• Workers won’t settle for the bare minimum when it comes to wellbeing. Forty-six percent of them say their expectations around work happiness have increased in just the past 12 months.
  • Pay is important, but it’s not the only factor workers care about. Fifty percent of workers cited stress or dissatisfaction as the reason they start checking out other jobs.
  • When work doesn’t stay at work it impacts your entire life. Eighty-six percent of people report that the way they feel at work affects the way they feel at home.

The past two years have forever changed how companies look at employee wellbeing. Job market changes wrought by the pandemic enabled workers to reflect on what they really wanted, and to find new, better-fitting roles or take on career-defining pivots. As a result, they simply expect more from work.

Wellbeing is no longer a nice-to-have at work, according to Indeed’s 2022 Work Wellbeing Insights Report. It’s now a must-have. So employers should consider wellbeing at work as a true business strategy that boosts performance, increases retention and talent attraction, and reduces burnout. 

To better understand shifting perceptions around work wellbeing, Indeed commissioned Forrester Research to survey more than 5,000 U.S. professionals. The results reveal what people are seeking from their workplaces and what companies can do to meet their needs. Let’s dig in.

Workers demand more from their employers — and fair pay is only one slice of the pie

Fair pay is consistently at the top of the list when it comes to what employees say they want. Companies that value their employees compensate them equitably for their labor. However, fair pay is just the starting point; it may attract someone but it likely won’t keep them happy or thriving. Other factors like stress, lack of satisfaction and unhappiness are taking on greater weight than they did prior to the pandemic.

Chart showing that 46 percent of people say their expectation around happiness at work has increased in the last year.

The average person spends about a third of their life at work. And the data shows that they want that third to be more positive and more meaningful. When comparing year-over-year numbers, 46% of those surveyed say their expectations for happiness at work have increased over the past 12 months. When we look at the number one reasons people seek new opportunities, we see that 39% of people report pay as the driving factor, followed by stress (26%), dissatisfaction (24%) and unhappiness (20%). Workers are no longer settling for situations that don’t benefit them — they’re quicker to look for greener pastures.

Chart showing that, when people look for other jobs, 39 percent say it’s because they are not paid fairly, 26 percent say it’s because they feel too stressed, 24 percent cite lack of satisfaction with their job, and 20 percent cite not feeling happy at work.

How people feel about work impacts their entire life, and companies should care about that. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed, 86%, believe that work should provide more than just a paycheck. 

Stress can be a morale killer for workers, but not all stress is bad

American culture sometimes perceives overwork as a virtue. Americans work more hours than any other industrialized nation, beating out other countries like Japan and Germany. But when employees are constantly faced with stress and not encouraged to prioritize their wellbeing, their passion for delivering on goals eventually takes a hit. Those long hours plugging away at the keyboard, waiting tables or grading papers leads to decreased motivation, which leads to more mistakes and poor performance. In the survey, 59% of workers felt that sustained stress “debilitates performance and productivity.” 

A chronically stressed employee is likely no longer learning or growing (56% of those surveyed say so), and that leads to employees wanting to leave the organization. When stressed at work, 50% of employees lose the ability to concentrate, 40% make more errors and 33% are more likely to “express themselves poorly” at work by snapping at colleagues or speaking more aggressively.

When employees are stressed, 50 percent say they lose the ability to concentrate, 41 percent say it makes them less motivated, 40 percent say they make more mistakes, and 33 percent say they speak harshly to others

One caveat: Not all stress is created equal. There’s positive stress (sometimes referred to as eustress) and negative stress (also known as distress). With proper leadership and the right mindset, a worker may view a healthy amount of stress as a challenge to be embraced, becoming three times more likely to stay focused and accomplish more in a short span of time. Negative stress could result from poor relationships or poor communication with management and colleagues, and its impact can be toxic and debilitating, driving workers to disengage with their jobs.

Employers should treat wellbeing as a success metric

The data shows that happy workers equal better workers, and employers that treat workplace wellbeing as an afterthought do so at their own peril. Yet many companies don’t actively prioritize it. Only 49% of those surveyed felt their organization is measuring happiness and wellbeing. For companies that do measure happiness and wellbeing, those employees are 80% more likely to stick around for the next year. Employee dissatisfaction has a material cost, not just to workers but to the overall success of the business. Nearly 60% of employees believe that their wellbeing is integral to the health of a company as a whole.

Chart showing that 80 percent of people say it’s important to see information around employee wellbeing when considering a job at a company.

With the guidance of happiness and wellbeing experts, Indeed collects and shares key insights around employee wellbeing on employer profiles across Indeed. Why do we do this? Because 80% of job seekers look for information about employee wellbeing when they are considering a job opportunity. 

When employers cultivate a culture of wellbeing, everyone wins 

But where do you begin? You can’t manage what you don’t measure. So the first step is to start measuring employee wellbeing. Conduct internal wellbeing surveys periodically to get a read on how employees feel, or analyze your company’s work wellbeing data on Indeed to get a snapshot.

A second move is to train and leverage your managers. Manager action or inaction can be a driving force for worker satisfaction. Only 51% of those surveyed said their managers create actionable plans to reduce workplace stress.

Finally, build your understanding of what drives wellbeing. Indeed measures four key indicators of wellbeing — happiness, stress, satisfaction and purpose. We also look at key drivers such as “foundational needs,” which are aspects like fair pay, flexibility and trust; “social needs” like belonging, inclusion, support and appreciation, and being well-managed; and “growth needs” such as learning, achievement and being energized by your work. By examining all of these holistically, you’ll have a better idea of where your organization stands.  

Employers have options and resources when it comes to reducing stress and supporting wellbeing, and by taking proactive steps to measure and manage worker satisfaction, companies can embed wellbeing into their culture, ultimately attracting great talent and benefiting from increased productivity and retention. And that makes work work for everyone.