The pillars of workplace wellbeing
Individual wellbeing is a goal people are always striving towards. As work comprises such a big part of life it is a significant contributor to it. Workplace wellbeing was the top-ranked element in a place of employment, with 72% of workers saying it is extremely/very important to them in our nationally representative survey of 1,160 employed Australians.
How people are functioning has a huge impact on the work they do. Conversely, how people function in the workplace has a huge impact on their everyday life and how they function as a whole. When it comes to wellbeing at work, it is important for leaders to be aware of the different pillars of wellbeing and how they intersect in the workplace.
The shift over the last few decades to a knowledge economy has resulted in increased sedentary lifestyles, greater inactivity and less time spent outside. When workers spend too long at work, feel stressed or don’t have enough energy because of work, they struggle to make physical health/fitness (49%) and sleep (41%) a priority. It can also impact their mental health, with 43% always or often feeling stressed in life, and 79% of those admitting it is work-related.
Workplaces that encourage people to leave on time, have regular breaks from sedentary work, and encourage healthy routines contribute to their workers’ ability to thrive physically. Ensuring the workplace is a healthy environment where workers are encouraged and supported, have opportunities to find balance in their lives and enjoyment in their work can also contribute to workers mental wellbeing.
Human beings are social creatures and our interpersonal wellbeing is key to thriving at work. A sense of belonging and connection with others correlates with higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, faster recovery from disease, lower levels of stress, less mental illness, and a longer life. Therefore, research suggests that more than just what you’re doing at work, it’s who you’re doing it with that contributes to engagement and wellbeing.
With a third of the hours in an average week spent at work, the nature of work changing and a shift in how time is spent outside of work, the workplace plays an important role in the social needs of human beings. To some work is simply a job, but to many more it’s a lifeline to social interaction, purpose and a place of belonging. The best leaders facilitate purposeful community; social needs are met, but in a collegiate setting.
The word vocation means a strong calling or inclination towards a particular career or profession. For some, talk of finding a career that aligns with their passion and sense of mission may sound overly zealous. Yet even among the most clear-eyed of the next generation, values alignment and a commitment to the organisational cause are prerequisites for a job search. No longer is it simply a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. As we say to our clients: ‘People aren’t working for you. They may be employed by you, but they are working for their own reasons. Think of them as professional volunteers.’
The impacts of people’s work are key to a sense of vocation. Workers want to know that their work makes a difference. Communicating organisational purpose and the impacts of that work is foundational to employee motivation and engagement.
While the workplace is not responsible for workers personal finances, it certainly contributes to them. During the COVID-19 shutdowns it became to governments worldwide that the financial impacts would cause for many greater problems than the virus itself. Aware of the lack of personal savings and the financial vulnerability of workers, the Australian government implemented its JobKeeper program, which was the biggest spend on any social program in Australian history. Our research at the time showed that 49% of Australians said they were extremely/very emotionally resilient (mental health), 40% were extremely/very physically resilient (overall health) but only 30% felt extremely/very resilient financially.
For most people the main contributor to financial wellbeing is earnings via salary or wages. Therefore, job security is an important factor for wellbeing. Along with the social, relational and vocational elements, the stability of having a working situation where people feel secure in the future is important for worker wellbeing.
Work is key to personal wellbeing and is about more than stakeholder returns or immediate deliverables. It plays a huge role in people’s personal, interpersonal, vocational and financial wellbeing and is key to our sense of contribution, value, purpose and meaning.