The Power of Employee Well-being: How Founders Can Prioritise Mental and Physical Health

By Valeriya Minaeva Valeriya Minaeva has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on July 28, 2023

The pandemic sent a jolt through the working world, with 2021 witnessing what has become known as “the great resignation,” when record numbers left their jobs due seemingly to reevaluating the work/life balance. But even before then, the issue of well-being had already been growing in the awareness of employers and employees alike.

Also in 2021, Forbes polled senior leaders in HR, Talent, and Corporate Learning on what their organisation has done to focus on employee well-being. They learned that nearly 70% were already offering workplace flexibility. Nearly half were supplementing this with expanded well-being benefits such as free online counselling sessions and training leaders on empathic leadership, and a third were funding corporate subscriptions for online counselling and meditation apps.

The corporate well-being market was recently estimated at $20.4 billion in the US, forecasted to grow to $87.4 Billion by 2026. Employers are also considering their own bottom line when it comes to employee well-being.

The Great Reevaluation

In 2021, record numbers of employees quit their jobs in the Great Resignation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit, an unprecedented workforce exodus. Seemingly, the pandemic – which included many workers shifting from office to home – had provoked a widespread reappraisal of work.

According to one study, 88% of workers feel their definition of “success” has changed, and they’re now prioritising work-life balance, mental health, and a “meaningful job” over a steady paycheck. 

But although resignation figures hit a record high in 2021, they were actually in line with a long-term trend, according to the Harvard Business Review. This suggests a deeper and more complex phenomenon, which employers must seek to understand to retain their workforce. Even before the upheaval of the pandemic, workers were increasingly asking questions and examining issues around job satisfaction, work-life balance, and economic considerations.

Research from a mental health charity showed that “FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and well-being outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%.” According to their findings, companies that support well-being gain through “enhanced morale, loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity and profitability. Open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone—employees, employers and the bottom line.

Fitness and Well-being

Unhappy employees work less, are less loyal, and are more inclined to go elsewhere when mental health is affected. Well-being has thus become an important consideration for employers, even a top priority.

Physical health is an easy area to focus on, especially as it has so many positive side effects, including mental health. Regular exercise improves cognitive function and boosts energy levels, and productivity naturally benefits.

Physical activities for employees improve dynamics and collaboration, boosting camaraderie, trust, and collaboration. Not only that, a physically healthier workforce reduces absenteeism and, signalling as it does a clear commitment to employee well-being, retention is strengthened, as employees feel more valued.

These days, there is no need for managers to risk getting it wrong by clumsily enforcing poorly designed activities. Fitness and team exercises have been gamified via an array of apps, which managers can simply sign up for and implement amongst their workforce.

Company Values and Culture

Company values are becoming increasingly pertinent for employees. If it’s a good fit, employees are more inclined to feel a sense of belonging, work better and remain longer. 

It’s, therefore, a good idea to ensure company values are well defined and to communicate that right from the start, i.e., during the recruitment process. This attracts more applicants who share the same values, meaning they are more likely to fit in and be happier in the culture.

Improving the company culture is about improving relationships, and a vital component of that is emotional intelligence. In other words, “EQ,” not just IQ. This translates to improved empathy and a greater understanding of employee needs and motivations. Relationships improve as employees feel valued and heard as individuals, and managers can foster increased employee engagement. It is the very opposite of a culture of fear and remote bosses, which these days sends employees to the door.

It’s a two-way street, of course, and employees must meet their job demands. But likewise, in these more empathetic corporate cultures, the employer understands that their employees have lives beyond the workplace. And, so, increased flexibility around these needs delivers more employee well-being, with benefits for the employer in reduced turnover and increased productivity. Such flexibility might take the form of adaptivity to sudden requests over childcare issues or in-built employee choice over start/stop work times and the easy trading of shifts.

Corporate culture is a set of values best conveyed by company leaders themselves. If the management exhibits toxic workplace behaviour, it’ll likewise rub off on employees too, legitimising bad practices. Communication should be transparent, and guidelines can be introduced to ensure that everyone knows the ways, means, and methods of how to communicate.

Improving Relationships

Healthy relationships lead to better retention. When workplaces operate with healthy relationships, they cultivate a greater sense of loyalty within an organization. As people connect in positive ways, they naturally feel more invested and less willing to leave. 

The Society for Human Resource Management calculates that the combined soft and hard costs that come with replacing an employee can be as much as three to four times the position’s salary. Happy employees are also more engaged, which affects productivity. When employee relationships are good, the workforce feels part of a larger organisational culture. 

Effective vertical workplace relationships between authority figures and other employees also build connections, enabling employers to better understand employees and increasing the overall capacity for all to work together and find ways for proactive professional growth. By quickly addressing problems and improving existing skill sets, employees become more efficient. Once again, the result is a net positive for both the employee and the company.

Education and Training

Education is also being increasingly prioritised. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, employees crave learning that is personalised to their interests and career goals, which helps them stay up-to-date in their field, and also can help them gain positions internally.

Companies can develop supportive education initiatives to these ends. Once again, these endeavours translate to happier employees and better retention. Not only that, employees who are better trained and educated become better assets to the company. In a competitive landscape, an improved workforce can make all the difference.

In Summary

If it wasn’t clear before, the post-pandemic era has brought a significant shift in the understanding and importance of employee well-being for workplace resilience and success. 

The importance of well-being has never been higher for employees and employers alike. 

The corporate well-being market has grown substantially, indicating that employers now view employee well-being as a crucial factor in organisational effectiveness. Workers are reevaluating their priorities, seeking work-life balance, mental health support, and meaningful jobs in addition to a steady paycheck. 

Organisations that invest in their employees see higher employee satisfaction, improved productivity, and a competitive advantage in the market. Overall, prioritising employee well-being is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic business decision.

By Valeriya Minaeva Valeriya Minaeva has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Valeriya Minaeva is a Columnist at Grit Daily. Based in Geneva, she is the Founder of a native web3 Communications firm and a main contributor to 1inch Network, the largest DeFi protocol.

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