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Employee Wellbeing’s Special Place in Capturing Employee Health

Before we can measure employee wellbeing, it helps to know the position it occupies in the hierarchy of health-related terms in the workplace.

Out of all such terms in the workplace, employee wellbeing is one of the most comprehensive. 

It differs from employee wellness in that it’s not strictly about physical health, but emotional and mental health as well. It also differs from any worksite wellness program, in that it is more holistic when considering the life of the employee. Which obviously is not restricted to just the worksite. 

Along with work, there are 4 other important factors that constitute wellbeing, namely: physical, social, mental and financial. At WorkTango, we call this Health & Wellness and they are a part of our employee survey index, but wellbeing sums up the concept well.

Especially during the pandemic, the lines between the office and home are greatly blurred, further stressing the importance of a holistic wellbeing strategy. 

Think about it this way:

Everything that affects you or has the potential to affect you, should be classified as a wellbeing indicator. 

Where you work will impact your life – Work

The functioning of your body will also impact your life – Physical

What your mind processes will make a difference – Mental

What you do outside of the workplace when not by yourself will make a difference too – Social

What you earn or how you manage your finances will determine the quality of life as well, which isn’t already covered in the above four factors – Financial

So when trying to measure employee wellbeing, we are adopting a holistic criteria so what we measure is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

For an overview of WorkTango’s Health and Wellness approach, download the info sheet here.



employee wellbeing - friends wearing green

Several Approaches to Looking At Employee Wellbeing

There are many templates out there that give you a list of questions or survey items to measure employee wellbeing. We understand the temptation to crowdsource such templates and run with them for your employee wellbeing measurement. We too will cover a list of questions that can be asked to measure employee wellbeing later in the article.

But only focusing on questions separates us from understanding the nature of employee wellbeing and why it needs to be measured. It’s better if we take a step back and look at multiple approaches, all of which naturally reveal the right types of questions we need to ask to better understand the wellbeing of employees.

Employee Burnout

A Gallup poll found that turnover and lost productivity were causing companies $322 billion annually, due to employee burnout. As grand as that figure is, it is hardly surprising because so many professions deal with the issue of burnout. Recognizing this as a source of a lack of wellbeing will give you pointers on what questions to ask.

Understanding the root of employee stress by asking questions will ensure that you are getting an accurate picture of the wellbeing of employees. Stress factors mirror the wellbeing index factors. There is work stress, physical stress, mental stress, social stress and financial stress. If such stress sources are recognized, they can be implemented into a questionnaire to ensure that employees are indeed well, when they claim to be.

Certainly, change is happening! For example, the Society for Human Resources found out that 62% of companies now feel more responsible for their employees’ financial wellness, up from 13% in 2013.

Similarities and Differences to Employee Engagement 

If burnout is what happens due to lack of wellbeing, engagement is what happens due to an excess of wellbeing. So, when measuring wellbeing, it’s important to also ask questions that truly capture if the employee is well or not in terms of their output. They might say that they are well, but is it also being reflected when it comes to enthusiasm and actions, or engagement?

While there are similarities, engagement is not always indicative of wellbeing. 

There is a popular scale of measuring employee wellbeing called the Net Thriving scale. When evaluating present life from 0 to 10, 0 to 4 is considered suffering, 5 and 6 are considered struggling and 7 to 10 are considered thriving. 

It was found that whenever wellbeing is added to the picture as a variable, otherwise engaged employees say they are not thriving. These employees are 2 times more likely to report daily sadness and anger, and two-thirds of them are more likely to experience daily worry.

So, while it’s important to understand how wellbeing could lead to engagement, becoming engaged could also start to feel like a chore, and other factors could develop beneath the veneer of engagement.

Customization of Employee Answers

You may want to survey everyone with a broad stroke, to understand the company pulse on matters of well-being. But because well-being is such a holistic subject, the reasons which can throw someone off are diverse in nature. 

So, it’s a good idea to have some open-ended questions in the survey that can allow an employee to express the nature of the problem they are facing that is hampering them.

Getting more qualitative answers in a formalized structure seems like an oxymoron.  It must be facilitated by creating a more open company culture as well!

Informal meetings, quick messages on chat platforms, and setting up more one-on-one meetings are good ideas. They are excellent platforms and opportunities to check in on employee wellbeing.

