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These 4 areas are hurting employee well-being

Published by: LifeWorks,

Hank, an employee who is normally always on the ball, has been missing deadlines in recent weeks. During the last department meeting, he lost his temper. He even struggled to focus while giving a presentation and has begun isolating himself during lunch.

Drastic changes in behavior like this are HR’s “bat-signal.” These are signs of a deep-rooted issue surrounding employee well-being. And as HR professionals know, poor employee well-being has a huge impact on individual and overall quality of life and work performance.

The best way to address employee well-being is by looking at every aspect of the employee experience — in and out of the office — to determine where you can help. After all, the healthier and happier the employee, the better the worker.

Research shows these are the top areas that impact employee well-being:

More (and better) sleep

The idea of ‘burning the midnight oil’ is dead because we all know the importance of a healthy sleep schedule. In fact, an October 2017 Glassdoor study found that two-thirds of American workers say they’d be better employees if they got more sleep.

But a March 2016 CareerBuilder survey, conducted by Harris Poll, found that 58 percent of workers said they weren’t getting enough sleep, and 61 percent said that sleep deprivation affected their work. What’s more, the survey found that 44 percent said that just thinking about work kept them up at night.

It’s a vicious cycle — sleep deprivation hurts employee performance, but work keeps employees from sleeping.

Canadians are also struggling to get a good night’s rest. A September 2017 report released by Statistics Canada found that about one-third of them slept fewer than the number of nightly hours recommended. Nearly half of them didn’t consistently have a refreshing night of sleep.

Where you come in: Engage employees with a bit of healthy competition. Have employees use sleep monitoring apps to monitor their sleep and determine who gets the most rest each week. Then, award the winners with relaxation-related prizes, like bath bombs and essential oils.

Also, create a rest area in your workplace to encourage short naps. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep Health Index found that allowing employees to take a 20 to 30 minute nap during the day increases productivity. When employees have permission and access to a relaxing environment, they can quickly recharge in between tasks.

Financial Freedom

Personal finances play a big role in the total employee well-being picture. One of the biggest stressors for North American workers is debt from student loans and credit cards. According to research from Equifax, the average Canadian now owes $22,081 in consumer debt.

The debt-stress factor is prevalent in the workplace. As a 2016 report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) found, 66 percent of employers say their employees are stressed over debt.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Employee Financial Wellness Survey revealed similar numbers with 53 percent of employees surveyed saying they’re stressed about their finances. And those who are stressed are more likely to be distracted by their finances at work, miss work on account of their personal financial issues, and cite health issues caused by financial stress.

Where you come in: Help employees by showing them how to create a strategy to manage and minimize their debt:

  • The debt snowball method: pay off debts in the order of smallest amount owed to the largest amount owed.
  • The debt avalanche approach: pay off debts in the order of highest interest rates to the lowest interest rates.
  • The debt blizzard method: pay off the smallest debt first for motivation, then pay debts with the highest interest rates.
  • The spending fast: only spend money on necessities, including debt payments, to prevent adding more debt for unnecessary wants.

If after educating employees they still struggle to manage their finances, point them to other options, such as refinancing student loans with a lower interest loan or speaking with certified financial planners.

Time off

Many people think certain work martyr traits, like not taking breaks, are signs of a hard worker. However, these behaviors tend to do more harm than good.

Project: Time Off’s 2016 study found that 47 percent of employees are unhappy with their job and 46 percent of those unhappy with their company believe that being seen as a work martyr by the boss is a good thing.

This mindset burns employees out and encourages unhealthy habits. To make matters worse, it might be partially your fault. The study also found that 65 percent of employees said their culture says nothing about, or sends discouraging or mixed messages about, taking time off.

This discouraging message about time off impacts Canadians, too.’s 2016 Vacation Deprivation surveyfound that Canadian workers leave three vacation days unused, which represents nearly 31 million unused vacation days in a year.

Where you come in: Create a work-life balance committee, a group of employees who encourage self-care practices that help others establish a healthy balance. Additionally, consider offering bi-weekly remote work days. Every other Friday, encourage your staff to work outside the office.

The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 80 percent of respondents said that organizations that allow for highly flexible work arrangements has a very/fairly positive impact on their overall work-life balance. So, make flexibility a priority.

Stress management

Workplace stress is unavoidable. It’s when it becomes chronic that it’s a major issue. The 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey report from Willis Towers Watson found that about three of 10 employees reported severe stress, anxiety, or depression within the last two years.

Employees are seeking help managing their stress, and now is the time to give it to them. Our latest survey found that stress management training is a top mental/emotional health initiative that employees are interested in.

Where you come in: Offer stress management training, but don’t underestimate the size of the issue. The scale needs to be company-wide. Provide managers on every level with training on how to manage their own stress and how to help their teams do the same.

Designate free time each month for employees to participate in stress-relieving activities, like playing games or taking walks outside. After all, all work and no play makes for poor employee well-being.

Make your employees feel loved