It has been clear for some time that traditional workforce management strategies incentivizing results at the cost of personal health and wellness are on their way out. The changing composition of the workforce has changed employee priorities and put workplace well-being on the map like never before. In a recent report titled ‘Well-being in the workplace,’ The Myers-Briggs Company analyzed this critical concept by exploring the meaning of workplace well-being, discussing the most effective activities to increase it and studying its benefits for both people and organizations. With over 10,000 participants from over 131 countries working across 23 broad occupations, the scope of the study was truly global in nature. Let’s review some of the most significant findings of the research.
Well-being in the workforce
The report highlights several interesting trends regarding well-being in the workplace. For instance, the report notes that well-being improves with age. This is not entirely unprecedented because conventional wisdom says that aspects of human development improve with age and moreover, older employees are more likely to have achieved successes that result in a feeling of happiness and well-being. Similarly, gender plays a role in workplace well-being, as well. Although both men and women employees who participated in the study displayed similar levels of well-being, women reported slightly higher levels of ‘engagement’ and ‘positive emotions,' suggesting that women’s overall well-being is probably linked to positive emotions, level of interest and the enjoyment they get from their work.
In other findings, the report states that the nature of one’s job also influences well-being. While employees in service-related jobs, like, education and training, healthcare practitioner and technical occupations and community or social service occupations usually have the highest well-being; those in practical and physical jobs, like, food preparation and service or production, generally report lower levels of well-being. Surprisingly, the average level of employee well-being is similar all over the world, suggesting that culture might not have a dominant role to play in workplace well-being. Participants of the study from Australia/New Zealand and Latin America reported the highest levels of well-being (7.83 from a maximum of 10); followed by Indian workers (7.72). However, the average score of Asian employees, at 7.38, was the lowest.
Well-being in the workplace: Cause & effect
The relationships that employees form in the workplace are the biggest contributor to workplace well-being and received a score of 7.85 (from a maximum of 10) from the participants. Relationships are followed by Meaning (7.69), Accomplishments (7.66), Engagement (7.43), and Positive Emotions (7.19). Similarly, employees who are interested in their work and tasks have a higher level of well-being. Participants rated the most effective activities in order of importance as:
- Focusing on work tasks that interest me
- Focusing on a work task that makes me feel positive
- Undertaking work where I learn something new
- Taking breaks at work when needed
- Undertaking challenging work that adds to my skills and knowledge
The research also studied the activities undertaken by employees both outside of work and at work as per the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) type group and found that there are a few evident differences between the same. The MBTI classifies the personality of an individual in one of the 16 types, based on dominant personality traits. The study then also listed tips for general well-being and work-well being for each for the 16 personality types.
The impact of employee well-being on the overall organizational success was found to be indisputable. The study found that workplace well-being is correlated to higher levels of job satisfaction, higher commitment to the organization, citizenship behaviors, such as, increased discretionary effort to help co-workers and contributing to organizational objectives and employees being less likely to have plans to look for a new job.
Dr. Martin Boult, Senior Director Professional Services & Psychologist, The Myer-Briggs Company, who is the co-author of the report, tells People Matters, “A recent study by the Global Wellness Institute, reported that companies spent over $40 billion in the USA on “wellness” programs in 2016. This suggests that many organizational leaders are already willing to invest in the well-being of their people. However, it is unclear if these companies are spending their dollars on activities or services that actually support the well-being of their staff. Where leaders question the benefits of, or ROI, of supporting workplace well-being policies, it is important to note that companies that support and sponsor employee well-being outperform the stock market 3:1.”
Workplace well-being: Getting started
The study dedicates a section to help leaders apply the insights of the report to improve well-being at their workplaces, Dr. Boult also offers actionable advice, “The first thing is for leaders to be aware of the importance and relevance and benefits of having staff experiencing optimal well-being at work. By well-being, we are referring to the psychological well-being of people. An objective and reliable way to get a gauge of the well-being is to invite staff to complete, anonymously, a workplace well-being measure.”
The relationships that employees form in the workplace are the most significant contributor to workplace well-being and received a score of 7.85 (out of 10).
One of the most noteworthy findings of the study is that “positive and supportive relationships at work are important for workplace well-being, irrespective of the gender, personality type or geographic region.” The authors of the study recommend creating work environments and cultures that foster healthy social relationships between their employees. This, alongside making an effort to understand what entails well-being for different employees. Dr. Boult says, “To improve well-being it is important to be aware that there is not a one-size fits all approach to supporting well-being. A person’s personality type influences the kind of activities they report as helpful for enhancing their well-being. Understanding these differences can help organizations to select a range of well-being activities that work for different types of people.”
Thus, organizations need to create opportunities that help “people undertake work that aligns with their interests, foster positive emotional experiences and afford autonomy to rejuvenate when needed.” Employers and leaders cannot afford to ignore workplace well-being as an integral component of their people strategy and should evaluate the well-being of their staff regularly to design and implement informed strategies. Dr. Boult concludes, “It is not news that the kind of talented people organizations want to attract and retain will be more likely to work with employers who support and invest in their well-being. If an organization ignores the well-being of their staff, it is difficult and probably unrealistic to expect people will perform at their best when they are at work.”