May 31, 2023

Tackling Community Health at Work

The past four years have been nothing short of challenging for HR. From keeping morale high during the transition to remote work to keeping up with automation and generative AI, it’s become clear that addressing the issues of workforce management will require a strong focus on employee engagement and meeting their expectations.

With flexibility, holistic-health, and work-life balance ranking higher each year on an employee’s list of criterias for a great workplace, leaders need to take these needs into consideration when charting a new path for employee welfare. As we move towards a new era of workplace norms, fostering a positive and productive work environment will require the C-suite and HR leaders to prioritize employee well-being to drive long-term business growth. 

In 2020, large US companies spent an average of ~$10.5 million on exercise incentives, nutrition counseling, meditation classes and more, with the intention of improving employee well-being—yet workers continued to be stressed and burnout rates are still increasing, suggesting that these programs are not as effective as initially thought to be. 

Wellness programs have long been communicated to employees in large organizations as an additional “benefit” of employment, when in actuality, these programs play a key role in talent retention. When wellness is framed as an “auxiliary benefit” rather than a core part of the organization, the success of corporate well-being initiatives gets diluted because it places the burden of action on individual employees, and dismisses the need for leaders to examine the very nature of the work itself. 

For improvements in organizational well-being to occur, leaders need to create a system-wide approach that reevaluates how well-being can be integrated into the design of work itself. In doing so, organizations are able to restructure work such that employees feel and perform their best, strengthening the connection between wellness and business outcomes.

Deloitte’s research has shown that community well-being within an organization is impacted by three factors:

  1. Leadership at every level of the organization
  2. The very nature of the job design
  3. The work culture spanning the entire organization


It’s well known that the pandemic had adverse effects on our collective mental and physical health, but executives today are still grossly underestimating how much their employees are struggling with work-life balance.

Perhaps more alarmingly, Deloitte discovered that only 56% of employees think their executives care about their well-being, while 91% of the C-suite believe that their employees feel like they care about them. In other words, employees are reporting higher levels of stress than what executives believe to be true. With such a large gap in perception throughout the organization, it’s up to the C-suite to meet their employees where they are, and understand what business opportunities, challenges, risks, and benefits affect employees on the day-to-day that are obstructing their health. 

Nature of Job Design

With the emergence of the hybrid workplace, there has been a notable power shift from employer to employee. In a post-pandemic world, many more employees have become vocal about their unwillingness to tolerate jobs that leave them unhappy or in a constant state of stress—yet the expectations of the hybrid workplace operate under the assumption of an in-person model, which have been detrimental to employee sustainability. 

In a survey conducted by McKinsey, 49% of respondents said they were feeling burnt out and were found to be over two times more likely to experience moderate to high levels of burnout. 47% of respondents expressed that the ambiguity surrounding their responsibilities in a hybrid workplace, in addition to a lack of a clear vision from the C-suite, was also hindering their success. With the hybrid workplace here to stay, HR and business leaders need to set clear principles and expectations for success, while also being empathetic towards how these policies may affect employee well-being. 

Work Culture

Professors Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and George Ward of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre found that employee well-being is made up of four outcomes: personal happiness, satisfaction at work, feelings of purpose, and stress. Together, these outcomes are determinants of work culture, and perhaps can explain why employees may not be faring well in a hybrid workplace. 

New approaches are needed to fashion a hybrid workplace culture that inspires, cultivates, and prioritizes employee engagement. Well-being is the foundation of every organization’s success: happier employees are more productive, more engaged, and more likely to stay. 

Although well-being remains a top priority for both employees and executives, few organizations have actually addressed matters of community health or detriments to well-being within the workplace. With a greater proportion of the workforce demanding better from their employers, the prevailing wisdom is that a happier, more engaged workforce can lead to better business outcomes beyond the bottom line.

Human potential is the greatest untapped asset that an organization can possess—and executives who put well-being first can create a healthier workforce that is invested in the organization.

Kyra Au
Digital Marketing Associate

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