The Impact of Workplace Wellbeing and How To Foster It
Jocelyne Gafner is a writer and editor for Indeed with five-plus years of experience in content creation. She is passionate about the power of words and their impact on equitable access to information.
Over the past three years, Indeed has teamed up with Forrester to monitor perceptions around wellbeing in the workplace and its impact on individuals, businesses and society. This year’s research¹ indicates that expectations around wellbeing at work continue to increase especially among younger generations, while perceptions of who is responsible for creating happiness in the workplace are shifting.
Read on to learn more about what really drives wellbeing in the workplace and understand what shapes it.
We tend to be wrong about what we think will increase our work wellbeing. We overestimate fair pay and flexibility as the top factors that will contribute to our workplace wellbeing, and while both are foundational needs, feeling energized and a sense of belonging continue to be the top drivers.
Perceptions of who is responsible for creating happiness and wellbeing in the workplace are shifting and expectations are increasing. 57% say their employer is responsible for an individual's happiness at work but 50% believe that their company isn’t doing all it can to improve employee wellbeing and happiness at work.
Workplace wellbeing impacts individual wellbeing. Nearly all (86%) of people surveyed stated that happiness at work affects their mood at home and a majority agree it affects their self-confidence, quality of life, career trajectory, etc.
What we think drives our wellbeing vs. what actually does
90% of people believe that how they feel at work matters and nearly all (96%) of respondents believe it’s possible to be “happy at work, most of the time.” Compared to last year, however, fewer people are happy at work most of the time. What creates wellbeing at work can look different from person to person, but the way we measure wellbeing is the same for all: happiness, stress, satisfaction, and purpose.
There is, however, a large body of research that shows that humans systematically fail to predict what will increase their wellbeing or make them happy, but changing our priorities to better support our wellbeing may come down to having access to the right information. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale and leading happiness researcher recently conducted a study that found that when people know evidence-based approaches to wellbeing their wellbeing increases.
Revealed and stated wellbeing factors
When it comes to the factors that we think will increase our workplace wellbeing vs. those that actually do our survey found the following:
Fair pay and flexibility are considered “table stakes” or foundational needs for optimal workplace wellbeing, but are often overstated and not enough by themselves to ensure workplace wellbeing.
Feeling energized by work tasks and feeling a sense of belonging in a company continue to be the top drivers of wellbeing at work.
As an increasing number of companies offer flexible schedules and better pay to keep up with the current marketplace demands, which continue to skew heavily in favor of the jobseeker, those components no longer hold as much weight as they used to. Although our research shows that fair pay is not a top driver of wellbeing at work, it is important to note that it did increase in importance since last year—possibly due to inflation which has risen 9.1% over the past year.
In fact, fair pay and feeling stressed most of the time (especially due to tight deadlines) are the top reasons employees consider new opportunities. Both components have proven to directly impact wellbeing and can feel beyond the sphere of employee influence. The feeling of being unable to control crucial elements in the workplace that contribute to wellbeing may help explain why an increasing percentage of the population believe it is their employer’s responsibility to create conditions that foster wellbeing at work.
Employees aren’t settling for companies that don’t prioritize their wellbeing at work
67% of respondents believe that wellbeing at work is a right, not a privilege, and our data strongly indicates that this trend will continue to increase with younger generations. When asked who was responsible for an individual’s happiness in the workplace, 57% pointed to higher-ups in the company. Fuel for this shifting perspective may include growing dissent from workers who experienced unsustainable working conditions that reached a climax during the height of the pandemic.
While most employees agree that their wellbeing is tied to the success of their business, our research indicates that fewer agree their companies are prioritizing it over profit.
50% of people believe that their company isn’t doing all it can to improve employee wellbeing and happiness at work
46% of US workers say their expectations around happiness in the workplace increased just in the last year
61% of US employees believe that in ten years, workers will not settle for companies that do not prioritize their happiness and wellbeing.
As long as wellbeing at work remains an elusive and mysterious thing, employees will continue to seek out optimal working conditions through trial and error. Our findings indicate that emphasis on wellbeing at work will only increase going forward.
The impact of work wellbeing on the individual
When we commit to working full-time for a company we are committing roughly half of our waking week-day lives to that company. And while it is possible to try to compartmentalize a toxic or unfulfilling work environment it is not possible to overlook the way our work affects other areas of our lives. Nearly all (86%) of people surveyed stated that happiness at work affects their mood at home.
When asked about the impact of wellbeing at work the respondents said the following:
60% say their wellbeing at work impacts their self-confidence in their professional life
57% say their wellbeing at work impacts their quality of life
55% say their wellbeing at work impacts their self-esteem
50% say their wellbeing at work impacts their personal relationships
To better understand the impact of wellbeing at work on the individual we spoke with Johanna Austin-Azadi a therapist and coach for businesses and entrepreneurs who said the following,
“Wellbeing comes down to our day-to-day lives, whether that is within the workplace or outside of it. When looking at the workplace we need to recognize that while wellbeing is top-down, everyone is a participant in the overarching culture.”
Recognizing your autonomy over your wellbeing and being aware of what to look for within your workplace can help empower you to increase your wellbeing in a holistic way.
Related: Work Well-Being: The Importance of Having Purpose
Learn why having a vested interest in work can elevate the experience itself, and how to tap into more fulfillment at work.
¹ Indeed Workplace Happiness Report, a commissioned study (n=5,026 US adults) conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Indeed, 2022
Work Wellbeing Report, 2022:
For this report, we commissioned Forrester Consulting who surveyed 5,026 active US workers (adults ages 18+ who reported either working full-time or part-time or actively searching for a job, assuming they haven’t been unemployed for more than 2 years).
In aggregate, this data reveals insights around a variety of topics related to wellbeing at work, including general perspectives on wellbeing, happiness, drivers of happiness, impact of happiness and wellbeing at work on business results and different aspects of stress at work
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