Businesses globally are working hard to create happier, healthier and less stressful workplaces.
But the stats prove, our best efforts generally fall flat.
We make the right noises about employee wellbeing, but employees are getting unhappier, unhealthier and more stressed. And workplaces are paying an ever-higher price, in lost-time and eventually lost-people.
Here’s the story. And the fix.
Nearly 60% of adults in the UK experience stress at work, according to the
More than 20% say they experience moderate-to-high stress several times per week. (Moderate-to-high! Several times per week!)
That’s a Big Deal.
For your people, because it impacts their health and wellbeing.
65% of stress sufferers report sleep loss, for example. 47% report anxiety and 35% admit to comfort eating. Those are definitively Bad Things.
And for the business, because (as you well know) your people drive business success.
So when 37% of stress sufferers admit their concentration falters, and 32% concede they’re less productive, you worry. Add 22% who say stress makes them disengaged, and you worry more.
Then add the final 10% who admit they take sick days because of stress. And the 7% who say they look for a new job as a way to escape stress.
And the business case for busting stress is clear.
But despite many companies’ best efforts to curb the problem, it’s getting worse.**
** That’s why one of our most popular articles is our piece, ‘
That’s equivalent to employees starting work on 19th February each year. In 2014, that was 1st February.
And wait. There’s more.
Your youngest hires are most vulnerable to stress, the
They’re especially at-risk for mental health issues, with 17.5% of 18-to 20-year-olds and 12.5% of 21-to-25-year-olds suffering from depression. That’s more than double the average for other age groups. Only
Then these age groups are also twice as likely to have been victims of bullying, and more likely to have serious financial worries. They’re more likely to smoke, and more than half have issues with sleep.
Which adds up, because overall 18-to-20-year-olds lose nearly 46 days to absence or presenteeism. Not good.
Especially not good when the composition of the workplace is shifting to include more and more younger people.
And it’s not just young people.
Stress especially hurts women. Like, 28% of women aged 60-to-64 suffer from depression, compared to 17% of men.
And like, 20% of mothers report harassment or negative bullying behavior from colleagues during pregnancy or after returning from maternity leave.
Which means overall, women lose more working hours to absence or presenteeism than men. (15.1% to 12.1% respectively; that’s more than a 20% difference).
The facts are clear.
Which is interesting because it’s not for want of effort.
In fact, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2018 looks at 128 organizations across the UK and finds each offers an average of 20 different health and wellbeing initiatives (like offering fresh fruit and cycle to work schemes). That jumps to an average of 35 initiatives amongst medium-to-large businesses.
So what’s going wrong?
One issue is, only 27% of employees are even aware their company offers such initiatives.
The second issue is, these employee wellbeing initiatives often focus in the wrong places. So uptake remains low because employees don’t believe they’ll be useful.
But most employee wellbeing programs ignored these issues, instead focusing heavily on nutrition and exercise.
So initiatives like healthy lunch options, clinical screening services and free gym membership were rife.
But employees most struggled with issues like unrealistic time pressure and demands (50%), lack of a voice in the workplace (30%) and lack of control over the work they do (28%).
There’s a gap between what employees need and what we’re giving them.
Empowering your workforce to be happier and healthier is about culture more than about discrete wellbeing initiatives.
It’s about creating a culture where your people feel heard, supported, respected and empowered.
Building a culture like that starts the moment you hire, with your employee onboarding program. It has to, because undoing a negative first impression is almost impossible. And because stress is much harder to undo than prevent.
And because starting a new job is often a huge cause of stress, especially for younger hires entering the workforce for the first time.
There’s a real opportunity to differentiate here, because most companies are pretty terrible at onboarding.
Onboarding seizes the wellbeing bull by the horns, addressing the core issues that undermine employee wellbeing.
Best-practice employee onboarding sets the tone for your future interactions with your new hire. It helps them build the support network to combat stress throughout their career. And it sets a culture of inclusive employee wellbeing from day one.
Poor employee wellbeing is a big issue, and it’s getting bigger. Our efforts to curb the problem are largely failing.
The answer is to start earlier and take a more holistic approach. “Fixing” employee wellbeing isn’t as simple as introducing initiatives like fresh fruit, free gyms and flexible working.
It’s about setting a culture of wellbeing from the moment new hires start. And that starts from employee onboarding.