What is workplace wellbeing and why should you care?

Until the 1990s the working week was reducing by an hour each decade but, with the economic crisis of 2008, came the perceived need for us to work harder and longer and the working week started to increase again.

The truth is that businesses cannot rely on us working harder or longer – we’re at capacity and can’t keep increasing the stress we put ourselves under. The focus has to be on making people more productive and efficient.  It’s this ethos that has given rise to employee and workplace wellbeing – the notion that we should invest more in our assets if we are to extract more value and ultimately profitability.

All too often talk of employee and workplace wellbeing centres on the superficial notion of happiness – the idea that smiling staff are the epitome of wellbeing. And while it’s certainly part of it, this over-focus on happiness has made some businesses nervous of the wellbeing agenda, fearful that happy staff will somehow lack focus. In turn they equate workplace happiness with unhappy shareholders. To the contrary, happy workers are the more productive, but workplace wellbeing is more than happiness.

Google’s definition captures it perfectly – wellbeing is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. To our mind it is the combined affect of these three:

  • Comfort – Comfort is impacted by culture and environment
  • Health – Both mentally and physically, in the workplace and out
  • Happiness –Feeling valued, engaged, motivated and supported.

The evidence speaks loud and clear, there is a strong and proven connection between HAPPINESS, WORKPLACE WELLBEING, PRODUCTIVITY and PERFORMANCE:

  • Companies with a strong culture have significantly less staff turnover than those without (13.9% for those with 48% for those without1).
  • Happy employees are 12 per cent more productive than the average employee, with unhappy workers being 10 per cent less productive2.
  • A psychologist from the University of North Carolina found that companies with the greatest financial performance were those that used the most positive language and communication in their operations.
  • A focused approach to workplace wellbeing can have the same impact on absence as a proactive sickness absence management programme according to the Charted Business Institute and Pfizer.
  • A report from the Word Economic Forum noted that businesses actively supporting wellbeing were the most likely to see improvements in employee engagement, productive, creativity and staff retention.

Rob Markey, writing for the Harvard Business Review, has said, “Loyal passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively and find ways to go the extra mile. They bring you more great employees. And that spreads even more happiness – happiness for employees, for customers and for shareholders.”

Businesses that have workplace and employee wellbeing at their heart have addressed each of these areas in turn, ensuring that their teams are supported in as many aspects of their lives, not just working lives, as possible. As the retirement age increases, technology proliferates and more health concerns are tied to working lifestyles, employers must address wellbeing if they are to protect, maintain and develop a healthy and motivated workforce.

To find out more about workplace wellbeing and how to write a wellbeing agenda, download our Workplace Wellbeing whitepaper, which is full of guidance and advice:


1 According to research from Columbia University cited in Eric Sui’s blog on ‘It really pays to have a rich company culture’.

2 University of Warwick research


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