Workplace Wellness

Recent studies have discovered a drastic increase in occupational stress and well-being issues. People are distressed due to the pandemic, economic uncertainty, war in Ukraine, and global warming. Layoffs, as well as pay insecurity, aggravate mental health problems among employees of many companies that still rely on traditional work conditions instead of providing flexibility or support from managers. It is evident that those who can offer their staff stability around payment and employment will eventually benefit significantly by improving employee mental health.


The lowest levels of poor mental health and highest productivity were reported among hybrid workers. Unfortunately, those who had to switch between working in an office, outside, or in factory-like spaces suffered from low productivity rates. Many companies have made an effort during the pandemic to create health and wellness programs, but there is still minimal research on their efficacy.


Within the last few years, employees have felt increased stress on their physical and psychological well-being, productivity, and loyalty to employers. During and since the Covid-19 pandemic, individuals caring for family members are feeling added pressure from daunting financial concerns as well as fear of potential climate change effects. All these factors contribute to a notable rise in strain across our workforce today.

Causes and Effects of Poor Workplace Mental Health

Vitality’s survey of 8,500 employees from 65 different organizations exposed a startling surge in mental illness and anxiety. Additionally, sickness absences, as well as presenteeism (or unproductive working) heightened in recent years since the outbreak of Covid-19, have forced employers to switch over to remote working setups. This data serves as an alarming reminder that we must take proactive steps to ensure our employee health remains a priority during such challenging times.


The most current data from 8,500 employees in 65 organizations, recently collected by British health insurer Vitality for their survey, reveals a stunning surge in mental illness and anxiety compared to previous years. Additionally, it points out concerning trends like the abrupt rise of remote working due to lockdowns and infection-control mandates brought on by Covid-19 — leading to further sickness absences along with “presenteeism,” which is the presence at work without being productive.


A survey by British health insurer Vitality, which surveyed over 8500 employees from 65 different organizations, demonstrated a startling rise in mental illness and anxiety compared to years past. Additionally, it points out concerning trends linking sickness absences and presenteeism (or unproductive working) to increased disconnection since the pandemic outbreak. This data is an alarming reminder of just how difficult life has become for so many individuals after the pandemic.


Balanced Work Environments

According to the survey, those with a hybrid work pattern of office and home were found to have both high job satisfaction as well as minimal presenteeism and absenteeism. On the other hand, workers who had to be away from their homes in factories or retail stores showed lower productivity levels than others.


Since the start of the global pandemic, employers have been increasingly focused on their employees’ well-being in order to promote growth within their organizations. This influx of attention has led to new solutions being explored, ranging from mindfulness apps to redesigned job roles and duties. As a result, the wellness industry thrives with numerous corporate wellness programs claiming to nurture health and is an invaluable asset for any business.


Lack of Research

Experts studying this topic caution that there is a lack of extensive research on the influence and efficacy of different interventions, as well as little to no randomized control trials. Although various small pilots have been conducted, they’re often inadequately evaluated or reported. The one fact we do know for certain: yoga alone cannot solve deeper-rooted mental and physical health issues. However, while it does not address the main structural causes behind such conditions, mindfulness should not be disregarded either.


Selective Access

In 2019, a thorough analysis dubbed the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study was released that investigated the effects of an all-encompassing employee wellness program over two years. The results? While employees who participated in this wellness initiative reported good health, there appeared to be a pronounced selection bias. Those partaking were typically wealthier and healthier compared to their peers who could have potentially benefited from it most, including smokers or people with higher medical costs.


Economic and Employment Insecurity

Employers may say they prioritize employee well-being, but the second there’s a hint of an economic downturn, programs and personnel are often cut. For too many workers these days, it has become commonplace to experience restructuring practically every year. Unfortunately, its effects on their state of mind aren’t fully grasped until after they have moved on from that job.


During restructuring, employees are often ridden with stress and worry due to the fear of losing their job and providing for their families. Though they may be grateful for having a job in the first place, many feel like they have something to prove amid coworkers being laid off at any moment. All while leadership remains unaware of how their decisions affect morale. An abundance of studies spanning four decades have illuminated the damaging impacts layoffs can bring forth, such as higher rates of suicide, overeating, substance abuse, and more.


The Importance of Workplace Well-Being

When the pandemic hit its peak, many employers began implementing wellness initiatives to help manage recruitment and retention struggles. However, these efforts waned rapidly once economic downturns became imminent.


Recent research has revealed a relationship between the presence of windows in work environments and increased employee morale and productivity. Although these outcomes are promising, caution should be taken before making any sweeping generalizations for practical application. To truly understand the impact of well-being on workplace success, we must conduct comprehensive studies exploring topics such as supportive teams, mentorship, autonomy, adaptability, and purpose within strong social networks. It’s widely agreed upon that we must confront the deeper-rooted organizational issues tied to job culture and management practices, as mentoring responsibilities, cooperative relationships, and adaptability are integral in improving employees’ overall well-being at work.


Employers have taken up the mantle of wider issues in recent years, with those achieving the best results appointing chief medical officers and crafting plans to promote physical and mental well-being as well as greater flexibility. However, line managers grapple with both limited resources to foster a supportive work culture while also struggling with their own personal problems, often at an age when they are most unhappy themselves.


Systemic Reforms are Necessary for Workplace Wellness

I could not agree more that systemic reforms are necessary. Yet, what kind of modifications need to be made? We must address the underlying structural difficulties related to leadership and workplace atmosphere. It’s time we reconnect with our employees, understand their worries, and consider their solutions attentively. Instead of encircling ourselves with yes-men who will only convey what we want to hear, we need to listen carefully to those who aren’t afraid of dissent because they genuinely wish for success in the long run. Making well-being a business priority is no longer optional. A unified team that supports each other and works together not only yields strong financial returns but also allows them to achieve the purpose they serve for their customers, communities, and themselves.


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The Union Workforce Initiative is for educational, training, and awareness purposes only. This is not an Employee Assistance Program. We help build awareness within the workforces of employer/employee assistance professionals, substance abuse professionals, nurses, doctors, and other educational professionals.