The Benefits Of Wellbeing At Work​

Where To Start & What Works

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‘Workplace wellbeing’ is not just a boardroom buzzword or a hashtag Millennials use to Instagram their office gym, inspirational quotes and healthy snack boxes (yep, that’s a thing). It’s the foundation of everything from productivity to health, profit and ROI.

“Big claims” I hear you say… I know! But hear me out.

Happy workers are 20% more productive, 34% less likely to leave their jobs and 37% less likely to take time off sick.

Ask any HR department about low productivity, high turnover and absenteeism and they’ll tell you stories of never-ending recruitment and stunted sales. Yikes!

Plus, research shows that dissatisfaction with work and job-related stress are two of the main causes of mental and physical ill-health in the UK.1 And when we spend around 80,000 hours of our lives at work, that’s bad news.

GIF of a woman throwing up her hands and saying "Ain't nobody got time for that"

The good news? It’s simpler than you think to create a workplace people want to be a part of.

You just need to understand the science behind workplace wellbeing and know how to turn insights into action.

But unfortunately, there’s more misinformation about workplace wellbeing than you could shake a selfie stick at. Which means the good stuff – the stuff that will help you make meaningful long-term change in your business – often gets overlooked.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. In it, we discuss the best data-backed tools, tips and techniques from our workplace wellbeing workshops. By the end of this post, you’ll understand:

  • The definitions and models of workplace wellbeing
  • How businesses measure workplace wellbeing
  • What drives wellbeing in the workplace
  • The benefits of wellbeing in the workplace
  • The business case for workplace wellbeing, e.g:
    1. How high team wellbeing boosts profits
    2. The ROI of workplace wellbeing initiatives
    3. The productivity advantage of workplace wellbeing
    4. How high levels of wellbeing reduce absenteeism
    5. How investing in wellbeing reduces turnover
    6. How workplace wellbeing creates  a higher market valuation
    7. Why mindful managers are more effective

The best part? You don’t need to search through piles of research papers and duct-tape together 50 different blog posts to get the information you need, because it’s all right here.

Let’s get into it.

Table of Contents

Understanding wellbeing in the workplace: definitions and models

First, the basics. We need to tackle the most widely misunderstood aspect of workplace wellbeing… what it is and what it definitely is not.

What Workplace Wellbeing Is Not

Hands up who hears the phrase ‘workplace wellbeing’ and thinks complimentary avocado toast, yoga-pants Fridays and nap rooms?

A GIF from Mean Girls of a group of people raising their hands

Yup. We thought so! There are many misconceptions about workplace wellbeing. Most of them come from the consumer wellness industry, where everything from moss smoothies to barefoot ice marathons are touted as the route to personal health and wellness.

Occasionally, these trends make their way into the workplace wellbeing space.

And it’s just incredibly convenient to reduce workplace wellbeing to empty fads, token gestures and company perks.

After all, paying for a corporate gym membership or getting an intern to run down to Krispy Kreme once a week is a lot easier than implementing broad structural changes, up-skilling staff or revamping your management style.

But, let’s be honest. Yoga-pants Friday is the kind of thing that happens when people do what they reckon will work, rather than what the research tells them is likely to.

Unfortunately, you can’t create a happy, healthy workplace by following your gut. Unless you’ve recently taken part in ‘The Undercover Boss’, you won’t get to the heart of the problems that really matter to your staff.

Which means you’ll create initiatives based on guesswork and misconceptions and end up in a ‘spaghetti-thrown-at-the-wall’ kind of situation that wastes money,time and a lot of overripe avocados.

So, what should you do instead?

Go deep… and, when we say ‘deep’, we mean into the data.

GIF from inception. Dominic Cobb played by Leonardo Dicaprio says "We need to go deeper"

Using Data To Improve Workplace Wellbeing

I know what you’re thinking… “Is there anything ‘deeper’ than free doughnuts?” and some would say no. But we disagree.

According to a recent survey by PwC, highly data-driven organisations are three times more likely to report improvements in decision-making than their less data-focused peers.2

Data-driven decision-making (or DDDM to its friends), involves collecting surveys, running testing, analysing big data, conducting statistical analyses and more. It allows organisations to map out their current situation, prioritise the issues, then test and validate any ideas before committing to a course of action.3

By doing this, they can be more confident and proactive in their decision-making process.

When it comes to wellbeing at work, the most effective strategies are those that follow the principles of DDDM. They identify problems using data and track the progress of specific metrics.

