Employee stress is on the rise, nearly 20% in the past three decades, according to a survey conducted by Korn Ferry.


That statistic was in 2018. Add a two year + pandemic filled with job instability, confusing government work health orders, and a sudden shift to digital working – who knows how much that has risen now?

Employee stress is a serious issue that is detrimental not only to the individual, but to their colleagues, and your company. It’s a domino effect. Employee stress increases absenteeism – where work is falling on other employees, high staff-turnover – retaining talent is more cost effective than hiring, and reduces staff performance, just to name a few.

This deadly combination could be the end of your company. The American Psychological Association suggests that stress costs US employers an estimated, eye-watering $500 billion US dollars in lost productivity, annually. Which is why you should consider investing in employee well-being. 


What Is Employee Well-Being?

Employee well-being refers to the health of your employees. It can include:

–  Physical health

–  Mental health

–  Economic health

–  Emotional health

Some factors that can play a role include; management, conflict, working hours, and workload. All of these factors are branches stemming from workplace culture. Your workplace culture underpins everything – it can make all the difference in motivating, or on the dangerous flip-side, demotivating your employees.

In the past two years, companies have dedicated their time to altering their work practices, the area of culture being placed on pause. Now is the time for companies to restart, or they will pay a massive price. Gallup found that employees of all generations rank company support in their top three criteria of what they look for most in an employer. Millennial and Gen Z named it as their number one workplace ‘want’. Employee well-being is nothing to sneeze at, it’s very real and it’s not an added ‘bonus’, it is an essential necessity that must be adopted by your company.

One of the biggest misconceptions about employee well-being is that it’s an expensive venture, it’s not. All you need is a good company culture, which is shaped by your company’s communication. Let it be said, an employee’s well-being does not hinge on a pool table or a gym. They are rather nice ‘cherries-on-top’ of a well-established corporate culture which has employee well-being at the core, that matters more. If you don’t have a good work-culture, no amount of benefits will retain employees, so please consider putting your wallets away. 


What Benefits Can You Reap From Emphasising Employee Well-Being At Your Company?

You can decrease:

–  Employee absenteeism

–  Staff turn-over

You can increase:

–  Employee engagement

–  Employee happiness


Employee Absenteeism

Employees are going to be absent sometimes and that’s not a problem. However, when it’s frequent, bordering on excessive, it can be a headache. Absenteeism is costly for a business and can be detrimental to your other employees. In fact, a study showed that in Australia, co-workers were seen to be 27.3% less productive when covering for a “typical” employee absence. Over a quarter less productive, how much more would that number drop if it was “excessive” absenteeism?

Absenteeism leads to tasks being pushed on to other staff, and suddenly an individual problem becomes a group one. These extra responsibilities affect your reliable staff, lowering morale, increasing stress and, consequently, higher turnover rates. Frequent absenteeism can be caused by a number of factors such as; stress, mental health, burnout, low morale, bullying, amongst others. Stress and overall mental health is a huge issue. It has been reported that at least one million workers worldwide are absent every day due to stress. In Australia alone, workplace-related mental illness costs are estimated to be at least $15.8 billion to $17.4 billion (AUD) per year, according to The Australian Institute

Stress is a part of working life. However, we as companies should always minimise it to the best of our ability. The way we can decrease anxiety is through engagement; a study by Gallup found that there is a link between lower engaged employees and high anxiety. From these findings, it can be argued that by adopting an employee well-being mindset we can increase engagement, thereby reducing stress; supported by Sloan et al. (2013) that found “…well-being influenced engagement via the association between meaningfulness and engagement,” (Sloan et al. 2013, pg. 451)


Staff Turn-Over

It is a well-known fact that retaining an employee is, for the most part, cheaper than hiring a new one. Research shows that turnover can cost as much as 33% of an employee’s salary to replace them. This does not even account for time spent. It is reported that 40% of a small business owner’s working time is spent on non-income generating tasks, such as hiring. In addition, research says that for a new employee to reach full productivity it can take between 8 to 26 weeks.

A healthy work environment which can be fostered with something as simple as recognition and acknowledgement of a job well done by managers would make employees 5x more likely to stay at their company. A stressful, unhealthy environment is not going to retain employees. Simply put, they will go elsewhere. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the age-old adage, “life is too short”. This is supported by a report from Hays, which found 47% of job seekers were leaving their job due to a poor workplace culture. 


Employee Engagement

Wellness initiatives can improve employee engagement. Engagement is critical for a company; research shows that companies with high employee engagement are 22% more profitable. Ensuring your workplace environment fosters engagement is essential to success. High employee engagement has a positive knock-on effect, it can improve levels of staff retention, increase productivity and lower absenteeism, to name a few.

In fact, for the luxury department store Harrods, they found that their turnover rate had halved (over the period of five years) after implementing an employee engagement strategy. One of their strategies involved internal communications. They published newsletters which blended corporate communications and more ‘fun’ topics, like an Agony Aunt column and a front cover design competition. This material was made for their employees; it kept them up-to-date and gave them an outlet to express themselves. Utilising effective internal communications practices can motivate 85% of your employees – a stark contrast from the 20% of employees globally reported to be engaged at work. 


Employee Happiness

Employee happiness is largely dependent on your workplace; whether it be the physical office or the company’s culture – their happiness is at your mercy. Happy employees work harder, are more loyal and are more productive.

Happiness is a superpower. 

Don’t believe me? A study conducted by Oxford University found over a six-month period at contact centres for British Telecoms (BT) that happier employees made more phone calls in an hour, and consequently more sales than their less-than-happy colleagues. A happy employee was found to be 13% more productive than their peers. 13% might not seem all that large, however, if your entire workforce was 13% more productive – how much more do you think your company could achieve? 


The time is now to seriously consider how your company takes care of your employee’s well-being. Employees will leave if their well-being is not a priority. The most important stakeholder in your company are your people. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said it best, “employees come first,” and rightly so. Employees control the image of a company; they are at the forefront when dealing with customers. Their conduct and work are a reflection of your company and company’s culture. 

It’s also important to note that the effectiveness of employee well-being can be measured by both Value on Investment (VOI) and Return on Investment (ROI).  According to a report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans,  employers in North America saved between $1 and $3 in health care costs for every dollar spent on company wellness programs. There is a large economic return on investing in well-being.

In saying that, it’s important to reiterate, well-being programs do not need to come in the form of a gym membership or chef-prepared lunches – those are wonderful benefits that are a nice ‘add-on’ but, essentially, good well-being practice boils down to treating your employees as humans; recognising their achievements, acknowledging their input, understanding their motives and desires are what can make all the difference.

Employees are people, they are your asset. Treat them well and your company will reap the benefits. 


About the Author:

Passionate for the written word you are always guaranteed to find Alex either hunched over a laptop with a coffee, reading a book, or writing in her notebook. Paper and post-it's cover her desk - just the way she likes it. She is a staunch advocate for physical books in the book vs e-book debate and won't be convinced otherwise. You would probably find Alex's Desk in the thesaurus as a synonym for Organised Chaos.