A lot of attention is being given to the concept of well-being generally. Specific attention is being given to well-being in the workplace. An issue raised by employers is whether employer investments in well-being programs will be beneficial to the business in ways other than something that is simply good for people. The answer is that employers can have significant positive business results by actively promoting well-being.
The Gallup organization gathered data from many of its employer organizations and engaged in studies related to well-being. Additionally, other organizations have used the Gallup data regarding employees to determine whether employer promotion of well-being can affect business success. The data and studies have been summarized in a variety of articles such as “The Business Case for Well-Being” by the Harvard Business Review.
It seems obvious that a law firm filled with burned-out lawyers and angry staff is fodder for turnover and under-production. It is less obvious what a law firm can do to shift burned-out lawyers to engaged, productive, and satisfied lawyers.
An employee who is stressed and struggling is more likely to take unplanned days off and be less productive when at work. An organization that promotes well-being is likely to have less absenteeism, better productivity, and a higher level of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Again, it might seem obvious that a burned-out, angry receptionist will frustrate customers, and a positive, happy receptionist will have a customer feeling well attended to. In organizations with higher levels of well-being, profitability has been shown to exceed that of organizations without.
So What Is Well-Being?
Well-being is defined in different ways but can generally be thought of as a positive emotional outlook, a sense of life satisfaction, a sense of value or purpose, and the ability to manage life stress. The Gallup researchers identified five components of well-being: (1) physical well-being, (2) financial well-being, (3) career well-being, (4) social well-being, and (5) community well-being. It might be easy to conclude that the well-being policies of an employer should focus on career well-being, but research supports that employers who promote all five areas of well-being will have the most significant positive impacts in the areas of productivity, customer loyalty, profitability, and employee retention.
Supporting Career Well-Being
Career well-being is about enjoying what one does and positive engagement in work activities. The person with career well-being isn’t looking at the clock to see if it is time to end the workday but is instead trying to get everything done before leaving.
One factor that contributes to career well-being is having the opportunity to use one’s skills without being overloaded. Employers should develop a clear understanding of an employee’s skills and provide each employee an opportunity to use the employee’s skills while avoiding the tendency to push the beyond their highest and best use. A content estate planning associate doing basic planning may be miserable when asked to step into drafting complex trusts.
Learning and development opportunities should be offered. Attention should be given to creating a positive workplace culture. Acknowledging and rewarding employees in a way that is meaningful to them is important. Most importantly, communication skills simply matter. We each have different communication skills. An employer supporting career well-being will find ways for all employees to understand their own communication skills as well as those of others.
People want to have a sense of belonging and positive experiences engaging with others. Water cooler chats are an important aspect of social connection at work. Although a manager might experience a sense of annoyance when witnessing two employees chatting at the water cooler, the fact is that such chats help employees connect. The chat may sometimes be purely social, but the employees often end up supporting each other on work issues as well.
Supporting social well-being can be achieved by providing opportunities for employees to connect both in and out of the office. An employer might sponsor a team in a 5k, have an escape room event, or plan an outing to a local museum or restaurant. In planning activities, the abilities and interests of all employees should be considered.
At a very basic level, physical well-being is being well enough to get through a day of normal activity. Physical well-being supports mental well-being. Physical well-being is a matter of the best health possible. This may mean something different for an individual with an auto-immune disorder than someone without.
An employer can support employee well-being by providing information about health issues, healthy eating, and exercise. If snacks are provided in the workplace, provide healthy snacks. Also, consider subsidizing employee involvement in wellness programs.
Financial well-being is not connected to the amount of income one receives. Instead, financial well-being exists when someone can effectively manage day-to-day finances. An interesting fact about financial well-being relates to spending: Those who can spend money on others in a way that creates a positive memory achieve a sense of well-being that is greater than if the money had been spent on themselves.
Employers can assist with financial well-being by offering benefit plans and incentives. Studies have shown that employees are more likely to save if the employer offers an opt-out 401k plan rather than an opt-in plan. Information about financial health can be provided, including opportunities to meet with advisors regarding benefit plans.
Community well-being exists where all members of a community have basic needs met and feel a sense of fairness and justice. In the employment context, there are two communities to consider. One is the community consisting of all the employer’s employees. Another is the community in which the business exists.
Within the specific workplace, an employer can support well-being by being accountable for policies involving fairness. Within the larger community, the employer can engage employees in supporting community activities.