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Business Journal

Small Shifts in Well-Being Have a Big Impact on Performance

Business Journal

Small Shifts in Well-Being Have a Big Impact on Performance

Managers should know that serious health and work problems can arise from even minor dips in employees' well-being. Here's how they can address this problem.

by Jennifer Robison

Small shifts in an employee's well-being can make a big impact on performance. What may appear to be a minor decrease on a well-being index -- 5 points on 100-point scale -- can have an outsized effect on people's health and work productivity. Indeed, Gallup's analysis shows that poor well-being accounts for 600 unhealthy days per 1,000 employees per month.

When managers work on their own well-being, there is a better chance their employees will follow suit.

"Small decreases in well-being may not seem like much," says Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup's chief scientist for employee engagement and well-being. "But poor well-being is strongly related to absenteeism and 'presenteeism,' or when people show up to work but aren't active, effective, and productive."

For example, if one employee rates her well-being as 75 on the well-being scale and another worker rates his as 70, the worker with lower well-being will have:

  • 18.6% higher risk of sleep disorders
  • 15% higher risk of anxiety or depression
  • 14.6% higher risk of diabetes
  • 5.9% higher risk of hypertension
  • 6.3% higher risk of obesity
  • 0.6 unhealthy days in the past 30 days

Fortunately, the converse is also true. Gallup's analysis finds that a five-point uptick in well-being predicts improvement in employee engagement, and engagement has a similarly beneficial impact on well-being and productivity.

Managers should lead by example and connect employees to well-being programs that meet their needs

Well-being programs will resonate better with employees if managers enroll in them, Harter believes, because there is a cascade effect from manager well-being to employee well-being. When managers work on their own well-being, there is a better chance their employees will follow suit. And managers can raise awareness about the importance of well-being and help employees understand the organization's well-being offerings by sharing their own experience with these programs.

It's likely that managers will find they have an easier time getting engaged employees involved in well-being initiatives. "Improving well-being with company-sponsored programs is an uphill battle if people are disengaged," Harter says. "People are more likely to trust the intentions of company programs if they are engaged. And engaged employees are 21% more likely to be involved in well-being programs because they're more attuned to what their company offers."

The best way for managers to get employees involved in well-being initiatives is to lead by example and connect employees to well-being programs that meet their needs. "If you know your employees' goals, you can set a framework that helps them understand your company's well-being programs and how they're personally relevant," Harter says. "It doesn't take much of an effort, but it can make a big difference to employees -- and to their performance."

The Five Essential Elements of Well-Being

For more than 50 years, Gallup scientists have been exploring the demands of a life well-lived. More recently, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists, and other acclaimed scientists, Gallup has uncovered the common elements of well-being that transcend countries and cultures. This research revealed the universal elements of well-being that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering. They represent five broad categories that are essential to most people:

Jennifer Robison is a Senior Editor at Gallup.
Gallup

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