Why wellbeing matters

December 2015

Most government, business and not-for-profit leaders know about employee engagement and its link to improved productivity and organisational performance. Employee engagement and the extra discretionary effort that is derived from improved engagement has been researched and reported on for decades. 

Far fewer leaders know about the business case for wellbeing, nor for that matter, what wellbeing is or how to measure it. This article provides the answers to these important questions about wellbeing.

What is wellbeing?

In its simplest form, wellbeing is our ability to feel good and function effectively. It is what provides us with the resilience to navigate the natural highs and lows we all experience in our lives, while enabling us to intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically flourish.

Over the last decade, researchers have discovered that people with higher levels of wellbeing are more sociable and energetic, more charitable and cooperative, and better liked by others. They show more flexibility and ingenuity in their thinking and are more productive in their jobs. They are better leaders and negotiators and earn more money. They are more resilient in the face of hardship, have stronger immune systems and are physically healthier and happier.

So how can you consistently and practically improve your wellbeing, no matter how busy you are?

Dr. Martin Seligman, a leading authority in the field of Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania suggests we can improve our wellbeing by:

  • Nurturing positive emotions
  • Building engagement
  • Investing in relationships
  • Cultivating meaning
  • Growing accomplishments
  • Maintaining your health

This framework is often referred to as PERMAH.

Individuals, teams and organisations have it in their power to improve their own wellbeing - there is a clear win-win-win for individuals, teams and organisations.

What is the business case for wellbeing?

The business case for wellbeing is compelling. Here is just some of what the research tells us:

  • Improved safety with a 32% average reduction in claims - employees with higher levels of wellbeing are more likely to take early action and seek help rather than risk poor health. It is estimated workplace health programs can achieve an average of 32% reduction in workers' compensation and disability claim costs (Chapman, 2003).
  • Up to 8 x time more engaged - by helping employees to maximise their personal resources, supporting them to function to the best of their abilities individually and collectively and producing a positive overall experience at work, it is estimated employees are up to eight times more likely to be engaged when wellbeing is a priority in their workplace (New Economic Foundation, 2014; World Economic Forum, 2010).
  • Up to 3 x more productive - employees with higher levels of wellbeing are able to work longer and more effectively due to their improved goal attainment and levels of resilience.  It is estimated the healthiest Australian employees are almost three times more productive than their unhealthy colleagues (Medibank Private, 2005; World Economic Forum, 2010; PwC, 2014).
  • Improved individual performance- Employees with higher levels of wellbeing have been found to learn more effectively, be more creative, have better relationships, be more pro-social in their behaviour, feel more satisfied in their jobs and perform better (Chida and Steptoe, 2008; Diener et al., 2010; Dolan et al., 2008; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).
  • 4 x less likely to lose talent - employees who take an unfavourable view of their workplace's commitment to health and wellbeing are four times more likely to leave in the next 12 months.  In contrast, 64% of those who take a favourable view indicate they are likely to stay for the next five years (World Economic Forum, 2010).

How can you measure wellbeing?

Insync, with the help of Peggy Kern, Michelle McQuaid and Jo Fisher, has created a Wellbeing Survey that measures individual, team and organisational wellbeing in one short, well designed survey. After the survey, clients receive an easy-to-understand and action-oriented report.

The survey draws on the significant experience of Peggy Kern gained by working with Dr. Martin Seligman and others at the University of Pennsylvania, combined with the twenty plus years of survey and reporting expertise of Insync.

The Wellbeing Survey can be done by departments or divisions of organisations or organisation wide. If you want to learn more about how to measure the wellbeing of your organisation or your team, please contact Insync.

Acknowledgement:
The majority of this article was written by Michelle McQuaid who is passionate about improving wellbeing in teams and organisations.

References:
Chapman LS, Meta evaluation of worksite health promotion economic return studies. The Art of Health Promotion, 2003, 6(6):1-16

Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2008). Positive psychological well-being and mortality: A quantitative review of prospective observational studies. Psychosomatic medicine,70(7), 741-756.

Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling.Journal of personality and social psychology,99(1), 52.

Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of economic psychology,29(1), 94-122.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychological bulletin,131(6), 803.

Medibank Private (2005). The health of Australia's workforce, Medibank Private, Australia.

New Economic Forum (2014). Wellbeing At Work: A review of the literature. New Economics Foundation, UK.

World Economic Forum (2010). The Wellness Imperative: Creating more effective organisations. World Economic Forum, Geneva.