Infographic: A data-driven model of wellbeing at work. 1 - Measure 2 - Analyse 3 - Ideate - 4 Validate

And if that sounds like the kind of headache you just don’t need… don’t worry!

We’ve done the hard work for you by researching and compiling all of the important data from the scientific literature and distilling it into our accessible workplace wellbeing workshops. Our experts can take you step-by-step through the process of understanding and addressing wellbeing in your workplace.

Keep in touch

Stay up to date with all the latest wellbeing at work research, tips and resources by joining our monthly newsletter. We won’t share your data or spam you with irrelevant information 🙂



What Is Wellbeing At Work?

Now we’ve covered what workplace wellbeing is not, let’s talk about what it actually is. To do that, we need to hit the books… or, you know,  Google Scholar… because it’s not the 90s.

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘everyone-agrees-it’s-this’ definition of ‘wellbeing’. So here’s what the experts say.

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘wellbeing’ as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy”.4 Simple right?

Not so much… Although we probably agree on the meaning of ‘healthy’ and maybe ‘comfortable’, we won’t agree on what it means to be ‘happy’.

Luckily, Professor Sonya Lyubomirsky of the Department of Psychology, University of California – who literally wrote the book on happiness (The How of Happiness) – has come up with a definition.

Happiness: “The experience of joy, contentment or positive wellbeing, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile”.

Infographic: Happiness - The experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful and worthwhile - Sonja Lyubomirsky

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it brings up important concepts that the textbook definition of wellbeing lacks, like ‘meaning’ and ‘worthwhileness’. Two things that research suggests are strongly linked to how happy a person feels, especially in the workplace.

So, we can think about workplace wellbeing as the joy, contentment or positive wellbeing a person feels for their work, combined with a sense that it is meaningful and worthwhile.

I know what you’re thinking… “that sounds tricky to measure”, and it is. Here’s how it’s done…

How is workplace wellbeing measured?

According to The World Happiness Report and leading researchers in the benefits of wellbeing at work field, the answer is simple… you ask employees.

The World Happiness Report – which ranks and compares the happiness of the world’s citizens by country – asks people to score their life satisfaction from 0-10, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best.

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of Oxford University’s Wellbeing Research Centre and associate editor of the World Happiness Report says of the method…5

It’s very democratic. Who are we to determine what values or aspects determine a person’s happiness?

A fair point! I’m sure my version of happiness is not the same as yours… unless you enjoy flinging your boots off after a hard day’s manual labour or traipsing through forest with a baby on your back? No? Moving on…

To measure workplace wellbeing using self-reports, you can ask employees questions like:

  • Is your work fulfilling?
  • Does your work increase your sense of self-worth?
  • Do you feel personally connected to your organisation’s values?

Then, have them rank their answers on a scale like this:6

Table showing 5 point scale ranging from 1 - Not at all to 5 - Extremely true
(De Neve et al. 2013) The Objective Benefits of Subjective Wellbeing

These answers are called ‘subjective measures’ because they rely on an individual’s perceptions of their environment.7 Which means one person’s ‘slightly’ fulfilling work isn’t likely to be the same as another’s. Aka, there’s no way to decode how people’s scores relate to each other.

This difficulty making comparisons has led businesses to look at what we call ‘objective measures’ which, strictly speaking, aren’t that objective. They measure phenomena that research suggests are related to workplace wellbeing. Think number’s like:

  • Level of absenteeism
  • Staff turnover
  • Employee engagement in social activities
  • Biometric data from wearable tech

Important stuff!

Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have access to all of this data or the time to run self-reports. But that’s ok.

You don’t need spreadsheets full of metrics to measure wellbeing in your workplace. What’s important is that you track at least one specific indicator and do it consistently.

When you track the same metrics over time, you can easily compare your before and after and see if you’re making progress – but, spoiler alert… not everything you try is going to work. Although that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t jump in and try things anyway.

And, remember… you don’t have to tackle workplace wellbeing on your own. If you’re not sure how to get started, our experts are on hand to guide you through the process. Check out our culture change page for more details!

What drives wellbeing in the workplace?

We’ve searched the literature to identify eight key drivers of wellbeing in the workplace:

  • Work-life balance
  • Job security
  • Job conditions
  • Social capital
  • Autonomy and variety
  • Appreciation and value
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Competence and development
Infographic: The 8 drivers of wellbeing at work
The eight drivers of wellbeing at work, learn more in our Wellbeing At Work: Stats & Research paper

If any of those categories don’t make much sense to you, don’t worry! We’re going to look at them in more detail below.

