Health and WellbeingHow employee experience impacts wellbeing

How employee experience impacts wellbeing

Studies find that putting employee experience at the top of your agenda could result in a dramatic increase in overall wellbeing. How can HR professionals strengthen this connection in their businesses?

The topic of employee experience is vast and multi-faceted. So much so that it can involve any element of a workplace, from culture to reward and everything in between. In turn, myriad angles can be taken in attempting to improve it.

Employee wellbeing is one aspect of this experience that grows more pertinent by the day, with particular focus on mental health and burnout. Many HR practitioners feel that the go-to solution should be to incorporate wellbeing initiatives into the workplace in order to improve the experience for their employees and better engage them.

Whilst this is a reasonable approach, there is real and substantial scope for reversing the order. Though a less conventional approach, many feel that improving employee experience in a broader sense could act as a wellbeing initiative in itself, creating happier, healthier and ultimately more productive employees.

“I think looking at it this way round is absolutely right,” said Becky Thoseby, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Ministry of Justice UK. “Having good wellbeing without good employee experience is just not possible.”

Thoseby also cites line manager relationships as one of the key determinants of workplace wellbeing

“Anyone who’s had the misfortune to have an unpleasant line manager will know just how much impact it has on your life,” she said.

This is echoed in a study by human development academic Brad Shuck. The paper investigates the degree to which employee experience and ‘workplace climate’ are associated with factors such as psychological wellbeing and emotional exhaustion.

Shuck concludes that the two are significantly connected. The study describes the two intrinsically linked domains of psychological workplace climate and an employee’s personal outcomes, arguing that employee engagement intersects the relationship, acting as a moderator and determining whether the outcome is positive or negative.

In simpler terms, features such as flexible and remote working, more sophisticated and accessible workplace technology, a healthy workplace culture and personalized benefits could all act as positive wellbeing stimuli. In fact, it is well documented that, in a general sense, greater happiness leads to better health. For instance, one study found that happier people are 35% less likely to die than those who described themselves as unhappy. It stands to reason that this principle would echo in the workplace.

Moreover, a feedback loop begins to develop here. Once your employees have felt the personal benefits of your new measures, the business should eventually reap the same reward. They are happier, healthier, and according to some studies, up to 20% more productive at work.

“I think employers don’t think enough about the way work is organized and the impact this has on employees,” Thoseby said. “Leaders rarely consider employee wellbeing when they make these decisions.”

“It seems a no-brainer that employees will perform at their best if they are healthy and feel fulfilled by their work.”

Also significant is the low risk, high reward nature of this approach. Yes, under certain circumstances, health and wellbeing initiatives do have their place in business. But why risk wasting time and money on a scheme that is not guaranteed to work, when in the background a stale culture and uninspiring employee experience still exists?

If ROI is what you are looking for, then it surely makes more sense to take a blanket approach to improving the day-to-day experience of your employees. Not only will you see wholesale improvement among your workforce, but the health and wellbeing of your employees is likely to be positively impacted as a knock-on effect.

Thoseby concluded by outlining the connected between work and a person’s identity, and therefore how much a negative experience in the workplace can impact someone.

She said: “The achievements and opportunities for self-expression that work provides contribute to our self-esteem. When our needs are not being met in these areas, the way we feel about ourselves will be affected.”

“Even worse, a toxic organization can pollute all areas of our life, especially if it’s bad enough to cause health problems.”

Wellness initiatives are a worthy implementation for any workplace and show that a company is invested in its workforce. However, the reality is that they often don’t work. For instance, one study showed no significant difference in behaviours between an ordinary set of employees and a control group undergoing a wellbeing initiative.

The programme, a large-scale, randomized and controlled trial, showed no notable effects on outcomes across nearly 80 different health-related measures.

Moreover, such initiatives may not even be necessary. As Thoseby said, there is no wellbeing without good employee experience.

In future, the key is for employers to step back and consider how wellbeing can be achieved through a more well-rounded, all-inclusive approach that encompasses the other fundamentals of a healthy workplace experience.

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