A Combination of Benefits/Perks Drives Overall Employee Well-Being

Those with poor well-being self-reported, on average, that they are only working at 64% of their maximum output.

The O.C. Tanner Institute 2015 Health and Well-Being Study shows that improved well-being has a large impact on employees, the way they work, and ultimately on the company’s bottom-line. Employees who are holistically well deliver a difference for their teams and departments.

In a white paper, O.C. Tanner explains that well-being is not the same as wellness. Traditionally, wellness programs focus on physical attributes and provide employees with gym memberships, meal plans, and healthy snacks. However, well-being is much more than a measure of physical wellness. It is a measure of a person’s perception of how her life is going—whether it is fulfilling and satisfying, whether she feels her best every day, and where her life is headed in the future. Understanding employee well-being as a holistic life experience reveals a much broader definition of the term—one in which physical wellness, though necessary and important, is only part of the overall well-being story.

For the study, employee well-being is measured and defined through a set of questions modified from leading academic research on human well-being. The study asks employees to describe their current life situation on a 10-point scale both inside and outside of work. In the context of well-being, employees rate their life at work today lower than their life at home and future life. On average, employees rate their life inside work today at 5.24 on the 10-point scale, and rate their life outside work at 6.36. These scores generally move in the same direction—as an employee’s life at work improves, so does their life outside of work and vice versa.

NEXT: Three dimensions of well-being

The study found that an employee’s well-being is largely affected by three dimensions of wellness—physical wellness, mental wellness, and social wellness.

In order to measure physical wellness, a physical wellness index was created using 19 different elements of physical wellness and includes both positive health habits such as seeing a doctor and losing weight and negative health habits such as smoking. Combining these survey questions yields a physical health index with a maximum score of 16 and a minimum score of -1. Overall, the average for the physical wellness index is 6.09. As employees progress from poor physical wellness through to good physical wellness, overall employee well-being scores also improves from a low of 5.22, on average, to a high of 6.66.

Having good social wellness is grounded in work-life balance and the presence of quality, positive interactions with others both at work and at home. From the survey, 16 questions were used to derive an overall social wellness index. Combing these questions yields a social wellness index score between 0 and 6. The distribution of social wellness scores has a range of 5.25 with a low score of 0.75 and a high score of 6. The mean social wellness score from the sample is 3.86. Employees with excellent social wellness had overall well-being scores of 7.21, more than two points higher than those with poor social wellness.

For the study, having good mental wellness is defined by combining 15 survey questions into a mental wellness index. Combining these survey questions yields a mental wellness score between 0 and 6. The distribution of mental wellness scores has a range of 5.47 with a low score of 0.53 and a high score of 6. The mean social wellness score from the sample is 3.89.

The study found that good mental wellness has the largest impact of any individual wellness dimension on overall well-being. The data shows that employees with excellent mental wellness have an overall well-being index score of 7.76, while employees with excellent physical and social wellness lag behind with overall well-being scores of 6.66 and 7.21, respectively. Additionally, the increase in overall well-being between poor mental wellness and excellent mental wellness is 2.26 (more than a 20% increase on the overall well-being scale).

NEXT: Benefits/perks that impact well-being

Those with poor well-being self-reported, on average, that they are only working at 64% of their maximum output. Additionally, those with a poor well-being viewed their immediate work teams more negatively and assessed that their team was only producing, on average, 61% of their maximum output. Those with excellent well-being rate their personal work output as 19% higher (83%) and the work productivity of their immediate team 20% higher (81%).

The study also asked employees about perks and benefits currently offered at the company they worked. Seven benefits impacted overall well-being the most: fair base salary/pay, family emergency leave/family care leave, paid vacation time, maternity leave, open work spaces where teams can meet and collaborate on projects, paid sick leave, and above and beyond employee recognition. These seven benefits saw the largest difference in average well-being between employees who have the perk/benefit at their company compared to employees who do not have the perk/benefit at their company.

Of the seven benefits/perks that most impact well-being, five are traditional benefits: fair base salary/pay, family emergency leave/family care leave, paid vacation time, maternity leave, and paid sick leave. However, O.C. Tanner found employee recognition and open work spaces are of particular interest because they are the only two environmental benefits to have a large impact on well-being. This finding reveals that company culture is just as important to employee well-being as traditional benefits.

The paper suggests that encouraging employees to appreciate one another, educating them on how and when to recognize one another, and empowering them with intuitive recognition tools, are excellent steps to improving employee well-being. When employees feel appreciated, and report being appreciated often, they have higher overall well-being both inside and outside of work at work. In a separate question, O.C. Tanner asked more specific questions about the recognition culture at employees’ companies, and found employees who felt appreciated over the past month had well-being scores 13% higher, on average, than employees who didn’t feel appreciated. 

The report, “The Impact of Excellent Employee Well-Being,” can be downloaded from http://www.octanner.com/institute/white-papers.html.