Employee wellbeing: How a sense of purpose can improve productivity

Over the last decade, there has been a surge in the number of companies that have implemented initiatives, like free gym memberships, to improve employee wellbeing. But are these initiatives, designed to improve overall employee wellbeing and productivity, succeeding?

Today, a company’s success is not only defined by profits and revenues, but also by the organization’s ability to attract, motivate and retain talent. Therefore, programs that are designed to improve employee wellbeing are gaining popularity. But, there is one big problem with these initiatives…

Company initiatives that include offers like free gym memberships are not fully addressing the issue of employee wellbeing – because wellbeing is more than just a measure of physical wellness.

Although physical wellness is important, it is only one of the wellness dimensions that should to be considered when addressing wellbeing. In fact, there are three wellness dimensions: physical wellness, emotional wellness and social wellness. Each dimension plays an important role in improving employee wellbeing, and it is essential for the business managers looking to improve employee wellbeing to consider each dimension.

The Physical Wellness Dimension

Physical wellness entails practicing a healthy lifestyle. This includes having frequent health checks, eating nutritious foods and avoiding negative habits (e.g., smoking, drinking alcohol, etc.).

A recent study by the O.C. Tanner institute found that physical wellness has a large impact on an individual’s overall sense of wellbeing.

The study states that as an employee’s physical wellness improves from ‘poor’ to ‘good’, their overall wellbeing also improves.

Interestingly, the same results were not present in employees that moved from a ‘good’ to an ‘excellent’ state of physical wellness. This finding indicates that whenever an employee reaches a certain level of physical wellness, there is, on average, only little satisfaction that can be gained by improving physical health any further.

Therefore, in order for employers to enhance employee wellbeing, it is important to consider each individual employee’s state of physical wellness. Using this knowledge, an employer can then make an informed decision on how big of an impact a physical wellness initiative would make for a particular individual.

The Social Wellness Dimension

Social wellness is another important dimension that contributes to a state of wellbeing, and can have a large impact on an employee’s overall wellbeing. Social wellness means having a work-life balance and positive interactions with others, both inside and outside of the work environment.

Too often companies overlook the influence that social interactions have on employees. Research shows that employees who have ‘excellent social wellness’ actually yield higher productivity at work than individuals with ‘poor social wellness’.

By creating an environment that embraces and promotes social interactions, companies can actually stimulate productivity. Open plan offices, informal meeting spaces and social company events are just a few ways that a company can create a more social work environment.

Emotional/Mental Wellness Dimensions

Emotional wellness is the last dimension that plays a role in influencing an employee’s sense of wellbeing. This dimension relates to the feeling that you are in control of your life and live for a purpose or have a feeling of belonging.

The O.C. Tanner Institute research showed that good emotional wellness has more of an impact on overall wellbeing than the other two wellness dimensions. This means that employees that have a high sense of emotional wellness experience much more wellbeing than employees with excellent social and physical wellness.

For employers, it is important to provide employees with a sense of belonging and create a positive work culture by focusing on purposeful leadership.

Creating optimal conditions for employee wellbeing

To create the optimal conditions for employee wellbeing at work, it is important that business leaders go beyond focusing on physical wellness and begin to consider social and emotional wellbeing as part of their operations.

Even though emotional wellness has the biggest influence on wellbeing, it is important for businesses to create synergies across all three dimensions in order to successfully work with wellbeing.

Strategically combining traditional benefits/perks, such as salary, paid time off, and maternity/paternity leave, with environmental benefits/perks, such as open workspaces and employee recognition, will lead companies in the right direction for positively impacting employee wellbeing at work.


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