Taking a new approach to employee wellbeing

Posted by David Gould

Across the world, employee wellbeing is becoming a much talked about issue, not just in HR departments, but also at the board level. It was one of the key areas of focus in CR Worldwide’s recently released report, The rise of Corporate Wellness 2.0. The report drew on data from 287,000 employees at over 120 large enterprises in the US and UK and revealed numerous important findings and trends on workplace health.

Workplace stress

Extensive research reveals that workplace stress is having a significant and negative impact on employee and corporate performance. This may seem obvious, but few might be aware of the extent of the dramatic and serious impact it is having. According to research, stress levels have risen 20% in three decades and 16% of employees have left a job due to stress. The impacts are even more pronounced on younger workers, with almost half of millennials reporting they have left a job due to burnout. Additionally, 43% of younger workers report they have taken a day off due to ill mental health.

In the modern world, we are less likely to compartmentalise our lives. That’s important to take into account when considering employee stress levels because there’s also strong evidence that workplace stress often originates outside the workplace. When you combine that fact with the disappearing boundary between our personal and professional lives, this point becomes even more important. As a result, employers are increasingly viewing management of mental wellbeing outside the workplace as integral to workplace performance, and especially to attracting a younger generation of workers.

Large enterprises are working to transform their workplace culture with the aim of improving employee’s mental and physical wellbeing

Click to discover how

Employer approach to employee wellbeing

There’s good reason to believe that a holistic approach to the way employers address employee wellbeing will benefit everyone. Many studies have shown that job satisfaction is intimately intertwined with productivity and creativity, thereby impacting on corporate growth and innovation. The flow-on effects are equally positive. Workers that are highly engaged are more likely to identify with their employer’s ‘mission’, take a personal stake in its success and represent their company, even outside of work.

A strong argument can be made based on cumulative evidence that employers should take an interest in employees’ personal lives, which contribute to their overall wellbeing, in combination with job satisfaction. By challenging the traditional work/life divide, employers have an opportunity to take a more active role in employees’ physical and mental health.

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Corporate wellness trends

Employers in the US and the UK are increasingly investing in employee wellbeing programmes, driving a burgeoning corporate wellness market. Companies are also providing the kind of emotional support more often associated with healthcare providers, with schemes such as mental health ‘first aid training’ becoming common. US employers have responded to this insight by offering full-day, half-day, and 10-hour break rewards, and a day off was the most popular corporate reward of 2019 worldwide.

An interesting trend observed by CR in the UK is that large enterprises are working to transform their workplace culture with the aim of improving employee’s mental and physical wellbeing. The overall trend is a move away from corporate rewards programmes that only promote ‘job satisfaction’ and a growing interest in employee rewards that promote ‘life satisfaction’ outside of work.

Wellbeing employee trips

Increasingly, companies are booking employee trips with an active element, such as kayaking, paragliding and white-water rafting. In the UK, there has been a large rise in such bookings in the last three years, and there’s good reason for this. We all know there is a clear link between exercise and mental health, and this is one way through which employers can take positive action. These types of activities are proving popular with employees. Over the course of the past year, 56% of travel incentives included more nature-based activates than more traditional city breaks. These ‘experiential’ incentives are now more popular company rewards for top performers than previous product-based rewards, such as cars or television sets. Employers are now understanding that relaxation and social or family-oriented experiences boost employee well-being.

Our report shows a clear and growing trend towards employers blurring the traditional distinctions between the personal and the professional based on the belief that an employers’ responsibilities to their workers extend beyond the office walls. We encourage you to read it here.

David joined CR Worldwide as CEO in 2014. Leading a team of performance improvement experts, building and managing engagement programs, he is responsible for developing and growing the business to support new and existing clients.