Beyond Salary: The Growing Significance of Employee Well-Being in the Workplace

In today’s talent marketplace, employees search for more than an appealing job description and a good salary. They’re looking for a job supporting their overall quest for well-being and growth. The smartest organizations are the ones that realize how employee well-being can boost the company’s results, too – here’s how.

The Impact of Mental Health

One key element to overall well-being is employee mental (and emotional) health. It’s a long-term topic that requires a willingness to invest in ongoing solutions, not just quick fixes. The benefits can be significant, and not just in terms of “positivity”: according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 12 billion working days across the globe are lost annually to depression and anxiety, costing around $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

Perhaps even more relevant to individual organizations: support for mental (and overall) health and well-being is among the top deciding factors for employee retention. Additionally, employees who report facing mental health or wellbeing challenges also report being:

  • Four times likelier to say they intend to leave their current jobs
  • Three times likelier to report low job satisfaction
  • Three times likelier to experience toxic workplace behavior
  • Twice as likely to report low engagement at work

Gallup further reports the potential costs of employees who are “not thriving,” whether that means mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, or some combination of factors. These individuals are 61% likelier to experience frequent or constant burnout, 66% likelier to experience daily worry, 48% likelier to experience daily stress, and experience double the rate of daily sadness and anger. All of these factors, of course, impact productivity and
engagement, as well as the whole person.

Prioritizing Overall Well-Being

How can companies prioritize mental health and overall well-being in the workplace without falling into the traps of crossing personal boundaries? The key is to provide support and resources that employees can use at will (secure in the knowledge that they will not be penalized formally or informally for doing so) and build a workplace culture that supports positive norms. Employees want a sense of purpose and community, to feel valued and respected, to avoid microaggressions and bigotry, and to know that they are safe physically and mentally when they come to work. Supporting those goals can range from including mental health in benefits packages to investing in workplace environment upgrades to re-evaluating culture to ensure inclusivity and respect.

Research from McKinsey identifies eight core workplace factors that are important in driving mental health and work-related outcomes: sustainable work, inclusivity and belonging, supportive growth environment, freedom from stigma, organizational commitment, leadership accountability, managing toxic workplace behavior, and access to resources. While attempting to create a far-reaching strategy that tackles everything all at once may be tempting, such an approach risks stretching already-limited resources too thin and solving nothing. Instead, consider focusing on one or two factors at a time, chosen by careful consideration of your organization’s culture, people, and needs. You can always build more on top of what you’ve created if that foundation is strong to begin with.

Experts in the Harvard Business Review suggest seven potential strategies to alleviate stressors and encourage well-being:

1. Give workers more control over how they do their work.
2. Allow employees more flexibility about when and where they work.
3. Increase the stability of workers’ schedules.
4. Provide employees with opportunities to identify and solve workplace problems.
5. Keep your organization adequately staffed so workloads are reasonable.
6. Encourage managers in your organization to support employees’ personal needs.
7. Take steps to foster a sense of social belonging among employees.

With the right strategies in place, your organization can become a place where employees truly want to be – because they know they’ll have the chance to grow and thrive. Taking the time to focus on well-being may seem like a challenge at first, but the positive impacts will make it well worth your time.