Blog Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing in 2023: Still as essential as ever

Recent years have pushed workplace wellbeing into the spotlight. With both the Pandemic and the Great Resignation in the past, it can be tempting to ignore their respective lessons. But make no mistake. Employees are still stressed and disengaged. And that means one thing: That we can't afford to overlook employee wellbeing in 2023!

Updated 25th June 2023

Employers have always had a duty of care to support employee wellbeing. And, even though there's no longer an international health crisis to worry about, it's still top priority. So, let's break down what you need to know to support your people in the modern workplace.

The wellbeing priorities of 2023

In 2021, the original version of this article aimed to tackle the wellbeing challenges of the later days of the COVID pandemic. Obviously, the world of work looks quite different in 2023 than it did back then. And, as such, the pressures on employee wellbeing aren't quite the same, either.

There are some similarities. Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report shows that the records for global stress rates keep being broken. In 2022, 44% of employees surveyed worldwide reported having experienced '...a lot of stress the previous day.'

Gallup also found record-breaking stress levels during the Pandemic. But this was generally accompanied by falling global employee engagement. In 2022, however, Gallup found that global employee engagement had risen to a 'record high' 23%. So, why is employee stress continuing to rise?

Well, the cost of living increase, for one thing. That might explain engagement rising despite high stress. People are working as hard as possible out of necessity. There's more pressure to maintain job security by performing well. So employee wellbeing in 2023 is more about avoiding burnout rather than COVID.

The role of job flexibility in employee wellness

The COVID lockdown gave us the ideal test case to prove that job flexibility works. But remote work certainly existed before 2020. That was simply the year in which business leaders were forced to take a more serious look at it.

Its overall popularity isn't new either, as Buffer's State of Remote Work reports from previous years show that almost all surveyed remote staff want to keep working remotely to at least some degree for the rest of their careers. But it's taken lockdown to show that the technology is there and that working remotely is a fully viable career option. It's simply a matter of checking in with employees to make sure they feel connected to your organisation.

But now that it's been legitimised in the eyes of business leaders, remote work can continue to do a lot of good for employee wellbeing in 2021. For starters, remote work opportunities can support physical wellbeing, as they enable people with disabilities or chronic health conditions to pursue careers which may once only have been available to fully able-bodied applicants.

And that's just scratching the surface, given that remote work is hardly the only option. Core hours, 4-day weeks, part-time work and other flexibility arrangements help people have careers on their own terms. And this is vital, given that ONS figures show over 1.2 million people in the UK have a second job. But other estimates suggest the true number may be even higher.

Burnout and financial wellbeing in 2023

Given the record-breaking stress levels, it's obvious that burnout is a huge risk to employee wellbeing in 2023. Consider the four dimensions of employee wellbeing (physical, mental, social and financial). It's clear that mental health and financial wellbeing are the key elements behind current levels of occupational stress.

Supporting mental health at work

Mental health at work has long been a controversial subject. This is due to the outdated idea that working professionals ought to leave their personal issues at the door when they come into work. But unfortunately, that's not how it works. Supporting employee wellbeing in 2023 means having those difficult conversations.

There isn't just an off switch you can flick to get rid of your anxiety and unhappiness. And the same should be said of things like job stress and work-related anxiety, that follow you home at the end of the day. If someone's job is damaging their mental health, then a few hours on their own after work aren't going to fix that.

People are a lot less likely to talk about their mental health if they think it'll result in them being judged by their colleagues and managers. This is why business leaders need to take a proactive role in acknowledging, discussing and supporting mental wellbeing at work. This means making sure that employees have access to educational resources. But more importantly, it means working with your staff to help them seek effective treatment. Companies that can afford to give employees access to private counselling and therapy can definitely benefit from doing so, but for businesses that can't, simply providing the flexibility for employees to work around their appointments for services like the NHS's IAPT program is a step in the right direction.

But getting people to open up means establishing a dialogue. This is why it's important for managers to regularly check in with their employees. Not only to be able to accurately gauge employee sentiment, but to stay on top of the issues affecting your staff members on an individual level. It's all about establishing a rhythm of two-way feedback between staff and their managers. Supporting employee wellbeing in 2023 should be all about that personal touch.

Supporting financial wellbeing at work

Intrinsic motivation is great. But the main reason people seek employment is to ensure their financial wellbeing. And you may think you're doing enough by simply paying employees a wage every month. But the cost of everything is increasing. Inflation is outracing wage growth. And, while we're not here to talk politics, we do have to address the practical consequences of the cost of living increase.

The problem with poor financial wellbeing is that it spills over into every other area. It's harder to afford food, utilities or health care costs, risking physical health. The emotional stress of financial difficulty keeps people awake with worry, to the point where many liken the sensation to drowning. And, in a world where everything costs money, poverty even cuts people off from a lot of social activities and opportunities.

It's not just about paying your employees more (although that can definitely help). It's about giving them support so they can make effective financial decisions. Give them information resources, deals on utilities providers, loyalty schemes, and anything else you can think of. It's hard to find the time to do things like search for the best deal on an internet provider. So giving your employees that sort of info directly can help to take some of the pressure off.

Employee wellbeing in 2023 and beyond...

In many ways, things have returned to some sense of "normal" in 2023. People are out on the streets, and engagement is on the rise. But we mustn't forget the lessons of the past few years. Record-breaking stress levels show the Great Resignation wasn't entirely successful at shaking things up. Employers need to take a more active role in supporting their people, especially as financial uncertainty continues to grow.

Did you know that giving employees the opportunity to share feedback and write about their experiences weekly has been shown to reduce anxiety? Why not take a look at how we can help.