Work-Life Balance And Workplace Wellbeing

Judging by the near-2-million #worklifebalance posts on Instagram, people have a lot to say about the concept. But what is it?

‘work-life-balance’ inspires images of happy parents finishing work early to trek through the countryside with their equally happy kids (we all have dreams). Or kid-free employees jetting off for long-weekends in Montenegro with their bonus holiday days.

And that’s part of it – but not all.

Work-life balance describes the degree to which employees feel they’re able to do fulfilling things outside of work. So, it’s not just about having the time, it’s also about feeling able to use that time because, say, you have the energy or aren’t being interrupted by late-night Slack notifications.

Why should businesses care? Well, it’s all about stress.8 Or rather, cortisol.

The more a person works, the more stressed they become and, as our stress levels rise, our bodies produce more cortisol. This hormone disrupts sleep, blood pressure, cognition, immune function and pretty much everything else. The result? An all-round less functional human being.

According to studies from the US, cortisol regulation explains why working more than 40 hours a week is damaging to our health and why working over 50 causes major issues for both employers and employees.9

Here’s what the research says:

  • People who work more than 10 hours a day are 60% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease
  • People who work more than 60 hours a week are 23% more likely to have an accident at work
  • Productivity tends to drop off at 50 hours a week, which means employees working 65 hours produce no more work than they would have in 49
  • 54% of companies whose employees do a lot of overtime have absenteeism rates over 9% compared to just 23% of companies where overtime rates are average

On the flip side, organisations that actively work to improve the work-life balance of their employees get plenty in return, like:

  • Increased employee commitment
  • A boost in job satisfaction
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Ramped up productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism and turnover

It’s seriously potent stuff. Work-life-balance is the single strongest driver of job satisfaction. If you could bottle it up and sell it, you’d make the Times’ Rich List in under a year (not a real fact).

For workplaces, this means unpaid overtime, 6-day work weeks and out-of-hours emails are out… and family days, four o-clock Fridays and guilt-free holidays are in.

Job Security And Workplace Wellbeing

We all like to feel secure. It’s why we buy life insurance, top up our savings accounts and pay into pensions to provide a safety net for when we retire.

But, in the workplace, ‘secure’ means something as simple as being able to rely on your job to provide a stable income. When it doesn’t, people suffer a drop in wellbeing.

Job insecurity causes a downturn in both mental and physical health that can be as damaging to individuals as unemployment.10 And it’s a problem that research suggests is particularly harmful to young people.11 Young employees are 50% more likely to report poor mental health caused by job insecurity than their securely employed counterparts.

Infographic: The cost to productivity of poor mental wellbeing is estimated to be 5x larger than the cost of absenteeism

Studies show that the cost to productivity of poor mental health is five times higher than the cost of absenteeism, which is bad enough.12 But there’s more. It’s also linked to increased turnover intention, decreased job satisfaction and lower employee engagement. 13 14 15

Plus, you can’t dodge the bullet just by making your workplace a happy one. Feelings of insecurity can seep in from the wider economic climate or your employee’s previous job experiences.16

Which means that all businesses need to make an effort to reassure their staff that their jobs are secure – even if it seems obvious to those in management.

Job Conditions And Workplace Wellbeing

In the early days of worker’s unions, people fought for their right to be physically safe in the workplace. Basic provisions like ventilation in mines and the right to one day off per week were as far out as the boat could be pushed.

And while some high-risk roles are still unsafe or suffer from poor health and safety implementation, most of us now enjoy physically safe working spaces.

But what about mental health? The definition of ‘job conditions’ has been expanded to include mental wellbeing. Which means it’s a business’s statutory responsibility to ensure its staff are mentally well in the workplace – and not just if they work in the office. The same applies to remote employees, who can suffer higher levels of stress linked to a lack of social interactions and the strain of online meetings.

But whether your staff are at home or in the office, you shouldn’t just worry about their job conditions because you have to. When job conditions are poor, people are less productive, less profitable and less safe.17 18 19 20

So what factors contribute to positive (or not) job conditions? Think things like…

  • Workload
  • Working hours
  • Shift work
  • Pressure
  • Job resources

To name a few. All this boils down to management or HR regularly reviewing and tackling issues like understaffing, training and anything else that contributes to poor job conditions.

