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The Importance of Workplace Wellbeing

17 November 2017

For a long time, good employers have been looking for ways to help recruit, retain and engage employees to help them perform at their best. The thinking behind this is simple: when people are supported, or even feel supported, they exert discretionary effort – and so the cycle of productivity and workplace engagement starts. While people have known for a long time that wellness is key to employee presence and performance, our awareness of this has spiked over the past few years and our attention has turned more fully to what is now coined ‘wellbeing’. It seems it is no longer simple enough to offer flu jabs and EAP services simply to tick the wellness boxes. Increasingly employers are being pressed to extend their boundaries, with the demand of employees driving this, for more scope in support for 'wellbeing'.

To highlight this increased emphasis on wellbeing at work, we partnered with the Resilience Institute to take a look into the state of wellbeing in New Zealand workplaces; what was being done well, what the barriers to success are, and what the future looks like. The result is our latest whitepaper: ‘What is Workplace Wellbeing? The New Zealand Perspective’

Here are a few of our key findings.

Employers Are Confused About What Wellbeing Is

Our survey found that there is significant confusion in the market around what wellbeing actually is; with many including flexible working initiatives, Employee Assistance Programmes, Health & Safety initiatives, and engagement surveys under the banner of wellbeing. While these things do play a part in employee wellbeing, they’re mostly “below-the-line” initiatives, in that they’re either required by law or have become the status quo. While important, they don’t constitute going above and beyond when it comes to wellbeing.


Taking the steps to elevate your wellbeing initiatives, while certainly requiring a concerted effort across the organisation, does have its benefits. The key drivers for employers to continue to focus on wellbeing initiatives were employee satisfaction, employee engagement, organisational culture, and productivity. Other benefits included lower employee turnover, lower absenteeism and a higher level of candidate being attracted to the company. With these in mind, it’s easy to see why organisations would see workplace wellbeing as an increasingly important part of their employment offering. However, alignment between employee demands and the employer’s offering is crucial to this working effectively, and this is something that our survey found to have a high degree of misalignment.

There is a Serious Disconnect Between Employers' and Employees' Views

Our survey found that employers are often not providing what their employees are seeking when it comes to wellbeing initiatives. In many cases between the employers and employees we surveyed, employers were less than halfway to meeting employees' expectations. As a prime example, while 44% of employees are asking to have access to stress management programmes at work, just 22% of employers are providing this.


Part of this is natural; with a diverse workforce, employees will always want more than employers are apparently able to give, as employers seek to standardise and provide for the majority. Employers don’t want to become invasive in staff members' lives, but equally they see the benefits of creating access to information, services and support that reduce the barriers to employee engagement and performance at work.


With 83% of employees saying that wellbeing is important to them when looking for a new job, organisations will need to look for new ways to define and enhance their wellbeing offerings to attract talent. Looking across our research the initiatives employees want and the initiatives employers are progressively delivering are many and varied. Doing something is essential and getting it right could weigh favourably in workplace engagement and performance.

Closing Thoughts

Our earlier whitepapers which explored Talent Management, Organisational Culture and Flexible Work Design provided useful insights, but our survey in wellbeing demonstrated these types of initiatives are both essential and important. While an increasing number of organisations are aware of the importance of wellbeing initiatives, the dialogue between employers and employees needs to improve so that there is a better alignment between demand and offering. If not, organisations may well face an uphill battle to keep their best people, and lose out on other skilled professionals to companies who are more willing to put wellbeing at the top of their employment offering list.


If you’re looking to learn more about the state of workplace wellbeing in New Zealand, get in touch to receive a copy of our latest whitepaper: ‘What is Workplace Wellbeing? The New Zealand Perspective’.


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