Organizational Wellness

Employee Wellbeing is a Competitive Advantage. Here’s How to Harness It.

Oct 18, 2023
Last Updated Dec 22, 2023

Prioritizing wellbeing is essential for living a truly fulfilling life. Self-care is not just a reward for hard work, but a necessary component for continued happiness and success. An endless "rise and grind" mentality may seem productive, but is not sustainable. All too often, it leads to exhaustion and burnout.

The real road to productivity is the path of wellbeing. Fortunately, the business world is increasingly recognizing the undeniable connection between wellbeing, productivity, employee engagement, and healthcare savings. We are taking the first steps to adopting work-life wellness, a generative state where your personal and professional experiences amplify each other. 

As the Chief People Officer at Wellhub, I have personally witnessed how critical truly holistic wellness is for both individuals and companies. 

At Wellhub, we place employee wellbeing on par with business results. This has proven to change people’s lives (sometimes quite literally). We’ve seen people transform their mental wellbeing through exercising, meditating, and therapy. We’ve also watched people build very relevant work relationships through sports competitions or volunteer work. In my case, I have been working through chronic illness through nutrition, sleep, and physical exercise. This culture of holistic wellbeing has substantially increased our employee engagement and sustained the company's success through challenging market conditions.

And the best part? Any company can experience the transformative impact of employee wellbeing.

Decades of extensive research have shown that wellbeing is the result of eight core dimensions: occupational, physical, emotional, social, financial, intellectual, spiritual, and environmental. Wellbeing cannot be achieved by focusing on just one aspect of life, like occupational status or financial success.

That's why Wellhub conducted an in-depth analysis of workforce wellbeing across all eight dimensions. Our comprehensive report, The State of Work-Life Wellness 2024, presents compelling findings from an international sample of over 5,000 full-time employees. Through more than 80 carefully crafted questions, we assessed their holistic wellbeing and, critically, examined how each dimension impacts their workplace performance.

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Here's what we discovered, and how you can leverage these insights to enhance your business operations.

Key Finding 1: Employee Wellbeing is Non-Negotiable

Any employer who wants to retain their workforce must factor wellness into their talent strategies. This was the case last year, and employees have only doubled down in their demand for wellbeing.

What We Found:

  • 93% of employees now recognize the significance of prioritizing their wellbeing, up from 83% last year. 
  • The likelihood a worker will leave a company that does not prioritize employee wellbeing has risen to 87%, up from 77% last year. 
  • When searching for their next job opportunity, a remarkable 96% of employees are exclusively considering companies that clearly emphasize and prioritize employee wellbeing.

The Takeaway: Prioritizing employee wellness is not a trend, but a crucial factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

Key Finding 2: Wellness Drives Productivity

Productivity is tied to every single dimension of wellbeing: The majority of workers say their productivity at work is impacted by each of the dimensions. 

What We Found:

  • Emotional (95%) and physical wellness (93%) are the two dimensions workers are most likely to say have an impact on their output. 
  • When asked which dimension of wellness is most important to them, emotional wellness emerged as the most popular choice. It emerged as the top choice across all regional and demographic groups, marking it as a key consideration for any organization.

The Takeaway: Organizations can improve performance by supporting every dimension of wellbeing.

Key Finding 3: Working Where You Want is Good for Your Health

The best work environment isn't the office, hybrid, or home — it's wherever you want to work. Employees in their preferred work environment — whether that's working from home, at an office, or in a hybrid setup — report better wellbeing across the board than those who wish they worked in a different environment. 

What We Found:

  • 90% of employees in their preferred work environment are happy with their current company, compared to 80% of workers in their non-preferred environment.
  • Employees in their preferred work environment report higher wellbeing across dimensions, such as better workplace relationships, lower stress levels, and less lost sleep from work stress.

Given that 37% of workers wish they worked in a different location, this all adds up to a lot of unrealized wellness.

The Takeaway: A flexible work environment that workers can customize to their needs maximizes both wellness and performance. Industries that cannot offer location flexibility — such as service or manufacturing — can inject some level of customization into their workplaces with flexible policies, such as flex time off.

Key Finding 4: Wellness Improves with Seniority

The higher up somebody works within an organization, the higher their self-reported wellness: Leaders report better wellbeing than managers, and managers have higher wellbeing than non-managers. 

On one hand, it is great to see leaders modeling wellness. Fostering wellness by example — such as our CEO Cesar Carvalho taking a full paternity leave — have proved to be the key ingredient for success in the wellbeing culture of Wellhub.

On the other hand, leaders must do more than model wellness. They must facilitate wellness. A culture of wellbeing cannot take root in a culture where executives fit wellness into their agenda without providing the same opportunity to everyone in their organization.  

What We Found:

  • 81% of leaders say they are good or thriving, compared to 62% of managers and 53% of non-managers. 
  • 91% of leaders agree they can take care of their wellbeing during the workday. Only 76% of managers and 66% of non-managers say the same. 

Given that non-managers are the majority of a workforce, these low rates of wellbeing artificially limit the success of their organization.

The Takeaway: Leaders must be careful they do not confuse their wellbeing with the wellbeing of their workforce, who likely need more support than leaders realize.

Better Lives, Better Bottom Lines

These compelling findings come as businesses tighten their budgets to prepare for a potential recession (like they have been for a few years now). Taken together, they show that prioritizing wellbeing will be a foundational part of meeting these economic headwinds. An investment in employee wellbeing not only accelerates talent acquisition and improves retention rates, it also boosts productivity (and curbs healthcare costs).

What organization would want to forgo such critical competitive advantages? The sooner leaders act on the power of wellbeing, the better off everyone will be. So let's leave behind the "hustle till we drop" mentality and embrace true performance through wellness. The future of work depends on it.

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Livia Martini

Livia Martini is the Chief People Officer at Wellhub, having joined the team in 2017 initially as the Head of International Operations. In her current role as CPO, she oversees a global team of over 1,800 employees across 11 countries. Livia is responsible for creating an exceptional working environment at Wellhub, leveraging a wealth of experience in people management and financial operations. She has a lifelong passion for tennis and has recently found joy in running and cycling.


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