Social Capital And Workplace Wellbeing

Not somewhere you go for a fun night out, but a term that describes forming resilient bonds and networks within a group. And if that sounds kind of stuffy, just think of ‘social capital’ as the importance of having friends and supportive colleagues at work.

Just like in any other area of life, it pays to be connected. When we’re not, we experience loneliness… and that can kill.

More than 9 million people in the UK – about the population of Scotland and Wales – are either always or often lonely.21 And, since loneliness is linked to a 29% increased risk of death, that’s a big deal.

Having networks outside of work is important. But in the workplace, having at least one friend makes a big difference.22 23

If you have a best friend at work… you are more likely to get more done in less time, have fun on the job, have a safe working environment with fewer accidents [and] innovate and share ideas

Gallup Q12® and Employee Engagement 2016 Tweet

So social capital is not just a boon for employees, it’s also the basis of a fun, safe, innovative and effective team environment.

But what do businesses do when their employees have no workplace to socialise in? An increasing number of UK businesses are adopting a remote work model.24 And while many studies suggest employees experience a boost in wellbeing when they’re free to work from home, the arrangement can be damaging for some.

Remote work can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially for single individuals or those living alone.25 And these difficulties can intensify during times of uncertainty.

According to the 2020 CPID Working Lives Survey, 50% of people who work remotely in the UK say their workplace social connections worsened after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.26

Why does this matter? Because it shows there’s no one-size-fits-all working arrangement. People lead different lives and have different priorities and preferences. So it’s up to employers and employees to discover what works for them.

Appreciation & Value And Workplace Wellbeing

It sucks to do a great job and feel like it’s not appreciated. When we put in a lot of effort, we want validation and feel resentful if we don’t get it.

According to leading positive psychologist, Martin Seligman, this happens because feelings of appreciation and value are tied to accomplishing and recognising the accomplishment of goals. A process that Amabile & Kramer say carries over into our work, where the happiness of a team depends on making and recognising their progress.27

The ‘Progress Principle’ (as it’s termed) taps into the reward centres in our brain, which release chemicals like dopamine when we experience wins.

These chemical hits evolved to push us to keep doing difficult but important things, like searching for food in the searing Savanna heat. It might take hours to find one ripe shrub but, when you do, a swift hit of dopamine tells you it’s a win and motivates you to find more.

But it’s not 30,000 BC anymore and there aren’t many shrubs to munch on in the modern workplace. So what’s the point? Well, in the absence of recognised wins, teams don’t feel valued, which means they won’t feel motivated to achieve more.

Plus, not feeling appreciated is the most common reason people give for leaving their job.28 Yikes!

Autonomy & Variety And Workplace Wellbeing

As any parent will tell you, there’s nothing more challenging than repeatedly doing inane tasks you have no control over. But, while we love our kids enough to watch Peppa Pig on repeat all week, few of us feel the same sentiment for our jobs.

When employees have little control over how their work is structured, they tune out. And, according to Jennifer Moss…29

Boredom is the single biggest barrier to employee engagement in the workplace

But what causes it? You can probably guess – boredom is caused by repetitive work that offers little sense of achievement for the worker.

That’s bad news for inherently dull jobs (hello every warehouse assembly line in the world), where managers must rely on competitive target-setting and non-work related wellbeing initiatives to keep things spicy. But, for the rest, The World Happiness Report suggests giving employees some control over:

a) how the workday is organised or,

b) the pace at which they work.

Why bother? Because a lack of variety in a person’s job role is one of the main causes of presenteeism – a problem that’s thought to cost employers more than absenteeism and up to £15.1 billion every year.30

Unsurprisingly, the best way to reduce presenteeism is to get employees more engaged with their jobs.31

Meaning & Purpose And Workplace Wellbeing

We might think that money is what motivates us to work – and that’s probably true when we think long-term – but cold hard cash isn’t what keeps us motivated during the work day.

According to Amabile & Kramer, when we’re on the clock, our biggest motivations are internal, like the desire to reach goals and find meaning in our actions.32

Infographic: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation and perceptions during a work day, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work - quote from Teresa Amabile

So, even though we think of work as an economic exchange, we need more than a fair transaction to stay motivated. And when we do think about work in a transactional way, we become every employer’s worst nightmare.

Research shows that transactional thinking in the workplace causes people to withhold effort and engagement, and leave as soon as they receive a better pay offer.33

So what’s the remedy?

