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Well-being in the world of work

For some of us, work lives look a little different than a few years ago, to say the least. More flexibility, freedom, and the ability to work on employees’ own terms has empowered some to thrive. But on the other hand, the blurring lines between work and home lives has caused others to lose a healthy balance, which can spiral into stress and burnout. Since the global health crisis, people are said to be working more than 10% more hours a week on average.

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So how has this impacted well-being around the world? And have workplaces evolved to changing times?

While we can’t make sweeping assumptions about mental well-being, we can dive into the figures. From these, we can see that the time is ripe for building mindful workplace cultures where people have the tools and resources to feel their best. For example, our 2022 Workforce Attitudes Report found that 30 percent of employees say that their work discourages them or actually harms their mental health. 81 percent of those employees surveyed globally agreed that employers have a responsibility to help them manage their mental health. 70 percent also said that they have missed work in the last year due to mental health issues.

What can be done to stop these negative effects in their tracks? As the workplace dynamic shifts, building mindfulness into business culture can foster healthier, happier individuals and workplaces – as well as productivity. As psychologist Dr. Kia-Rai Prewitt says, “When employees feel psychologically safe and valued at work, they take fewer days off for illness, there is less turnover, and they are more productive.” When people are able to manage stress effectively, the better their chances are of improving well-being too. They’re also more likely to become engaged in their work, which translates into boosted business performance. In fact, a report by Gallup revealed that businesses with engaged employees can outperform those without by more than a whopping 200%.

But before we can begin to make a positive impact, let’s consider what mental health really means in relation to work. The World Health Organization describes mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’ While what the WHO describes as ‘normal stresses’ may look different for each person, the key thing here is that well-being isn’t just an absence of disease or disorders – it’s at the heart of how we think, work, manage emotions, and interact with others.

So how can we ignite positive change? It isn’t as simple as delegating the responsibility to one party, but employers do have the chance to play a leading role. Shining a light on the way forward relies on re-evaluating work environments and promoting healthy practices. But it’s not for a lack of trying. Many employers recognize this already and although they are taking the initiative to help their people prosper, often they feel like there’s room for improvement. 56% of employers reported that they would like to do more to support staff well-being, but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.

On the flip side, businesses around the world are making giant leaps of progress from well-being initiatives already in place. They’re seeing the fruits of promoting a supportive, inclusive work environment – even amid hybrid working. For instance, organizations that have employed mindfulness programs to support healthier cultures have benefitted from an 85% boost in attitude towards work, a 74% increase in engagement and a 70% improvement in teamwork and collaboration.

The figures elsewhere point to the need for a cultural shift to drive well-being. More than a quarter of Germany’s adult population (over 20 million people) are affected by mental health each year, and only 18.9% of those people seek assistance. Thankfully, there are a wealth of ways businesses can help their people flourish – not just at work, but at home too. As well as providing the right resources to help employees get a hold on stress, organizations can open up the conversation around mental health to break down stigmas and encourage healthy, open communication.

Employees aren’t just craving tangible benefits, such as insurance perks and practical tools (although these do have a significant influence!). They’re also looking to reconnect with people and leaders – meaningful connections and collaboration are at the heart of a mindful culture. 45% of those polled in a study by the Society for Human Resource Management said they felt more lonely or isolated while at work, and 28% feel less loyalty for their employer. The same study uncovered that 41% of U.S. workers are actively looking or planning to move to a role elsewhere. However, when steps are taken to support employee mindfulness, businesses can empower people with more fulfilling work while improving retention.

We can all agree that people are a company’s greatest asset. When their well-being is nurtured and invested in, the company also thrives. For example, poor employee mental and physical health is said to cost U.S. employers more than $530 billion per year, but the productivity savings they can make from investing in mental health can amount to $300 billion.

While we’ve uncovered just a snapshot of the mental health picture here, the case for adapting to new pressures and workplace changes is evident – building a mindful culture is becoming essential to business resilience. Looking to learn more about mental well-being in the workplace? Read our eBook ‘Mindfulness and the Work Culture of Tomorrow’ to diagnose your work culture and discover how to level up the health and happiness of your people.

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