Are We Turning a Corner on Employee Well-Being?

After two years of dismal news, employee well-being and employer support are showing signs of improvement

by Brad Smith

After two years of dismal news about employee well-being, could we be turning a corner? Here at meQuilibrium, we have been tracking changes in well-being on a bi-annual basis since COVID-19 upended our work lives almost two years ago. Trends have been generally dismal: every six months we’ve seen declines in positivity, motivation and increases in burnout and job stress. There have been few bright spots.

However, for the first time since our semi-annual well-being self-checks began in July 2020, our December 2021 self-check data  from 6,369 meQuilibrium members shows what might be the beginning of a reversal in what has been a distressing trend in employee wellbeing.

In all this, data from the December 2021 self-check continue to confirm the value of strong employer support for employee well-being. However, perceived employer support continues to trend downward.

Taken together with the downward trend in employer support, the finding that well-being trends have shown improvements for the first time in two years presents a paradox. If employer support is so valuable, and employees report feeling less well-supported, how is well-being on the upswing?

Organizations that had solutions in place before the pandemic had the tools to reinforce employee well-being. After supporting employees strongly during the earliest months of the pandemic, perceived support is likely ebbing because leaders are turning to face the daunting task of re-tooling their organizations in order to remain competitive in a post-COVID landscape. Perceived employer support may also be dropping due to changing employee needs. After navigating the primary and several secondary variant waves of the pandemic, and getting adjusted to new, more flexible ways of working, employees may be feeling better on average while also feeling less in need of employer support. The most important thing leaders can do is keep an eye on trends and adjust accordingly before they become a bigger problem within the organization.


Well-being Trends: December 2020 – December 2021

Well-Being Indicators Dec. 2020 Dec. 2021
Burnout 34% 24%
Job stress 28% 21%
Looking forward to holidays 49% 57%
Intent to quit 17% 14%
Motivation 76% 81%
Want to change work-life balance 37% 35%
Somatic symptoms of stress 36% 34%

The Impact of Employer Support on Well-being: December 2021

Well-Being Indicators Not Strongly Supported Strongly Supported
More positive than negative emotions in a day 29% 52%
Want to change work-life balance 47% 29%
Burnout 34% 18%
Job stres 29% 17%
Motivation 74% 85%
Intent to quit 21% 10%

Top Types of Employer Support

Policies & Actions Valued by employees
Being able to have a flexible work location 52.2%
Managers showing genuine concern for how I was doing 47.9%
Being able to have a flexible work schedule 45.2%
Communication about the pandemic and safety precautions 35.8%
More company holidays where everybody is off work 13.8%
Reimbursement or funding for a home office 13.8%
New tools for virtual collaboration with teams 11.2%
Expanded access to in-person mental health counseling 7.2%
Extended or expanded family leave policies 6.0%
New ways to get to know co-workers
(virtual social gatherings, happy hours)
5.6%
More information to help me understand my employee benefits 3.8%
Virtual mental health counseling 3.3%
Other 2.3%
Expanded support for children 
(e.g., reimbursement, care coordinators)
0.9%
Support for virtual schooling/tutoring 0.7%

Source

For more than 15 years, Brad Smith, Ph.D., has been telling stories using health data. His career includes roles ranging from policy-focused work with the U.S. Government Accountability Office to evaluation-related work for dozens of state, federal and private-sector clients using health services research methods. 

Dr. Smith currently serves as chief science officer at meQuilibrium, leading efforts to harness data to improve the product, enhance reporting to clients and establish the value proposition. 

As the experts in the science and application of resilience, meQuilibrium works with employers to help their employees deal with uncertainty and give HR leaders tools to become more resilient organizations.

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