When we feel like our work has meaning, we’re more satisfied with our jobs, more likely to show up for work, be engaged while we’re there and stay loyal to our employer.

I know what you’re thinking… “But I sell [insert uninspiring consumer goods here]… how are my employees meant to feel a sense of purpose?”… The good news is that purpose and meaning can come from anywhere.

Employees find purpose and meaning in everything from teamwork, to company culture, company ethics and corporate social responsibility initiatives. So, any employer with a bit of imagination can create meaning and purpose in their workplace.

Competence & Development And Workplace Wellbeing

It’s not fun to run just to stay in the race. Which is why people don’t value or stick with jobs that don’t offer them the opportunity to grow.

According to a study by Gallup, the number one reason people leave their job is to develop their career.34 Which means that if you don’t offer your staff the chance to move up, you’ll lose out to someone who will.

Interestingly, competence and development are particularly important to millennials, 59% of whom fundamentally think about jobs as opportunities to learn and grow 35. Sadly, fewer than half think they learnt something new in their last 30 days at work. And this makes ‘development’ one of the biggest missed opportunities for improving staff retention.

People want to work for a company that values its employees and invests in their skills and development. But you don’t have to throw thousands of pounds and several training consultants at the situation to get results. Peer-to-peer training, job-shadowing, mentoring and coaching are all affordable and manageable in-house solutions.

Need a Helping Hand?

If you’re searching for a partner to help improve wellbeing and happiness in your workplace, get in touch with a friendly member of our team. We’re here to help you reach your goals.

What are the benefits of wellbeing in the workplace?

We know you’re interested in workplace wellbeing initiatives because you’re a good person who wants to do good things at work. But, you’ve also got board members to convince and it’s not so easy to pry that precious chequebook from their cold, clammy hands.

GIF of Bilbo Baggins holding the The One Ring and saying "My Precious"

Which is why we’ve written this ‘how to convince others that workplace wellbeing is worth it’ section. It covers eight convincing, numbers-based arguments for investing in wellbeing in the workplace.

Companies That Prioritise Wellbeing Make More Money

More often than not, an increase in workplace wellbeing leads to a rise in profit. Which is good news for your business, your boardroom and your employees.

Here are the stats:

  • Companies that create a positive employee experience are 21% more profitable and enjoy 37% higher sales than their competitors 36
  • FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing out-peform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10% 37
  • When choosing between products of equal price and quality, 65% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that treat their employees well 38

What does this mean for business?

Well, not only do happy workplaces create more profit, but they’re also worth more to investors and preferred by consumers.

What’s that I hear? It sounds an awful lot like you winning the argument to put cash towards your wellbeing initiatives!

Infographic: Happier organisations are more profitable, have higher sales, have lower staff turnover, have less sick leave and have higher share returns.

Workplace wellbeing initiatives offer high ROI

“But wait! Aren’t all these wellbeing initiatives expensive?”

Not so much!

Sure, if you have to take on additional staff to ease the burden on existing roles or set up new training and development programmes, costs can add up. But most workplace wellbeing initiatives are very affordable.

Plus, studies show that businesses can expect a 3-5 X return on investment for every dollar they spend boosting happiness in the workplace.

Infographic: There is a 3-5x return on investment for every dollar spent on happiness at work

That’s a great investment by any standard – and some studies even suggest that the ROI of workplace wellbeing initiatives is as high as 34X the initial outlay.39

Why do the numbers stack up so well? Because workplace wellbeing tackles profit-sapping problems like absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover intention (see literally everything above!).

For a deeper explanation of the economics of wellbeing at work and how to create a compelling business case, check out our blog on this topic.

Happy Employees Are More Productive

Think about a time you’ve been (to quote a late 90s millennial) “Like, peak-productive”. Were you doing something you enjoy or something you hate?

I don’t have to be Derren Brown to guess the answer and, unsurprisingly, the same is true for employees and their work. When we enjoy what we do, we do it well and when we don’t well… we don’t.

If your business suffers from high absenteeism, you know just how costly it can be. But, here’s the shocker… poor mental health in the workplace costs companies five times more than absenteeism. Yep, you heard that right.

When employees show up to work in poor mental health, they don’t get much done. What results is textbook presenteeism – a problem that 83 per cent of people in a UK survey said they’d witnessed in their workplace.40

On the flip side, highly engaged teams are 20% more productive. People who enjoy their jobs spend more time actually doing them and are better at them than people who don’t enjoy what they do.

