Does employee well-being affect the workplace? Most people intuitively answer yes, and we’re seeing more and more evidence to support this belief through the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index® data and other research. One recent analysis showed that employees with the lowest well-being scores cost businesses about $28,800 per person per year in lost productivity due to sick days, while those with the highest scores cost only $840. But what about examining the relationship from the opposite side? Does the workplace affect well-being? It’s an equally important question, and as it turns out, the answer is also yes—in many ways.
Let’s start with getting to and from the workplace. An analysis of WBI data found that the longer the commute, the lower the overall average well-being score. About one in five U.S. workers spend more than 30 minutes getting to work. Those who do are more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol, and experience neck or back pain. When compared to individuals who work 10 minutes or less from home, those with a one-way commute longer than 90 minutes are more than 42% more likely to report feeling worry for much of the previous day. They’re also 9% less likely to report feeling enjoyment, and 14% less likely to report feeling well rested. They also exhibit more anger, experience more stress, and eat more poorly.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans reported work as a significant source of stress in a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association. Another report indicated workplace stress can be linked to heart disease, apart from other health factors such as weight, smoking, or family history. People with higher self-reported levels of stress have measurably higher cortisol levels—a hormone that, if elevated over time, can lead to negative health symptoms and disease. One study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a 30% difference in rates of heart disease between those with positive perceptions of their work environment and those with unfavorable perceptions. The study measured aspects of the work environment influenced by management, including getting criticism, praise, and information from a boss.
Reducing Stress & Boosting Well-Being
Organizations seeking to reduce workplace stress—and positively impact well-being—might consider:
- Offering flexibility in work hours or work-at-home options to reduce commuting stress.
- Providing management development programs that encourage positive on-the-job feedback and strengthen supervisor skills in areas like interpersonal communication
The Healthways Well-Being Assessment™, a comprehensive tool for measuring well-being within organizations, considers other influences on work environment, including:
- An individual’s level of satisfaction with the work
- The ability to use professional strengths on the job
Is your organization taking steps to boost well-being through a better work environment? Please share your thoughts and strategies.