Leonardo DaVinci is quoted as saying that “everything connects to everything else.” People experience this perspective every day in the sense that every aspect of their life affects every other aspect — whether or not they’re aware of this inescapable relationship. Fortunately, more employers are recognizing that employees’ physical and emotional wellbeing affects how they perform on the job. That’s one reason why 41% offer a wellness program and an additional 29% expect to adopt this benefit by 2019.1
What employers may not realize is how significantly their culture and work environment can influence wellbeing outcomes — for better or worse. Consider how the effects of stress on employees’ personal and professional lives take a toll on physical and mental health. Workplace- induced stress has been linked to depression, diabetes, absenteeism, disability and employee turnover.2Medical research also shows a relationship between chronic stress and opioid misuse.3
These findings underscore a valuable insight. It’s important for employers to have both effective wellbeing initiatives and a workplace culture that doesn’t inadvertently undermine these initiatives or employers’ larger objectives.
The strength of a resilient workplace
Realistically, it’s not possible to eliminate stress entirely. But employers can equip their employees to manage stress and the challenges that cause it in wiser, more agile ways. Helping employees develop resilience is one key opportunity.
Resilience in a work-life integration context means the ability to withstand, grow and adapt while weathering personal, professional and societal stressors. As the interest in workforce resilience increases, more resources are being developed to help employees strengthen this skill. The growth of support options is a healthy development for employees and employers alike. Research shows that resilience among employees is associated with reduced stress, greater job satisfaction, work happiness, organizational commitment and employee engagement.2
The benefits of resilience extend beyond improved wellbeing for the individual. That’s because individual resilience helps build organizational resilience, making it easier to withstand the inevitable ups and downs of striving to achieve organizational goals.
It’s important for employers to realize that workforce managers can make or break their culture.
Managers’ influence on workplace culture
Workforce managers can make or break workplace culture, and equipping them to help build a better employee experience is one of the biggest challenges employers encounter. In many cases, managers have technical expertise but aren’t experienced in guiding and supporting the performance of others. Yet, creating proficient people managers is critical for two related reasons. Managers impact whether their employees perceive their work environment as positive or negative, and how those employees experience that environment can affect their physical health. For instance, research has found that stressful working conditions may contribute to injuries.4 At least one study suggests a negative work environment can also contribute to poor health outcomes because of increased stress.5
Tactics that center on the individual employee include defining clear performance goals, giving timely and constructive feedback, communicating in a way that fosters trust and confidence, and supporting employees in developing and pursuing a career path. An analysis of results from a 2017 survey shows that top- performing employers — in the areas of both HR management and healthcare cost control — use these tactics more often than their same-size peers.6, 7
Certainly, many factors affect the ability of employers — and their workforce managers — to build a sustainably engaging culture and productive work environment that drives the business results they’d like. But a reliable, guiding principle for developing a resilient workforce empowered by that culture is: Do whatever is possible to take care of the employees that take care of the business. It’s a no-lose proposition, because the culture that helps employees thrive helps the business thrive, too.