How to Promote Employee Well-being in the Workplace: Global Study

How to Promote Employee Well-being in the Workplace Global Study

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Researchers at Great Place to Work and Johns Hopkins University Partner on Study that Reveals Key Insights in Promoting Employee Well-being

What is employee well-being? How can leaders create a company culture that nurtures employee well-being? Leaders are asking these questions because not knowing the answers means missing out on a key driver of effective teams and a thriving business.

At Great Place to Work®, we partnered with researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School to engage in a special employee well-being study.

What is employee well-being in the workplace?

Promoting employee well-being in the workplace means looking beyond people’s physical health and type of work they do. These two dimensions are important yet only part of the complex blend of experiences shaping people’s well-being at work. When employees consistently have positive experiences across areas that contribute to a high level of well-being, they can flourish inside and outside of work.


We surveyed over 14,000 people from 37 countries to better understand factors in the average worker’s day-to-day that contribute to employee well-being in the workplace. We then contrasted those findings with Great Place to Work’s global database of millions of employee surveys to identify drivers and practices used by Best Workplaces™ worldwide to improve employee well-being.

Four out of five employees are not flourishing at work.

“Employee well-being was important before the pandemic,” says Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. “These past two years further revealed how essential it is, firmly placing employee well-being as an essential element of the new world of work.”

Because of the potential impact on the future workplace, there is a growing urgency to address employee well-being. This has inspired leading companies to develop better approaches for understanding and improving employee well-being.

To attract, retain and sustain great talent, HR leaders now focus on supporting holistic well-being at work, including:

•  Mental/emotional support

•  Financial health

•  A sense of purpose

•  Personal support

•  Meaningful connections

How are most companies doing in these efforts? Not great. Overall, we find that four out of five employees are not flourishing at work.

“The global data shows us that only 17% of workers are in a high state of well-being, what we would call flourishing,” states Professor Richard Smith at Johns Hopkins University. “Unfortunately, nearly as many, 14%, are in a low state of well-being.”

While experiences of well-being vary slightly between geographical regions, the benchmark remains low worldwide.

The same is true across industries. Even industries where employees return the most positive results – such as in financial services where one in five employees are flourishing – the vast majority still report a workplace climate that does not allow well-being to thrive.

Why are employees not flourishing in the workplace?

The reasons behind these low results go beyond the impacts of the pandemic. Employees worldwide consistently experience serious gaps in purpose and connections, two core aspects of employee well-being.

In our study, a clear deficit of purpose at work emerged. Many workers lack the experiences of meaning, fulfillment and progress needed to flourish. Among respondents, 42% reported not finding meaning in their work, while 37% indicated they felt their work does not make a difference.

Our study also revealed another barrier to higher levels of well-being: a pervasive absence of authentic and caring connections at work. Around the world, 25% of employees feel lonely at work. Another 32% do not feel they belong.

And it’s even tougher for employees from marginalized communities. Employees are 9% more likely to feel lonely at work if they identify as part of a marginalized group based on their ethnic origin, race, color, religious beliefs or place of birth.

Key Aspects of Employee Well-being at Work

While there are many considerations that can lead to creating a climate of well-being in the workplace, our study centered on five broad areas of employee experiences:

  • Mental & Emotional Support – Working in an environment that builds and sustains positive mental energy
  • Sense of Purpose – Experiencing a sense of fulfilment, meaning and progress at work
  • Personal Support – Working in an atmosphere that feels safe and respectful, particularly in the amount of flexibility, control and support provided in accomplishing goals
  • Financial Health – Believing work is fairly compensated and supports financial security and freedom of choice
  • Meaningful Connections – An environment characterized by authentic and caring relationships between employees

Employee well-being benchmark in SINGAPORE

These patterns all held true in Singapore. Among local survey respondents:

0 %
report experiencing a high-level of well-being at work

Many lack meaningful connections:

Few consistently find purpose in their work:

There is hope

Experiences of well-being are much better at the World’s Best Workplaces. Across the globe, 61% of Best Workplaces employees consistently experience well-being. These companies thrive as a result. When employees work in a climate of well-being, they are:

•  three times more likely to intend to stay with their employer

•  three times more likely to recommend their employer to others

These are two essential advantages for attracting and keeping great talent.

What are these great companies doing? Our research identified several emerging trends in practices these workplaces are using to drive higher levels of well-being at work.

“There is a significant body of scientific research behind the measures of well-being and the psychological constructs,” says Smith. “At the same time, there is a bit of ‘art’ in the way that managers and employers can address the collective and individual needs in the workplace.”

How to promote employee well-being

  • Make a habit of measuring employee well-being: Employees’ needs are always evolving and individualized. This makes surveying, listening and measuring essential tools for understanding employees’ current experiences and tailoring strategies to support them.
  • Send powerful, simple signals that well-being matters: Letting employees know their company and leaders care is a crucial first step in acknowledging the emotional burdens employees may be facing and that their organizations support them.
  • Connect employees with human experts: Well-being needs personalization, making coaches, experts and counselors critical resources to guide employees in developing strategies and skills for their own situations, strengths and values. This is particularly true for mental health, an area where the Best Workplaces are rapidly expanding their support.
  • Activate local champions: Well-being is an experience shaped by the personal interactions and group dynamics that employees experience daily. Enabling employees at the team level to serve as role models and advocates can inspire others to also advocate for a climate of well-being.
  • Foster an environment of ongoing development and learning: Improve employees’ capacity to achieve better well-being with self-development courses, mentorship and open communication about professional goals and work-life harmony.
  • Empower people to shape their contribution: Allow employees some level of autonomy in their work while linking their role to the outcomes of the organization. This can help provide a sense of control and purpose – key elements in fostering a sense of well-being.

By creating a climate of mental and emotional support, a sense of purpose, personal support, financial health, and meaningful connections, business leaders can provide a foundation for positive well-being that allows employees to flourish.

“While the numbers can be daunting, there is so much hope on the horizon for employee well-being,” says Bush. “Great workplaces are showing us all a better way is possible. When that happens, employees everywhere will thrive and reach their full potential.”

Want to know whether your employees are experiencing well-being at work?

Get in touch with Great Place to Work to survey your employees and benchmark your company culture. With our Trust Index™ survey you can measure employee well-being at your workplace and identify clear areas of opportunity

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.