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Employee Wellbeing: Why It Matters More Than Ever

smiling woman stretching at desk while at work wellness

Employee wellness & productivity go hand in hand

Every company is built on its employees. It’s just a fact. From entry-level workers to those in senior positions, they’re the backbone of your organization. But the working world is going through a major shift right now — individuals are realizing their power and demanding changes to the corporate world more than ever. With driving factors behind the Great Resignation including poor compensation, feeling disrespected at work, and lack of flexibility, it’s clear that occupational wellness matters. A lot. And employees aren’t putting up with less than what they deserve. 

A recent survey showed that only 24% of employees feel that their organization cares about their wellbeing — compared to the 49% spike in 2020. It’s the lowest this number’s been in almost a decade, and that impacts staff retention, chances of burnout, quality of work, and more. 

Another survey conducted by human resources organization Adecco found that almost half of the workers surveyed – 45% – feel their employers either “don’t really” or “never” support their well-being, yet almost three-quarters of employers – 74% – say the well-being of their workers is “very important” or “extremely important”. This means either companies aren’t offering enough wellbeing support to their workers, or workers aren’t aware of what support they can access.

So now is the time to consider how your company promotes wellness at work, where you could improve employee mental health, and what solutions exist to support a holistic, wellness-first approach in your work environment. And –spoiler alert– you’ll reap a lot of benefits too. 

Only 24% of employees feel that their organization cares about their wellbeing.

Understanding Employee Wellbeing

“Employee wellbeing” may sound like a straightforward concept, and at its root, it is. But many contributing factors influence and determine how healthy a work environment is. And there’s no objective way to measure the success of a wellness program at work. It’s entirely individual. 

According to Gallup, there are five components of employee wellbeing:

  • Career wellbeing: Enjoying how you spend your time and the work you do day-to-day.
  • Social wellbeing: Having healthy, meaningful connections with the people in your life. 
  • Financial wellbeing: Managing and understanding personal finances well with minimal economic stress. 
  • Physical wellbeing: Having the physical ability, health, and energy to accomplish daily tasks.
  • Community wellbeing: Feeling a sense of belonging, enjoyment, and engagement with where you live. 

Although every person has unique interpretations of how success looks for them in each area, all five are equally crucial. Yet, shockingly, only 7% of people claim to be thriving across the board — and that affects our overall wellness.

So it’s not enough for your staff to feel empowered in just their career or finances. This holistic approach shows that each pillar is as significant as the next. 

office worker sitting at minimal desk with window view accross the city and grey cloudy sky

Why You Need to Prioritize Worker Wellness (And What Happens If You Don’t)

“But why must I care about my employees’ social life or energy levels?” you ask. Well, because you can’t just leave these factors at the door. Viewing your staff and colleagues holistically as whole, complex people requires an understanding that poor wellbeing in any area impacts everything else. 

It’s nearly impossible for folks to be present on that conference call when experiencing chronic pain or keep their composure during conflict when they’re worried about how they’ll pay their next bill. So, of course, it makes sense that employee wellbeing and productivity go hand in hand

When we stop operating from a place of “work primacy” (i.e., letting our jobs take precedence over everything else in our lives) and emphasize work-life balance instead, we see positive impacts in the workplace. Encouraging your staff to prioritize their personal and family lives alongside work creates synergy.

Making sustainable gains in any aspect of employee wellbeing helps you flourish across the board — so long as it isn’t at the cost of success in another area. Living more balanced lives leads to improved health outcomes, happiness, and overall wellbeing. And that benefits you by resulting in fewer sick days, lower turnover rates, and greater job performance. Everyone wins. 

Still, it’s not just about talking the talk: you have to walk the walk. That means moving beyond work-centric values by creating meaningful initiatives like stocking nutritious food in the staff kitchen, starting volunteer days where staff can help out with community organizations while still being compensated, or shifting to asynchronous communication

When we stop operating from a place of “work primacy” (i.e., letting our jobs take precedence over everything else in our lives) and emphasize work-life balance instead, we see positive impacts in the workplace.

The Challenges of Boosting Wellness at Work

It can be challenging to identify how your staff views their work environment. Many folks are hesitant to answer questions about occupational wellness truthfully, fearing confrontation or retaliation from management. It runs so deep that even anonymous surveys often don’t cut it.

And as we mentioned before, individual perceptions of employee wellbeing are highly subjective. Your identity, culture, abilities, needs, mental health, or company role all influence your definition of worker wellness. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Another common pitfall of starting a wellness program at work is believing it’s a cure-all. No amount of free gym memberships or catered lunches cancels out a toxic work environment. Period. Instead, boosting wellness at work requires a complete shift in company culture. Because let’s be honest: offering free therapy only after half of your department experiences burnout is a bandaid solution — not a sustainable, holistic approach. 

No amount of free gym memberships or catered lunches can cancel out a toxic work environment.

If you’ve noticed your staff’s overall wellbeing has changed since the pandemic started, you’re not alone. Even for businesses that had a solid wellness program at work in place already, you may realize your employees’ needs are no longer the same.

This is partially because many worker wellness-boosting incentives — like in-office yoga classes or holiday parties — were unavailable to staff while working remotely. And when those “add-ons” disappear, it really exposes companies who use surface-level solutions to create occupational wellness rather than integrating work-life balance into the company culture. 

