Are you prioritising your people to drive business performance? Are you using the best benefits benchmark? What benefits are most valued by employees, and what is currently being offered? All these questions and more are answered in Gallagher Australia’s latest piece of research: The Workplace Wellbeing Index.

Wellbeing is a priority for many, yet not experienced by all. There is a significant opportunity to support employee wellbeing. When organisations do, they will reap the rewards of improved business performance.

The important of wellbeing has been accelerated by several trends, such as increasing requirements for employers to ensure the psychological and physical health of their employees and the increasing cost of workers’ compensation claims for work-related mental health conditions. There is also a social shift, where employees are demanding that their work fits with their life, rather than fitting their life around work.

Gallagher surveyed 1,660 employees throughout Australia – mainly full-time and part-time – across organisations of all sizes. Employees in a wide variety of sectors and industries were asked whether they were working on-site, under a hybrid model or remotely. There was also a roughly even split between genders and between those in leadership and non-leadership roles.

One of the aims of the research was to provide an APAC benchmark for Australian organisations that conduct their own employee wellbeing surveys.

The research conceptualised employee wellbeing in terms of emotional and physical health and having a sense of purpose at work. It considered how wellbeing is affected by aspects of a person’s life; the work environment (such as supportive leadership, psychological safety, and aspects of a person’s job); and individual factors (psychological and personality factors). It then delved into how employees’ level of wellbeing translates into outcomes like employee engagement, performance and absenteeism.

“When organisations take responsibility for employee wellbeing they can reap the rewards of higher engagement, increased performance, and reduced absenteeism”

While this dissatisfaction with base pay and incentives is evident and understandable, the data confirms money alone is not the most important factor shaping an employee’s experience. The results confirm what is most important in influencing employees’ wellbeing and engagement at work are those aspects of the work environment that relate to psychological safety, support from their leader, a sense of purpose and connection, and, finally, the emphasis or priority the organisation places on employee wellbeing.

The data reveals an opportunity for employers to step up their efforts – 25 percent of survey respondents said they had unfavourable wellbeing programs and employees with more positive wellbeing programs showed stronger engagement, lower absenteeism, and higher intentions to stay.A third of employees have taken time off to tend to wellbeing in the last month but half of the survey respondents said they hadn’t taken wellbeing time off when they should have.

There is a significant opportunity for organisations to support employee’s wellbeing at work. When organisations take responsibility for employee wellbeing they can reap the rewards of higher engagement, increased performance, and reduced absenteeism.

When seeking to boost wellbeing, organisations often start by creating an employee benefits program. Despite their best intentions, organisations often do not know which strategies will work best and sometimes this spend can be misguided. Traditionally popular benefits such as social events, free food, and shopping discounts can be superficial and not highly valued. Instead, employees are seeking flexible working arrangements, additional superannuation contributions and professional training and development. These benefits enable employees to fit work around their life, imagine a secure future, and strive for continuous growth.

When seeking to design a benefits strategy to recruit, retain and boost employee wellbeing, organisations often look outwards; asking other leaders what works and analysing their competitors. Looking outwards, in combination with asking your employees what they value will ensure you are well placed to create an appealing benefits strategy that delivers a return on investment.

“Too often speaking with clients we hear of wellbeing or benefit strategies that were implemented with the best intentions and at significant cost but fail to be utilised by employees. Engaging with your workforce to understand what is important and valuable to them can provide compelling and practical suggestions around where you can focus discretionary spend or, equally, identify benefits currently offered that the workforce just isn’t seeing as important,” says Dr. James Allen (PhD Org Psych) of Gallagher's Benefits & HR Consulting Division. “As the competition for talent continues to strengthen, a more dynamic and targeted approach is called for to ensure organisations remain attractive to both current and prospective employees."

There is a way forward for workplace wellbeing, and one of the best places to start is by engaging in a conversation with your people. Employees are more favourable towards organisations that provide them with a platform to voice their feedback. However, voice without action can backfire. Organisations must ask, listen, seek to understand and respond with action. When this is done well, employees report higher wellbeing, engagement, intentions to stay and willingness to go above and beyond in their roles. Organisations that remain open to feedback and willing to change course when needed, can stay ahead of the curve in creating an environment where their people can thrive and flourish at work.

“A real focus for organisations is ‘What do we need to do to attract, retain and keep employees motivated and engaged?’” says Allen. “This research provides a great foundation to assist organisations to first understand and then address these challenges.”