So, the question is not ‘can I afford wellbeing programmes?’ but ‘can I afford not to have them?’.

Happy Workplaces Experience Lower Absenteeism

Absenteeism is an ever-present problem for businesses and, although not as costly as presenteeism caused by poor mental health, still costs UK businesses an estimated £100 billion in lost revenue year on year.41 That’s about £554 per employee. Ouch!

In terms of working days, we’re talking 141.4 million days off work over the year, or 4.4 days per year per employee.

“But absenteeism rates are going down” I hear you say. Yes, that’s sort of true! But it’s not necessarily a good thing.

Infographic: UK sick days largely unchanged since 2010

UK workers haven’t suddenly sprung into better health. They’re just increasingly coming to work despite being sick. And before you say “Great, that’s less lost income for me”… that’s not how this works.

Not only are those sick-but-working employees spreading infectious diseases to their coworkers, but they’re also part of the reason presenteeism is on the rise. If someone is too sick to work, but tries to anyway, you might as well pay them to take a nap on their desk.

And guess what costs UK businesses more: having staff off-work or having staff in work but not working? If you said “option B please”, you’d be correct.

There’s only one surefire way to reduce absenteeism without causing problems elsewhere, and you probably know what it is by now….

… improving wellbeing at work.

Wellness In The Workplace Decreases Turnover Intention

So far, you’ve heard how unhappy workers are less productive, less engaged, less profitable and less safe. But, make a few too many wrong turns and they won’t be your workers at all.

GIF of Duncan Bannatyne saying "I'm Out"


Staff turnover costs UK businesses £4 billion per year, with the average employee costing an average £30,000 to replace.42 According to a report by PwC, this amounts to around 20-33% of a worker’s annual salary.43 That’s a significant blow if you have to pay it once and a living nightmare if you keep paying it over and over again.

Thankfully, research shows that workplace wellbeing initiatives reduce both actual turnover and turnover intention. In a 2017 ERS Research & Consultancy review of UK workplace wellness programmes, 33% of businesses who invested in workplace wellbeing initiatives saw a reduction in staff turnover.44

And while we suspect the other 77% just weren’t doing it right (see ‘What workplace wellbeing is not’ above), 1 in 3 is still good odds.

How does it work? Well… research suggests that wellbeing initiatives reduce turnover by boosting three important dynamics in the workplace:45

  • Employee happiness
  • People’s passion for their work
  • Staff engagement

Hurrah for that!

Companies With A Better Employee Experience Are More Valuable

Mention workplace wellbeing initiatives at any networking event and someone’s bound to bring up Google. Since its inception, the global tech giant has banged the drum for staff benefits and the corporate adoption of Eastern principles like mindfulness and meditation.

From its People & Innovation Lab to the Search Inside Yourself leadership programme, Project Aristotle and playground slides in their Mountain View offices, Google has never shied away from novel approaches to improving workplace dynamics.46

Now, we’re not saying Google is Google just because it invested in workplace wellbeing… but it certainly helped.

How do we know? Because that’s what the research says.

Infographic: Staff wellbeing can elevate market valuation. Koop Award Winners outperform the S&P 500 by a factor of more than 3 times.

Companies with strong workplace health and wellness programs consistently outperform their competitors in the stock market.47 48 Plus, a seemingly insignificant 1-star increase in a business’s Glassdoor employee satisfaction rating is associated with a 7.9% higher market valuation.49

There are a few processes at play here. On the one hand, consumers and others prefer to do business with companies that are ethically sound. And on the other, businesses with a better rep among industry professionals are able to attract and retain more talented and innovative employees.

Speaking of which…

Mindful Managers Are More Effective

If you’re a manager, chances are some of your past employees quit just to get away from you. And before you go adding them to your black book/revenge list, you should know that it’s far more common than you might think.

One in every two employees has quit a job to dodge an unfavourable manager. Which means a lot of business leaders could do better.

In our wellbeing workshop for managers, we address common problems that hold managers back. More often than not, the stress of their role and a lack of awareness of others’ issues underscore relationship difficulties in the workplace.

The good news is, workplace wellbeing is not just another ‘thing’ to add to a long list of managerial responsibilities. It’s also something that managers – alongside their teams – will benefit from.

Research suggests that wellbeing training for managers has lasting benefits for individuals and businesses. In a 2011 control study at KPMG, managers who undertook a 3-hour happiness skills training course reported lasting improvements in life satisfaction, perceived stress and perceived effectiveness at work.