It’s also been much more difficult to adequately staff an organization while managing mandatory isolation periods and other sick calls. With fear, anxiety, grief, stress, and burnout deeply affecting everyone to some degree, it became more than a matter of physical wellness. Mental health also significantly worsened across the country

From mandatory overtime and less community interaction to immunocompromised people fearing their return to in-office work, new barriers to employee wellbeing have emerged. And with folks particularly loving remote work, healthily incorporating hybrid work should probably be a priority in your organization.

desk with box of tissues sick worker flu at the office pandemic wellness

Digital Distraction Harms Workplace Mental Health…

Sure, technology may be a tool, but it’s also a double-edged sword. The Internet’s limitlessness — while incredibly helpful and downright fascinating — is a mental health timebomb just waiting to explode. 

Digital distraction is a stealthy villain. Most of the time, it’s not the actual act of checking notifications or responding to an email that harms your wellbeing, but the consequences of it. 

Immediacy culture encourages us to reply to every message the moment we read it, while our horribly short attention spans desperately flip between tabs and tasks. No matter what it is, we’re getting distracted by switching gears all day long — and working less because of it. 

Constant interruptions make deep work impossible, leading to poorer, less creative work quality and wasted time trying to get back on track. So when the workload piles up, you start clocking more overtime hours leading to poorer work-life balance and mental health outcomes. It’s a slippery slope — like giving a mouse a cookie. 

It’s a similar story for doomscrolling or getting work texts after hours. Burnout becomes inevitable when you’re unable to decompress and disconnect (literally) from your job or the online world. Not to mention the destructive impacts of poorer sleep quality and heightened stress response. 

Would you do your best work with your boss staring over your shoulder all day long?

Would you believe your employer trusts you to do your job or manage your time?

…And Employee Monitoring Software Isn’t the Answer

Let’s say you’re worried your team isn’t working as efficiently as possible. Or that they’re taking too many breaks or shopping online during company time. Is using employee monitoring software the answer to all your problems?

Hard no. It’s actually pretty detrimental.

But what is employee monitoring software? Essentially, it’s any form of a digital tool that lets you track your staff’s performance and online activity. The idea is that this “Big Brother-esque” technology will keep workers focused and more productive, and help measure overall employee wellbeing. This may sound great in theory, but the methods can be (and often are) extremely invasive. And they don’t even work. 

First things first, there’s a serious ethical issue regarding most employee monitoring approaches. URL, GPS, and keystroke tracking (Yes, literally tracking everything you type.), video surveillance, movement tracking devices, and more are major red flags. It’s simply a privacy problem.

But then imagine if these things weren’t taking place behind a screen. Would you do your best work with your boss staring over your shoulder all day long? Would you believe your employer trusts you to do your job or manage your time? It’s unlikely.

Bosses spying on their staff is not something we want to normalize in the workplace. Like all fear-based approaches, it causes more harm than good. 

When people feel empowered and capable of making the right choices, completing their tasks, and hitting their deadlines independently, it builds confidence, leading to more creative, outside-the-box ideas. At the same time, it encourages workers to think critically and problem-solve, even if it involves some trial and error.

Not only is autonomy highly beneficial in employee wellbeing, but interestingly enough, surveillance-based systems drive folks to rebel more. The pessimistic nature of employee monitoring assumes that your staff is ill-intentioned — which might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Trust your employees and management skills instead of setting them up for failure. 

This micromanagement also eliminates a job’s natural social, community-building aspects by practically forcing individuals to stay on task every moment between 9 and 5. And as anyone whose ever worked with others knows, water cooler conversation is inevitable. But did you know it also boosts employee wellbeing? 

Cropped of unrecognizable black worker meditating while working in office, copy space. African american businessman trying to calm down during stressful period at work, closeup, sun flare

Support Wellness at Work With Freedom

Don’t monitor your team. Empower them! Freedom for Teams helps keep your staff on track by turning off digital distractions for deeper, more focused work time. 

With Freedom, you can block specific websites, limit browser tab hopping, set daily time limits, and so much more. Give your employees confidence instead of fear! Freedom helps folks better manage their own workload, dive into uninterrupted deep work, and feel more capable in their abilities than any employee monitoring software out there. 

We support building healthy, productive environments both in and out of work — because we know employee wellbeing doesn’t end at the office. Freedom’s role in facilitating more efficient work might help your staff reduce overtime hours, meaning they can spend more time with their families. Maybe they’ll use their breaks for healthier activities like stretching or sharing a laugh with colleagues instead of doomscrolling through their phones. And there’s a good chance they’ll sleep better if they routinely block distracting apps before getting into bed each night. 

If you really want to transform company culture, encourage your team to block work-related apps when they’re off the clock to support work-life balance! 

These are all ways that Freedom can boost employee wellbeing (and productivity) within your organization. Remember the pillars of worker wellness: it’s all connected. 

Remember the pillars of worker wellness: it’s all connected. 

Prioritize Employee Wellbeing and Find Freedom Today!

Help your team help themselves by providing the tools they need to do their best work while honoring their agency. Creating a workplace built on the holistic pillars of employee wellbeing starts with Freedom. Boost productivity while supporting your staff’s time management, work-life balance, and overall mental health by choosing Freedom for Teams today!