Today’s workers face a montage of social issues ranging from recession concerns to geopolitical turmoil. This doesn’t even account for the stress of balancing both personal and work responsibilities or dealing with work-related stress, including long work hours and in some cases a second job, toxic work environments and job insecurities. It’s easy to see why stress among today’s workers is at an all-time high.

So, how are workers dealing with this stress? Is it impacting their overall and workplace wellbeing? While the effect of these issues varies from employee to employee, there’s no denying that employee wellbeing impacts business outcomes such as productivity, retention and profits.

This article takes a closer look at the state of employee wellness across the globe and how your workforce's wellbeing can negatively or positively impact your business. It also explores the role company leaders play in creating a healthy workplace environment where employees can thrive.

download our state of employee wellness infographic for a more detailed look.

download our state of employee wellness infographic for a more detailed look.

download our employee wellness infographic

what is workplace wellbeing?

Studies show that 80% of executives vowed to make employee wellbeing a top priority. Unfortunately, during the same period, 90% of workers felt their work life worsened. Somewhere, there seems to be a disconnect between employers' desire to boost employee wellness and their ability to make a real impact. 

Perhaps employers misunderstand the idea behind wellness and what workplace wellbeing really means. When most people think about wellbeing they think of physical health. While being physically healthy certainly impacts your overall wellness, workplace wellbeing incorporates so much more, including mental, occupational, social and economic factors.

Well-being is defined as the “state of being healthy, happy and prosperous.” Workplace wellbeing often describes the series of incentives and programmes employers invest in to promote employee wellbeing. This doesn’t mean just offering perks and benefits that make your employees happy. It refers to creating a comprehensive strategy to develop a safe working environment where employees can be happy, satisfied and engaged. 

the state of employee wellbeing across the globe

In the latest Global Employee Life Evaluation by Gallup, only 35% of the global workforce said they believe they are thriving, and 56% reported struggling while nearly 1 in 10 workers said they were suffering. 

This statistic shows that today’s workers are facing challenges when it comes to wellbeing. But it’s not the only study with these kinds of results. 

In another survey of workers across the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada, only 63% of workers ranked their physical health as good or excellent, and the numbers go down from there. Only 58% felt the same about their mental health and 45% regarding their social health; only 35% ranked their financial health as good or excellent. This shows that workers aren’t just struggling in one area but face a variety of issues. 

At the end of the day, no employees are exempt from physical, mental and financial stress or its impact on their overall wellbeing and performance on the job. Today’s employers are starting to take notice. As mentioned above, 80% of global companies are now prioritising employee wellness. In fact, the global workplace wellness market is expected to grow to over $93 billion by 2027.  

While more employers seem to be offering wellness perks, benefits and services, workers may not be using them. A recent study shows that 68% of workers are not using all the wellness tools and resources available to them. Many of these workers complain that some of the initiatives are too confusing and time-consuming. So, there’s still work to be done.

check out our infographic for a closer look at the state of employee wellbeing around the world.

check out our infographic for a closer look at the state of employee wellbeing around the world.

download our employee wellness infographic

factors impacting employee wellness

Clearly, statistics show there’s a problem with workplace wellbeing. There’s not one single factor impacting employee wellness. Instead, today’s employees are facing a variety of issues that can negatively impact their wellbeing.

difficulty maintaining a healthy work-life balance

While the global pandemic is well in the past, it brought to light the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. During this time, workers were forced to work from home while simultaneously caring for their children or ageing parents and taking care of other personal responsibilities. Although work has returned to normal for many employees around the world, the desire for a healthy work-life balance remains.

In fact, according to our 2024 Workmonitor research, the importance of work-life balance is equally as vital to today’s workers as salaries. Our survey shows that 60% of UK workers wouldn't even accept a role if they thought it would negatively affect their work-life balance. If your company isn’t offering some level of flexibility in your employee’s work schedule, you’re at risk of losing them to a company that does.

The good news is that giving your employees more flexibility to deal with personal issues during the workweek can help improve their overall wellbeing. For instance, being able to take time off to attend doctor or counselling appointments can improve your workers’ physical and mental wellbeing. Helping employees achieve a healthy work-life balance can also improve retention rates and boost your recruitment efforts by making your organisation a more attractive employer.

high-stress jobs lead to worker burnout

Those working in high-stress jobs, such as healthcare, retail, manufacturing and logistics, are seeing an even greater impact on their overall wellbeing. Working long hours in high-pressure work environments can take its toll on workers' mental and physical wellbeing.

