Dr. Shantha Mohan
"Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person—not just an employee—are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability."
- Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox
The 2023 Workplace Wellness Survey conducted by Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., and Greenwald Research says, “Though job satisfaction remains fairly high, three in ten American workers are concerned about their own workplace well-being.” It adds, “A sizeable minority of workers are concerned about their mental health and emotional well-being, and nearly eight in ten believe employers have a responsibility to help.”
While the above statistics are about the USA, one would find comparable numbers for other countries.
“Very Few Employees Are Thriving at Work in India (Or the world)—The biggest takeaway from the Forrester survey is that only 24 percent of employees in Indian organisations experience high levels of wellbeing at their workplaces. More than three-quarters of all the workers in Indian businesses reported low levels of wellbeing.”
The 2022 McKinsey article, Employee Mental Health and Burnout in Asia: A Time to Act, says, “While one in four employees worldwide are experiencing symptoms of burnout, that figure is even higher for Asia—nearing one in three.”
The call to action is clear: Organizations must work to improve employee well-being. The factors that contribute to employee welfare are multidimensional.
Enterprises must have a plan that includes the elements of wellness:
- Physical and mental health
- Job satisfaction and Professional development
- Work-home balance
"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."
– M.K. Gandhi
With the high cost of healthcare today, enterprises must offer adequate health benefits to their employees. The cost of healthcare should not lead to stress, which then creates mental health problems.
A good healthcare plan starts with analyzing employees’ needs and paying attention to demographics, lifestyles, and other factors. An experienced healthcare administrator or a consultant should be able to analyze the needs, options, and costs to choose an appropriate plan for the employees.
Prevention of workplace injuries must be at the top of the company’s priorities. Employers should provide a physically safe environment and consider ergonomics in workplace design.
In addition to physical health, employers must care for the mental well-being of the employees. Make it easier for employees to voice their concerns and get help. In the US, employers can make available services such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Today, many mental health apps can help with stress management and sleep, which employers can offer. Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness training help improve mental health. Facilities at work that make it possible to practice them would help tremendously.
Providing flexibility to employees in their work schedules can remove some stress. Most importantly, remove the shame associated with reporting mental health issues so that employees can get help when they need it.
Compensate employees adequately and support them through benefits such as retirement plans.
When companies provide perks, they should consider the demographics of their employees and offer different options. For example, for working mothers, having an on-site daycare may be much more critical in reducing stress than membership in a health club.
Job Satisfaction and Advancement
"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap, the job's a game!"
– Mary Poppins
Employees who have job satisfaction are likely to be happy and healthy. Compensation that is market competitive is table stakes. Going beyond that, everyone needs to feel empowered and have the satisfaction of jobs well done.
Train managers to be approachable and coach their team members, giving feedback, both praise for a job well done and constructive criticism, with guidance to do better. Employees must feel they are learning and continuing to grow in their careers.
Financial support for conference fees, productivity tool subscriptions, and advancing their education with tuition reimbursements will all go a long way to foster employee well-being.
Make the job something employees look forward to every day. A work environment built on collaboration, mutual appreciation, a sense of ownership, and celebrating accomplishments is conducive to a joyful team member’s experience.
"I believe job flexibility and remote work for everyone who needs it should be entirely routine. This will give families the chance to take care of home life obligations during the workday without feeling loaded with emotional consequences."
– Indra Nooyi
The term “work-life balance” doesn’t appeal to me. Work is part of life. Employee well-being depends on balancing work and home (or personal life).
Help your employees realize this balance by respecting work and personal life boundaries. Each of your employees is unique, and flexibility in when and where to work is critical to helping maintain the boundary. For example, when I had young children, I stopped working at a specific time every day to be home and spend time with my children. Later in the evening, I would get back to work on my laptop. Of course, not everyone can work remotely, and a good manager is aware of each team member’s circumstances and can create a work plan.
The company leaders must be role models and set examples for the employees to avoid overworking and ignoring their personal lives. This means not scheduling meetings at the end of a Friday or early morning when parents may be getting their children ready for school, etc. It means avoiding sending emails late in the evening and expecting the team members to respond. Today, an email feature allows us to write and send it but delays delivery until the start of a work day. Use it.
Companies must have vacation and time off policies encouraging employees to spend time away from the workplace for rejuvenation and recharging.
Well-Being is Multidimensional
Market-competitive compensation is the lowest bar in a company’s plan for caring for employees’ well-being. Caring for employee health, job satisfaction, career advancement opportunities, and work-home balance will set an outstanding company apart from its peers.
Dr. Shantha Mohan
Software Engineering Leader, Author, Mentor
Dr. Shantha Mohan is a mentor, project guide, and an Executive in Residence at the iLab, Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, she was a global technical leader and entrepreneur, co-founding Retail Solutions Inc., a retail analytics company. She also has over 20 years of experience focused on mission-critical systems to support semiconductor and other high-value-added manufacturing.
Dr. Shantha is a three-time author, has authored Roots and Wings – Inspiring Stories of Indian Women in Engineering, and has co-authored Demystifying AI for The Enterprise – A Playbook for Business Value and Digital Transformation. Her newest book, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles: Tips and Tools for Becoming Better at Leading, was published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis in May 2022.