Skip to content
Perceptyx Consultant Roundtable: Trends in Employee Well-Being

Consultant Roundtable: Trends in Employee Well-Being

In the third installment of our Consultant Roundtable series — you can also read the first and second installments — we examine trends and developments related to employee well-being, a topic that has continued to increase in importance since the beginning of the pandemic.

Making Well-Being Initiatives Count

Bradley Wilson, Director of Consulting Excellence: “This was something that came up a lot in 2020, the whole idea of people transitioning to remote work and the lines between work and home life getting blurred. It's interesting then to see, two years later, this concept of Quiet Quitting being discussed, which some people are characterizing as, ‘Well, it's actually setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.’ I think there's definitely a perception issue there for organizations. One of the ways to deal with this is to establish clear roles and responsibilities along with how we're managing objectives.”

“There was a talk that Microsoft put out two months ago, and they discussed this source of anxiety, which stems from employees being concerned, not knowing how their performance is being judged by the organization, and then going above and beyond and feeling like they need to constantly be on and responding quickly even while technically away from their desks. As layoffs within technology and other industries spread, I think that's going to be an additional source of anxiety.”

“When it comes to helping people manage stress, anxiety, and burnout, one of the really important things is to make sure that this is central to the employee experience and the way that they engage with their work, their managers, and their colleagues, rather than thinking that this is something that we can solve through extra things, adding additional tasks. HR initiatives are often well intended, but if an initiative is not addressing the core employee experience, it won't have the intended effort.”

“When we're dealing with limited resources — every organization has limited resources and we all have limited time — sometimes we're diverting resources away from the core experience and investing in things that people are opting out of or they're not taking advantage of anyways. We need to remember that well-being initiatives can't be something that we stack on top of an already full plate. They need to be at the center of employee experiences for our people.”

The Importance of Data-driven Insights on Employee Well-Being

Lauren Beechly, Director of Client Consulting: “We need to use data to reach the root cause of these issues that are driving stress, burnout, and overall well-being. For initiatives that are happening, we need to use data to understand whether they are effective at all. If not, should we course-correct?”

“I see this playing out in a couple of different ways. One is continuing to ask about well-being topics on anchor census surveys and on deep dive pulse surveys around stress and well-being. We continue to see that as part of listening strategies to get at the root cause of what's going on, and additional data to track over time whether we are making improvements.”

“The second way I'm seeing data used is when an initiative is rolled out or a change is made that we think is impacting well-being. I'm seeing organizations use data to evaluate the effectiveness of that very quickly to know if we need to course correct or not. We've had several organizations that will do a pre-measure of stress and well-being, then implement some sort of change. After that, they’ll do a post-implementation measurement to see if the change had the intended effect.”

“We have other organizations measuring whether their people know certain well-being programs exist. Are their people using these programs? Then they look at data from those who have used certain programs versus not, noting the differences in their employee experience, their reported stress, overall well-being, and other outcomes. We saw one organization look at what impact their recognition programs have on well-being.”

If we look at research, typically the pattern we see is the more recognition that you receive or give tends to have better outcomes, including outcomes around well-being. This organization decided to look at its own data. For one form of recognition, they found that positive relationship. But for a second form of recognition, they found the inverse, and actually, the more of this type of recognition someone received, the greater they felt stress. Their intent to leave the organization also increased.”

“What this data highlighted was that the organization was rewarding the wrong behaviors. We're rewarding those sacrificial behaviors, those unsustainable behaviors. It gave real data telling the organization, "We need to course correct. We need to change the behaviors we're rewarding through this program to do things that are not only beneficial for our customers, but also for our employees." This is going to continue to be important and we need to use local data to understand how we're making progress in terms of well-being overall.”

Understanding How Layoff Anxiety Impacts Well-Being

Emily Killham, Director of Research and Insights: “Anxiety plays into well-being. While some people are more anxious than others in general, I just completed some research specifically on layoff anxiety as all of the news of layoffs has started to continue to snowball, and one interesting thing that organizations can control — while they can't control the macroeconomic conditions causing the layoffs — is that rumors of layoffs within an organization created more anxiety in employees than official communications that layoffs were coming.”