According to a report by Mental Health America, 81% of those working in stressful workplace environments reported that work-related stressors impacted their overall mental health. Additionally, 73% of these workers felt that this stress had a negative impact on their relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

This can easily lead to worker burnout and entice your employees to look for work elsewhere. According to a recent study, many of today’s workers around the globe are exhausted (43%), stressed (42%), overwhelmed (35%) and depressed (23%). These factors have led to 63% of global workers feeling burned out at work, with women impacted more than men.

Group of people working behind their computers at their cubicles at the office. Focused.
Group of people working behind their computers at their cubicles at the office. Focused.

blue collar vs white-collar stress

When studying the state of employee wellbeing between blue-collar and white-collar workers, you’ll find mixed results. Some reports show that the physical demands, including heavy lifting, manual labour and long hours, blue-collar workers face can significantly impact their physical and mental wellbeing. Other studies show the high-pressure work and tight deadlines many white-collar workers face can impact their mental wellbeing, and working long hours at a desk can also wreak havoc on their physical health.

However, a recent scientific study shows that blue-collar workers often face more significant health issues than their counterparts. Unfortunately, they are also less likely to make full use of employee health initiatives at work. Employers in blue-collar industries, such as manufacturing and logistics, must take steps to encourage workers to make their physical and mental health a top priority.

ongoing economic concerns

There’s no doubt that today’ economic turmoil is impacting employee wellbeing. First, inflation and recession concerns are causing workers around the world to struggle with financial wellbeing. For some workers, this means taking on more overtime hours or a second job. For others, it means cutting costs. Either way, it’s putting additional pressure on workers.

Secondly, the economic downturn is forcing companies across industries to focus on budget restraints. This has led to layoffs for some and extra work for others. Stress regarding these issues is evident in our 2024 Employer Brand Research survey, where workers rank long-term job security as the third leading driver when choosing a job.

unhealthy work environments

Toxic work environments don’t develop overnight. When issues, such as bullying, harassment and ostracising, are left unchecked, it can quickly create an environment that impacts your workers’ wellbeing. In fact, toxic workplaces can cause stress, burnout and anxiety among your workers — all of which impacts morale, retention and productivity. In Latin America, the desire for a pleasant work experience is so important that workers in this region rank it as the second most important driver for changing jobs.

link between wellness and business outcomes

There’s no denying that poor employee wellbeing is costly. The World Health Organization states that mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are costing businesses around the world $1 trillion a year, mostly due to lost productivity. 

Workers don’t have to have mental health issues to cause a dent in your bottom line. Another study shows that unhappy employees are costing American businesses upwards of $550 billion annually to lost productivity due to absenteeism, illnesses and worker burnout. 

Even if poor employee wellbeing only impacts a handful of employees, it can cause a ripple effect throughout the business that impacts morale and job satisfaction. Additionally, high levels of absenteeism in the workplace force other workers to pick up more overtime hours and handle other duties, both of which can lead to employee burnout and increased turnover rates. 

The good news is that wellness programmes in the workplace tend to provide an excellent return on investment. While you might not realise the financial benefits overnight, 90% of employers who initiated a workplace wellness programme saw an improvement in both employee performance and productivity

Additionally, studies show that workplace wellness programmes can result in increased productivity (23%), reduced absenteeism (27%), and enhanced employee engagement (43%). Overall, studies show that employee wellbeing initiatives can provide a return of $3.27 in reduced healthcare costs and $2.73 in lower absenteeism for every $1 spent. 

leadership’s role in creating a healthy workplace culture

Some employers believe wellness is an issue employees should handle on their own. They believe that each employee is responsible for their own wellbeing. However, according to our 2024 Workmonitor research, over 27,000 employees, 12% believe that it is the duty of the employer to help manage their mental wellbeing.

This may be true to a point — after all, you can’t force employees to focus on their own wellbeing. However, the fact that wellness connects to business outcomes makes it an issue that employers simply can’t ignore. To build an effective workforce that can overcome the stress impacting your workers on-the-job performance, your organisation must make employee wellness programmes a top priority.

While you can’t force employees to take action, you can provide the tools they need to improve their physical, mental, emotional and financial wellbeing. Company leaders and stakeholders must take the lead in implementing employee wellbeing programmes and initiatives as well as promoting and utilising these offerings.

The first step to boosting employee wellbeing is to understand its current state, how it's impacting workers across the globe and what factors affect workplace wellness. The details in this article can help you better understand these factors, which can help identify areas within your own organisation that are impacting wellbeing in the workplace. This is a good place to start when developing wellness initiatives for your workers. 

about the author

jonathan alonzo

director - industrial & inhouse services

stay up to date on the latest recruitment and labour market news, trends and reports.