Why employee wellbeing and productivity are inherently linked

Megan Thompson · December 23, 2022

As economic conditions get tougher, many organisations are looking for ways to improve productivity and workplace performance. But targets, KPIs and slicker tech, while important, aren’t necessarily the answer. It is often employee wellbeing that ultimately influences organisational performance. 

Employee wellbeing and productivity are two sides of the same coin. Mental wellbeing is key to ensuring positive experiences at work, improving productivity, reducing absence and boosting retention. 

What is wellbeing?

“Wellbeing can be understood as how people feel and how they function, both on a personal and a social level, and how they evaluate their lives as a whole.”

New Economics Foundation

employee wellbeing

At its core, how we feel and how we function go hand-in-hand to define our state of wellbeing. The fundamental human need to live safely and happily is something that all people experience.

In the workplace, wellbeing is often thought of as Friday beers, gym memberships and ping-pong tables. While these perks are nice, they don’t address our underlying human needs. When push comes to shove, employee retention, productivity and motivation are rarely improved upon with these schemes.

The current state of employee wellbeing

Before COVID-19, most employees reported wellbeing levels closer to the “thriving” end of the wellbeing spectrum. Besides the odd Monday morning lull in motivation, the majority of people were relatively happy in their roles.

However, an ONS survey offers a worrying insight into how COVID-19 affected employees across the UK. 1 in 8 adults developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms, and 38% of adults said that lockdown has negatively impacted their wellbeing.

In 2022, financial stress has become increasingly challenging, with the majority of people saying that their financial situation affects their mental health. More than half of adults have experienced anxiety and a quarter felt depression because of rising bills, according to new research.

Poor mental health leads to more employees slipping down to the surviving end of the wellbeing spectrum, where cortisol and adrenaline levels begin to have a negative impact. This can make us feel physically unwell, and emotionally stressed reducing productivity and outputs at work.

Looking forward: Wellbeing in 2023

Nearly three quarters of employers believe mental health and wellbeing will improve in 2023, according to research from Koa Health. However, research also shows that 72% of employees want more support, and importantly, the right kind of support, which does not always reflect what HR and management currently provides.

No employer wants this variance in understanding. A lack of awareness regarding wellbeing ultimately pushes employees towards the surviving end of the spectrum. Without an effective support system that addresses the specific needs of your people, employees’ productivity and motivation will fall, leaving more room for errors and accidents.

How do we close the gap?

productivity and wellbeingUnfortunately we can’t make the cost-of-living crisis or the impact of COVID-19 go away. But business leaders can take active steps to control and reduce stress and anxiety levels as best we can.

There is currently a real opportunity for organisations to improve their wellbeing strategy and provide employees with the right kind of support. For HR and managers, this requires clear data and new ways of thinking to catch early signs of poor wellbeing.

Understanding how your people feel is invaluable – especially in a remote work setting. Undertaking regular mental health surveys can quickly identify what needs to change to help your people thrive and ultimately be more productive at work.

What does good look like?

  • Collecting regular feedback about employee wellbeing and mental health
  • Intermittent pulse surveys to ‘temperature check’ how people are coping
  • Pinpoint teams and individuals who are struggling to cope
  • Driving relevant initiatives based on feedback
  • Providing employees with personalised action plans and recommendations
  • Providing a safety net – employee assistance program, mental health first aiders

Learn how to implement a successful wellbeing strategy in our white paper “Why employee wellbeing and mental health matters at work“.

Get started with WeThrive

WeThrive is the people experience platform that uncovers how your people truly feel, enabling managers to create highly effective teams, increase employee wellbeing and productivity and deliver better business results.

Book a demo to learn more.