible tasks, they will not be happy in their job. Naturally, this leads to low morale and job dissatisfaction.
  • Poor work/life balance. Many employees don’t want to say no to their boss, so they take on too many tasks and end up working long hours. If their boss isn’t aware of this, they might be surprised when their employees start to burn out.
  • Lack of job satisfaction. If employees are not doing something that they are passionate about, they will not be happy at work. This can lead to a lack of engagement and motivation.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to improve employee wellbeing. Let’s take a look.

How to improve employee wellbeing

Have you noticed a lack of employee wellbeing in your workplace? Perhaps you’ve noticed that people are working long overtime hours, taking less time off, or just appearing to be stressed out. It’s important to take the time to address this issue before it gets any worse.

If you’re not sure whether or not employee wellbeing is an issue in your workplace, there are a few common signs to look out for:

  • Employees are doing the bare minimum. If you are stressed and dissatisfied, do you go above and beyond? Probably not. A lack of enthusiasm and motivation is a common sign of low employee wellbeing.
  • Employees are not taking vacation time. Americans have been leaving more and more vacation time on the table in recent years, and this could be a sign that employees don’t feel comfortable or safe taking time off.
  • Employees are working long hours. Often, workplaces with poor workflow management systems cause employees to fall behind and work longer hours in order to catch up. This can lead to burnout and low employee wellbeing.
  • Employees are complaining about their job. This is a no-brainer; if your employees are unhappy enough to complain to you and one another, there’s definitely a problem to be addressed.
a person sitting on a desk with their eyes closed and the back of their hands on their face

If you’ve identified that employee wellbeing is an issue in your workplace, don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to improve it, and you’ve ticked off the first box by acknowledging the problem. The next step is to trace the symptoms back to their source and try to find a solution.

Steps to improving employee wellbeing

Ready to take your business to the next level? Improving employee wellbeing could be the key to unlocking success.

1. Find the root cause.

As mentioned previously, there are a number of common causes of low employee wellbeing. It’s important to identify the root cause of the problem in order to address it properly. Once you know what’s causing your employees stress, dissatisfaction, or unhappiness, you can start to look for solutions.

To find the cause, there are a number of things you can do:

  • Interview employees about their work environment and job satisfaction
  • Conduct a survey to gauge employee happiness and wellbeing
  • Review employee productivity levels and compare them to past years
  • Dedicate a week to observing your workplace and noting any signs of stress or unhappiness

Often, employers simply forget to pay attention to their employees and the conditions of their work environment. By taking the time to assess the situation, you can create a plan to improve employee wellbeing.

2. Take action to address the issues head-on.

Once you know the root cause of the problem, it’s time to take action. This could mean making changes to the way your business is run, or simply addressing individual issues that are causing stress for employees.

Some common solutions to improve employee wellbeing include:

  • Creating a more flexible work environment. Can you offer employees the ability to work from home occasionally or set their own hours? Are you providing adequate break time and allowing employees to take vacations?
  • Improving communication. Make sure employees feel comfortable communicating with their managers and one another. Promote an open-door policy and provide clear guidelines for how problems should be addressed — with honesty, and as soon as possible.
  • Offering training and development opportunities. Employees who feel like they’re constantly learning and growing are more likely to be happy and productive. Could you offer mentorship programs or training courses that help employees develop new skills?
  • Providing adequate resources. Are your employees struggling with a lack of equipment or supplies? In that case, it might be necessary to allocate more resources to help them do their job.

These steps might seem like common sense, but they’re often overlooked. By taking the time to address the issues head-on, you can improve employee wellbeing and increase productivity in your workplace.

a boss holding a mug and smiling after taking care of employee wellbeing

3. Promote a healthy work-life balance.

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to promote a healthy work-life balance. Employees who feel like they’re constantly working are more likely to be stressed and unhappy.

There are a number of things you can do to help employees find a healthy work-life balance:

  • Encourage employees to take breaks. Provide a break room with comfortable seating, healthy snacks, and plenty of fresh air.
  • Promote time off. Encourage employees to take vacations and sick days when they need them.
  • Encourage exercise. Offer employees discounted memberships to local gyms or install a fitness room in the office.
  • Schedule work hours that allow for a good night’s sleep. Avoid scheduling employees for early morning or late night shifts.
  • Allow employees to telecommute. Telecommuting can help employees balance their work and personal lives more easily.

By promoting a healthy work-life balance, you can help employees feel more relaxed and content both at work and at home.

4. Show your employees that you care.

Employees are more likely to be happy and productive if they feel like their employer cares about them. One of the best ways to show employee appreciation is by implementing policies that support employee wellbeing.

For instance, you could openly make a commitment to improving employee wellbeing, offer health and wellness programs, or provide resources to help employees manage work-life balance.

Simply showing your employees that you care can make a big difference in their overall happiness and productivity.

two people sitting next to each other while holding blue cups

5. Ask for feedback and monitor outcomes.

Once you have made positive changes, the effort cannot stop there. You must continue to ask for feedback and monitor outcomes; otherwise, how will you know if the changes are effective?

Make it a point to survey employees regularly about their wellbeing and job satisfaction. This will help you identify any areas that still need improvement. Additionally, it will show your employees that you’re serious about supporting their wellbeing.

Employee Wellbeing: Final Thoughts

Employee wellbeing isn’t something to neglect as a business owner, boss, or manager. It’s an important part of having a productive and happy workforce. Improving employee wellbeing can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and morale in the workplace.

There are many ways to improve employee wellbeing, as we’ve seen. It’s important to find what works best for your workplace and employees. A happy, healthy workforce is a productive one!