Chicken or Egg? Engagement or Wellbeing?

Updated: Jan 29

We can debate both topics forever, but the last year has shown us that you can't have one without the other.

According to Gallup, the free-floating anxiety caused by COVID-19 is taking its toll on the well-being of U.S. adults. The stress seems to follow people wherever they go, and that includes their workplace. In the last year, the number of people who classified their lives as thriving dropped to levels last seen during the Great Depression. CareerBuilder's survey in the workplace also finds that 61 percent of respondents are burned out on the job and 31 percent of respondents report extremely high levels of stress.

When employees experience low levels of well-being, they are less engaged. However, when employees feel at their best, their level of engagement rises. Highly engaged employees report higher levels of well-being than their less engaged counterparts. Together, high levels of well-being and engagement can improve employee performance to levels that can't be reached by either one alone.

Psychology Today describes well-being as the "experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress."

Here are some thoughts and research about how to promote well-being and engagement in the workplace to benefit employees and the business:

Re-engage employees with existing well-being programs that can help. About 80 percent of organizations with more than 50 employees have some sort of wellness program in place. However, employees often don't understand all of the benefits available to them, such as mental health benefits, financial planning, flexible work options and time management. Some organizations provide access to life coaches, nutritionists or courses for learning new skills or talents. Spark works with organizations to communicate well-being programs and engage employees in using them. One important message is that it's a good investment of time to explore well-being options. It also is helpful to highlight for employees how different programs can help them manage through COVID-19 and improve their lives in general for the long term.

Connect employee well-being with the mission and purpose of the organization. When employees understand how their well-being affects their ability to be successful in their role and positively impacts the big picture, that provides another layer of information that they can use to grow personally and professionally. Spark has helped manufacturing, financial and service industry employees make this connection. Employees with a strong sense of engagement and well-being report low to zero burnout and increased creativity, according to Gallup. A workforce that feels cared for and connected to the purpose find a greater sense of community at work. The support of leadership and managers and demonstrating follow through on commitments is critical to the success of well-being and engagement, so consistent messaging should be shared with all employees.

Have employees identify the well-being strengths where they already excel. According to Gallup, seven in 10 employees who strongly agree that their manager focuses on strengths and positive characteristics are engaged at work. Gallup recommends that managers have one-on-one or small group meetings where employees can share the elements of well-being that come naturally to them. Employees can learn from each other and the act of spending time on the topic shows employees that you care. Encourage employees to select activities that help them achieve their well-being goals and follow up with them to see how they're progressing and to see if you can help.