‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’; ‘People come here to
work not to enjoy themselves’; ‘This well-being stuff makes people feel good,
but what good is it to the business?’
Statements like this are rife, as are the misconceptions about well-being and
its value to the business. Unfortunately, widespread lack of understanding about
the bottom line benefits of looking after your employees means that managers and
organisations do not give it the attention it deserves.
Motivated well-being combines motivation (in other words driving force and
direction) with well-being (that is underlying energy and psychological health)
to produce a state in which individuals, teams and organisations achieve maximum
Most organisations say that people are their biggest asset, but many fail to
put the mechanisms in place to keep them operating smoothly and efficiently. Yet
without the impetus of motivation and the underlying stability of well-being, it
is impossible to sustain the performance necessary for success.
Think about what your business is trying to achieve. Every organisational
goal, from customer service and productivity to maximising profitability, is
directly affected by those put in place to deliver it. The old truism that
you’re only as good as the people you employ rings true.
There’s plenty of evidence in the form of case studies and research to indicate
just how much motivation and well-being impact directly on the key productivity
factors of performance and absenteeism.
But what is the evidence that focussing on the well-being of your employees
adds value to your business? Well, look at it in another way in terms of the
cost of ill-health to organisations.
About half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress at a
level they believe is making them ill, with up to five million people in the UK
feeling ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work, according to research by
the Health and Safety Executive.
A total of 12.8 million working days were lost to stress, depression and
anxiety in 2004/05 alone.So ill-health adds cost to any organisation, but does a
focus on well-being add any value? Here, it’s important to make the distinction
between pressure and stress. Pressure in work is not necessarily a bad thing.
Indeed, most psychologists agree that the right amount of pressure is a good
thing it leads to challenge, which can be extremely motivating. But if the
individual’s capability of rising to the challenge is exceeded by the challenge
itself, the result is stress.
Too much pressure will lead to burnout and too little will lead to rustout.
In a recent study of more than 18,000 people, the link between psychological
well-being and productivity in 15 public and private sector organisations in the
UK was examined.
Motivated well-being was measured using a tool that takes into consideration a
combination of factors including motivation, stress, commitment and health.
The results showed that three factors accounted for nearly a quarter of all
of the differences in productivity in the 15 organisations. These were
psychological well-being, perceived commitment from the organisation to the
employee and resources and communication.
It is clear that well-being has an enormous impact on productivity at work,
possibly bigger than any other factor. Burnout is generally accepted as an
extreme form of stress. What the research demonstrated, however, is that poor
well-being is an antecedent of burnout.
More significantly, though, is the clear link between employee commitment and
productivity. A lot of time and effort has been spent on looking at individuals’
commitment to the organisation and it is often naturally assumed that the
organisation will be committed to the employee. Our research shows that this
issue of organisational commitment is something that business needs to pay more
So, what can we do to improve the level of well-being in our organisations?
First, it requires senior management to recognise well-being as a key business
Addressing well-being is not just about being nice to staff, it is about
ensuring that they recognise the difference that motivated well-being can make
to employees’ lives and, subsequently, to an organisation’s performance.
Second, the most straightforward way of improving the well-being of your
organisation is to conduct an audit. This will reveal aspects of the working
environment, which will lead to increased well-being and, just as significantly,
those areas that need to improve.
Third, you can build resilience into your organisation. Resilience training
individuals and teams to improve their management of pressure.
This research provides compelling evidence for the relationship between
well-being and productivity. It also confirms the importance of well-being as a
strategic organisational level issue as well as an individual health issue.
Investing in employee well-being is more than just doing the right thing it
is also beneficial to productivity and profitability.
Professor Binna Kandola is the senior partner at occupational
psychologists Pearn Kandola
The well-being audit
There are five key stages to putting in place a well-being audit. But before
you start, it is crucial to secure senior management buy-in. An audit is useless
without a real commitment to act on the findings.
1. Market the audit internally
The benefits to both individuals and the organisation as a whole of any
well-being audit need to be communicated to the whole workforce. Make sure
employees understand why it is important for them to participate and how they
stand to gain personally as a result.
2. Survey staff
Surveys need to be distributed, either by paper or electronic means, and
should address work relationships, work overload, work-life balance, job
security and pay and benefits. Focus on employees’ perceptions of the sources of
workplace pressure, commitment and health outcomes.
3. Collect the data
Asking good questions is only the starting point. To make the exercise truly
valuable, data needs to be thoroughly analysed to identify areas of concern and
‘hotspots’ of best practice.
4. Conduct focus groups
Face-to-face focus groups should be carried out with groups of employees to
obtain in-depth information on the reasons behind the survey results. The
emphasis must centre around realistic solutions and priorities for improvement.
5. Act on the findings
Make sure findings are properly fed back to the organisation, preferably via
a project group and to senior management. A detailed written report should be
prepared, including recommendations for improvement, which can then be developed
into a comprehensive action plan.
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