Plus, businesses that invest in the wellbeing of their managers:

  • Save money by focusing resources on fewer individuals who have more influence to implement broad cultural change
  • See a marked increase in employee engagement 50
  • Experience better staff retention rates 51
  • Build more effective and productive teams 52

And if that’s a bit too much info to fit into a 20-minute meeting, here’s a graphic that we think could convince anyone to invest in wellbeing at work…

Infographic detailing the benefits of improving wellbeing at work for society, organisations, teams and individuals

Now you have what you need to loosen those purse strings, let’s lay the groundwork for your new initiatives.

Types of health and wellbeing at work initiatives

In our work with clients, we consider three types of wellbeing at work strategy: primary, secondary and tertiary.

An effective approach will include a bit of each of them and cover both preventative and alleviative measures. Or to put it another way, ones that address the causes of poor workplace wellbeing and tackle wellbeing issues as they arise.

Infographic: Pyramid showing primary, secondary and tertiary wellbeing at work initiatives

Primary Wellbeing At Work Initiatives

Primary initiatives are often the least popular among business owners. They address problems with the way work is organised and managed, which means changing the structure and habits of an organisation.

Primary initiatives include:

  • Retraining managers
  • Re-thinking shift patterns
  • Automating repetitive job features
  • Dishing out work more evenly
  • Adjusting staffing levels
  • Introducing flexitime or home-working

The goal of primary initiatives is to design wellbeing into the job. By doing so, these approaches stop stress, overwhelm and burnout at the source.

Think about it like this… if you keep scratching yourself on an overgrown thistle as you leave your house, would you keep walking past it and patching yourself with plasters, or replace it with a nice, un-spiney bed of begonias?

You get my point! It’s important to tackle your problems at their source.

Primary initiatives target groups of employees who share the same or similar job roles. They’re broad strokes, so they’re not used to help individuals with specific issues. For that you need…

Secondary Initiatives

Secondary initiatives equip individuals with the skills they need to cope with work-related stress. They promote wellbeing by teaching techniques directly to individuals – much like the workshops and courses you can access through Haptivate.

It’s worth noting that you can’t teach someone to ‘handle’ an unhandleable situation. No amount of mindfulness training is going to help a manager deal with double the reasonable workload.

If the structure of work is unreasonable, you’d be better off spending money training a cat to bark than teaching staff how to deal with stress.

That said, if your business has already implemented primary initiatives, secondary initiatives can help people meet the general demands of work. Secondary initiatives include:

  • Stress management and resilience training
  • Mindfulness training
  • Positive psychology techniques
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Even with these initiatives in place, it’s inevitable that some employees will still struggle. To help them, you need a crisis response system in place.

Tertiary Initiatives

Tertiary initiatives address wellbeing issues when they arise through appropriate support, early intervention and treatment. These initiatives help already stressed employees take control of the situation and their feelings.

Although important to have in place, tertiary initiatives won’t work in isolation. Without the support of primary and secondary initiatives, you’ll be fighting a fire with the gas on.

Tertiary initiatives are also tricky to implement when poor mental and physical health have already set in.

Nevertheless, they are an important safety net. Common tertiary initiatives include:

  • Workplace counselling
  • Mental health first-aiders
  • Telephone or internet-based information or helpline services
  • Open-door policies with management

That’s a wrap

You made it!

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In the last 20-30 minutes (time flies… am I right?) we’ve covered:

  • Why workplace wellbeing is so much more than fads and trends
  • How to follow the data when getting started with workplace wellbeing initiatives
  • The eight drivers of workplace wellbeing you need to know before implementing changes
  • A boatload  of science on the benefits improving wellbeing at work
  • Seven reasons your business should invest in workplace wellbeing initiatives
  • The three types of wellbeing at work initiatives you need to know

Go team! But with great knowledge comes great responsibility. So, whether you’re feeling inspired or a lil’ overwhelmed, let’s use it to do some good – check out our workshops for teams now to keep the ball in play.

Or tell us the challenges facing your workplace and we’ll match you up with the right session for you.

Keep in touch

Stay up to date with all the latest wellbeing at work research, tips and resources by joining our monthly newsletter. We won’t share your data or spam you with irrelevant information 🙂


Jodie Manners

Jodie Manners

Content Writer

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Haptivate 101: Intro to the science of happiness at work

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