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How Employee Wellbeing Shapes Workplace Cultures

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Employee wellbeing is a vital part of any business strategy. But which aspects of employee wellbeing contribute to a great workplace culture? This paper will highlight new findings from a recent study, conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute, including the current state of employee wellbeing, the impact of wellbeing on company culture, and the powerful symbiotic relationship between wellbeing and employee recognition.

The state of employee wellbeing has been low for a while now and not much has improved. We asked employees to choose where they would place themselves on a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom (worst possible life) to 10 at the top (best possible life). On average, employees rated their current overall feeling of health and wellbeing a 5.91 out of 10.

Just over half of employees (52%) felt that productivity and the bottom line mattered more to their organization than people. 36% went so far as to say that their job has a negative effect on their physical health. 38% agreed their situation at work is hurting their ability to be happy in other aspects of their life. Employees don’t feel they are living their best lives, and many are negatively impacted by their work environments.

Fortunately, we know that wellbeing initiatives can help. Companies with a formal wellbeing program see:

• A 17% increase in new ideas and innovationfrom employees

• A 20% increase in employees who see a doctor for a general checkup

• A 13% increase in employees who see a doctor when they are ill

• A 14% increase in employees’ overall feeling of wellbeing

Good wellbeing strategies involve more than just counting steps and tracking sleep. Remember employees who rated themselves a 10 on the ladder in the first question? Those people who felt they were living their best lives also felt they were paid fairly (89%), had adequate paid vacation/sick/family leave time (88%), had companies that took care of their future (81% had employer paid retirement plan contributions), and worked in an environment conducive to collaboration and making friends at work (81% work in an open work environment). Companies who take care of the whole employee, and not just their physical health, saw higher wellbeing in their people.

Which wellbeing perks were not as effective? Company provided daycare, stock options, recreation centers/leisure activity spaces, and onsite gyms/discounted gym memberships did not have a large effect on overall employee wellbeing.

83% of these employees who rated their lives a10 had a formal company wellbeing program.

It’s no surprise that having a wellbeing program improves employees’ health and their outlook on life. But having a wellbeing program also improves company culture. When companies have a wellbeing program, they see a:

• 16% increase in employees who feel a sense of purpose in their jobs

• 24% increase in the sense of opportunity for development and growth at the organization

• 22% increase in people doing great work

• 19% increase in employees’ perception of their leaders

• 24% increase in employees’ perception of senior leadership

• 16% increase in overall employee engagement

• 18% increase in workplace satisfaction

The most important areas of company culture – purpose, opportunity, leadership, etc. – can all be influenced by including wellbeing in your culture strategy.

Research indicates there are 6 essential elements of a great work place culture. We call them Talent Magnets because they are what make an organization irresistible to talent. But how do those 6 magnets interact and relate to each other?

It all starts with leaders. Leadership, especially direct managers, directly influences each employee’s positive or negative perception of each of the six magnets—especially wellbeing and appreciation. Great leadership elevates each employee’s sense of wellbeing and appreciation, which makes people more likely to stay.

Wellbeing and appreciation also work hand-inhand to help employees feel a sense of purpose and opportunity in the organization, which dramatically increases engagement. These factors all lead to more great work and success, which makes your organization a magnet for great talent.

Recognition has a direct impact on employee wellbeing. When employees frequently receive recognition, there is:

• A 17% decrease in employees who feel their situation at work is hurting their ability to be happy in other aspects of their lives

• A 15% decrease in employees who say their job negatively impacts their physical health

• A 10% decrease in employees who believe productivity and bottom lines are much more important to my organization than people

• A 21% increase in employees who report a positive work/life balance

• A 31% increase in employees who feel a sense of belonging at work

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Recognition has a very clear impact on employee wellbeing, for both givers and receivers of recognition. Those who often gave, received, and observed recognition saw an 8.8% increase in wellbeing and were more likely to see a doctor (11% increase in checkups, 17% decrease in illness). Effective recognition yields a 29% increase in work/life balance, a 33% increase in belonging, and a 27% increase in overall self-rated health.

By combining recognition and wellbeing efforts, companies can help both solutions synergize and results to snowball. Recognition, when done in a meaningful way, helps reinforce an employee’s sense of wellbeing and fosters a workplace culture that employees want to work for, engage in, and stay with for the long haul.

Employees may not feel a high sense of wellbeing at work, but a wellbeing program can turn that around, creating real change and improving the lives of employees. With recognition and wellbeing programs in place to value and care for the entire employee—not just their physical health or productivity, you can create a culture that top talent will flock to and employees will love.

This study was conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute in Q4 2017 and is based on survey responses from 3,600 working adults at companies with 500+ employees. The online survey was administered in the U.S., Canada, Germany, U.K. Australia, Singapore, and India. The survey was sent to panelists selected at random from a sample of 1.2 million individuals through a third party panel company.

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