“How can organizations control the experience that our employees are having and build the level of trust and understanding within an organization that says, “We are going to communicate with you. We may not know all the answers.” The communication doesn't have to be perfect or polished, but it does have to be authentic. And we know that leaders who did that during the pandemic when nobody knew anything saw a better employee experience overall across their organizations than when that communication is much more guarded and held close to the vest.”

Gender and Well-Being

Michael Mian, Ph.D., Principal Consultant:“ One of the things I've been seeing is that there is evidence that as staffing begins to stabilize in organizations, workload sentiments are improving. You would think that would have sort of a stabilizing effect on sentiments around burnout. However, I'm seeing just the opposite. Burnout is still a problem, and there are some demographic differences. For example, women are more likely to report having more frequent feelings of burnout than men, especially women in managerial or leadership positions.”

“This isn’t entirely surprising. So some of the research will tell you that female managers have been doing more than their male counterparts in supporting their teams, working with their employees to manage workload issues, and just doing a better job in terms of promoting team member well-being. In addition to that, consider all the traditional roles that women typically play as caregivers in their households. So that obviously adds to burnout sentiments as well.”

Some of our more proactive and advanced organizations are implementing some of the more typical things you might see, like mental health programs, providing more flexible work arrangements, and looking or re-looking at their rewards and recognition programs to recognize people who go above and beyond. I think what's more impactful is training leaders on how to listen, whether that be in one-on-one conversations or looking at our survey data and being able to pinpoint where in the organization we are having burnout issues: what group of employees, what departments, what specific groups. Being able to target those groups with the right interventions is where they're seeing some benefit. I think it's also about giving leaders skills to communicate and talk about mental health, and then being able to support their people adequately.”

Well-Being Amid Rising Incivility and Violence in the Workplace

Lauren Beechly, Director of Client Consulting: “One more topic as it relates to stress and well-being that we've seen really rise in 2022 is around workplace violence, unfortunately. There has definitely been a rise in incivility, both between employees and also employees that are interacting with the public. There’s lots of research out there on why stress is one of the biggest contributors to why we've seen this rise in incivility. Our own research showed 92% of nurses have witnessed firsthand violence within just the last month alone. Another study shows across industries, 78% of those in public-facing roles say they've witnessed it directly or secondhand in terms of incivility.”

“From our customers, we're really seeing three different approaches, along with others which are combinations of the three. The first is measuring this topic on listening events. This is important not only to get data to track over time and to get ideas of how to improve it, but it's also communicating to your employees, ‘This is not okay. We want to understand this. We need to continue to take steps to make this better.’”

“The second thing we're seeing is policies, and in some cases even codes of conduct, for customers. You're a customer, and here's how we expect you to behave. If you are not going to follow this, you are out the door. This communicates to your employees that you have their back and this will not be tolerated in the workplace. For the third approach, we've continued to see this focus on kindness, which sounds simple, but a lot of people today don't know how to be kind. Common courtesy isn’t all that common!”

“We're seeing training specifically on how to de-escalate when incivility happens. You need to stop X behavior or else I can't achieve Y outcome for you. For example, ‘Stop yelling at me so I can process your refund.’ We're also seeing training in terms of kindness. What are those behaviors we can show upfront to prevent the incivility from even happening in the first place?”

I will say one thing, when we think about experiences, it happens either by design or by default. Unfortunately, the default mode today results in increases in incivility. I would encourage all of us to take a moment and think about how we are designing our experiences for our customers and for our teammates in a way that we're promoting kindness, thereby reducing some of these negative effects we're seeing in the workforce today.”

Perceptyx Can Help Your Organization Prioritize Employee Well-Being

For organizations, the benefits of well-being support and services are clear — both for your employees and for your business. If you aren’t yet offering some type of resources for your employees, employee listening can give you data-based insights on where to start. If you are offering resources and services and want to understand their efficacy or how you can improve them, a mature listening program can help you understand how well these might be working and whether you are delivering what employees are telling you they need. Reach out to Perceptyx for more information.

To watch the rest of our consultant roundtable, click here.

Subscribe to our blog

Opt-in for our weekly recap and never miss a post.

Getting started is easy

Advance from data to insights to focused action