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Business leaders rank employee well-being as top priority, struggle how to measure impact

LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell CEO study investigates the impact of mental health and well-being in the workplace.

LifeWorks, a leader in workplace well-being solutions, has released its findings from a recent qualitative survey of 25 US-based CEOs, investigating the impact of mental health and well-being in the workplace. The majority of leaders agree that the importance of employee well-being is increasing, according to the findings. In particular, executives recognize the importance of having effective programs in place to help attract top talent, retain key employees, as well as reduce absenteeism and increase engagement. Yet measuring well-being or the impact of their programs is proving a challenge. All respondents are in agreement on the need for a more comprehensive well-being index.

Michael Colucci, CEO of Idilus LLC, a Professional Employer Organization, said, “Employee well-being ranks number one, because your organization is only as good as the people that you have working for you, and their well-being determines how successful or unsuccessful you're going to be.”

Employee-First Strategy
The majority of CEOs surveyed agreed that the importance of employee well-being is increasing. One executive stated that “employee well-being programs are becoming more of an expectation rather than a perk.” Whereas this once might have been exclusively the domain of the HR department, there is now a greater understanding among CEOs that employee well-being is vital for creating a productive, engaged and loyal workforce.

According to a CEO from an engineering firm, “I don’t believe that customers should come first, I believe that employees should come first. It’s a tenant at my company. It is a cornerstone of my company to have happy well-adjusted employees.”

Executives surveyed recognize the stress their employees face, with concerns ranging from financial stress to issues around family and home life. Family illness, divorce, childcare and eldercare were key areas, but employees were also concerned about job security and health issues. They also indicated that they saw EAP as a foundational component of well-being.

Another executive said, “If my employees are unhappy or they're going through whatever stresses that they are encountering at home in their personal life, they bring that in. If you have a big team environment that we work in…it can cause absenteeism. People who aren't focused at work, it creates delays with projects so things get backed up at work.”

Millennials and Well-Being
There is a growing understanding among company leaders that programs supporting employee well-being are critical for both attracting talent and retaining staff. Millennials, in particular, are seen to be more focused on a company’s culture and well-being approach, but there was also the recognition that anxiety in the workplace was affecting employees at all ages, and therefore wellness needs to be considered at a company-wide level.

Isolation Among CEOs
Unsurprisingly, the majority of CEOs said that they experience significant work stress, but many of them believed that they were successful in compartmentalizing that anxiety, and almost all noted how important it was for them to mask anxiety and stress as part of their everyday lives.

The results show how the burden of leadership impacts many CEOs. Executives surveyed are aware of the contagious nature of workplace stress and how they need to contain their emotions with the larger workforce. Nearly all the CEOs questioned also felt some form of isolation in the workforce, and recognized that this was a concern for their well-being and work.

How do We Measure Wellness?
Among those surveyed, there is no consistent approach to how their companies tackled improving employee wellness in the workforce, or even how they measured workplace wellness. While the majority said they measured the success of the well-being program with business-critical factors such as retention of employees, satisfaction in their role and employee engagement – these outcomes are something that CEOs set as a priority for CHROs.

All the respondents agreed that a comprehensive employee well-being index would be helpful to their business and many noted that they currently do not have a stable measure or index for their well-being program, with each using different KPIs and metrics. Almost all mentioned the use of some form of EAP or external wellness support, but many did not believe that their employees engage with the support provided as much as they could and there was little way to measure the success of that engagement.

Ushering in a New Era of Unified Well-Being
Paula Allen, Vice President of Research, Analytics and Innovation for Morneau Shepell said, “Employee wellness is increasingly critical to business success and at the top of the agenda for many CEOs and even board members. But executives still struggle with methods to properly execute and evaluate that support. LifeWorks is positioned to address these concerns. We partner with organizations to support their employee’s total well-being – physical, mental, social and financial – in a preventative, holistic, high-engagement approach. For users, LifeWorks provides confidential mental health and well-being support through a personalized well-being app with direct access to help 24/7. For leaders, we deliver the tools to track the mental health and well-being of the workforce and show direct impact over time.”

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell provides the right care at the right time to people, organizations and communities across the globe so they can grow and thrive. LifeWorks is a unified well-being solution that helps organizations effectively support their workforce to stay happy, healthy and productive. Powered by the company’s global strength, clinical expertise and LifeWorks’ human-centric, leading technology, LifeWorks helps employers and their people achieve more than a traditional Employee Assistance Program can provide. LifeWorks partners with its customers to address their people’s total mental, physical, social and financial well-being at every stage of their journey. As the world's most extensive employee assistance provider, LifeWorks supports employees and their families around the world – any time, any where – so they can manage work, health and life challenges. Recognizing that employers can’t address what they don’t measure, LifeWorks puts actionable KPIs at the center of its solution.

About the Study
The LifeWorks Workplace Mental Health study – the first of its kind – is a qualitative survey of 25 Presidents and CEOs, living in the US, who manage companies with more that 1,000 (global) employees. Interviews were conducted between July 31-September 15, 2019 on the topic of Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace. LifeWorks plans to make this an annual study.

For Further Information:
Morneau Shepell, media@morneaushepell.com
Elise Vue, Peppercomm, evue@peppercomm.com, 415.633.3212