Report identifies the challenges and opportunities of workplace wellbeing

workplace wellbeingMuch of what has been called workplace strategy in recent years has been more about cutting costs than supporting people, often to the detriment of the latter. That is the central claim of a new report authored by Kate Lister and Tom Harnish of Global Workplace Analytics and sponsored by office furniture maker Knoll. The paper, What’s Good for People? Moving from Wellness to Well-Being, explores how better workplaces, processes and practices can improve workplace wellbeing, employee engagement and organisational performance. The study starts from the premise that people are dealing with unprecedented stresses and pressures in the workplace which now need to be addressed in the context of a recovering economy, the limits of an approach that focuses on doing more with less and an increasingly scant pool of human resources and talents.

“As the economy improves, employees are no longer happy just to have a job,” write the authors. “Employers who fail to recognize that times have changed face losing their top talent to more agile employers who understand that without great people, people who are engaged in their work and eager to go the extra mile, there is no sustainable business model. Innovation ceases. The pipeline vanishes. Customers go elsewhere. And stock performance tumbles.”

The four main conclusions of the report are:

  • While most organizations invest in wellness, few address well-being. The indirect costs of poor health and  wellbeing trump the direct costs by a wide margin.
  • There is a direct relationship between wellbeing and healthcare costs, productivity and more.
  • The top global drivers of wellbeing initiatives in the US are increasing productivity, improving engagement, reducing absenteeism and reducing cost.
  • Workplace strategies that address  employees’ physical, emotional and social wellbeing can increase employee engagement.

The report goes on to draw a clear distinction between workplace wellbeing and wellness before setting out what it claims are the top global drivers of wellbeing initiatives, the relationship between wellbeing and healthcare costs, productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, engagement and the impact of work and place on wellness and well-being. It describes a number of specific workplace strategies which it claims can improve employee wellbeing and describes a case study of CBRE’s pioneering WELL Building Standard