Frequency of Check-Ins

How often you survey your employees for wellbeing is an important part of the overall wellbeing strategy. Answers to this question vary, from weekly to annually. It’s important to mention, that even when the survey is about something else, such as engagement, it’s possible to get a pulse check on wellbeing as well. 

It will help you identify emerging issues well before they become a problem. You may have an annual health and wellness survey, but there could be questions related to wellbeing in other surveys as well that help you to be vigilant.

Action must follow to remedy any identified risk areas because this will set up the next version of your wellbeing questionnaire, where some questions will be earmarked to ask about the success of the new initiatives.

So, how frequently should you survey your employees on their wellbeing? It depends on a couple of factors. 

Your ability to act on results; if you’re strapped for resources and action is going to be slow, then wait until action is taken to get more feedback.

The trust your employees have in the organization as well as your employee listening strategy. If employees are skeptical, asking too frequently will lead to low response rates. However! If you get feedback and act on the results, and make sure employees see and hear about the changes you made as a result of the survey, that trust can be built.

In organizations where actions can be facilitated quickly, and trust in the process is there… the more frequent the better.

Using HR Data

Apart from survey data, company HR data can also inform how a survey should be structured. Metrics like frequency of absences, quantity and quality of output, and retention can be used to inform what future data points will be collected.

Demographic information can help you identify the unique employee experiences of different groups that can lend value in some of your other initiatives such as DEI.

Benefits data are also a rich hub of information. Claim trends such as counseling could inform how well the company is doing on wellbeing. High usage and high wellness scores may mean that the wellbeing strategy is working. Low usage and low wellness scores may mean that more awareness needs to be generated around these types of programs. High usage and low wellness scores may mean that the program needs to be reevaluated. 

There is a caveat here.  89% of companies have observed presenteeism in the last year, which is a problem. Obviously, it indicates either a management issue or a wellbeing issue, possibly both. So, just using the types of hard data mentioned before will never truly reveal how the employees are feeling. They need to be asked directly about their sentiments, on wellbeing and other factors related to wellbeing. 

Sometimes, certain events or changes can also affect well-being. Especially during a tumultuous time for many such as the pandemic, there are certain sets of questions that have an enormous impact on the employee’s wellbeing. See these 4 templates, for example, that gauge employee sentiment about returning to work, working remotely, psychological health and overall sentiment on COVID-19. 

Zooming Out – Looking at Wellbeing Survey Metadata

When measuring wellbeing, it’s important not just to craft the right questionnaire, which has been the theme of this article, but also to keep track of operational survey metrics. The Campbell Institute lists education/awareness, reach, participation, satisfaction as metadata surrounding the collection of employee sentiment around wellbeing. Metadata is simply, data about data. In this case, data about survey data.

These metrics give us a good indication of how well employee wellbeing is being tracked. Rather than merely understanding wellbeing, we are also interested in knowing how many people are aware of the existence of surveys, what is the completion rate, and what the satisfaction rate is.

employee wellbeing - group looking at phone

Sample Questions

We’ve addressed how you can understand the best way to measure employee wellbeing by focusing on:

1) its indicators (such as stress)

2) its outcome (such as engagement)

3) its breadth of responses (need for customization)

4) its dynamic nature (fixing the right frequency)

5) its relation to other forms of data (such as HR data, and metadata like completion rate)

Now let’s dive into some questions.

I regularly engage in physical activities (at least three times a week). – physical 

I would consider my diet healthy. – physical 

What could our organization do to support your mental wellness? – Mental 

My stress levels at work are manageable/healthy. – Mental 

I intend to be working at this company a year from now. – Work 

How happy are you at work? (rating question with optional comment) – Work 

I have personal relationships that I value. – Social 

I do not stress about my financial situation. – Financial 

Download our Health and Wellness questionnaire template here.



employee wellbeing - cat on desk

Understanding Employee Wellbeing for Measurement

68% of senior HR leaders rate employee wellbeing and mental health as a top priority, as seen in the Future Workplace 2021 survey.

Such sentiments are echoed by employees in Metlife’s annual U.S Employee Benefits Trends study. 74% of them say that wellbeing is the number 1 factor affecting the workplace of the future. At 70% is employee mental health, stress & burnout, which we have touched on previously as being very closely related to wellbeing. 

With employee wellbeing gaining such prominence, it’s important to understand the concept first. It’s what we have tried to establish in this article, using various lenses. Once understood, the right template can be chosen to measure employee wellbeing. 

Additional Resources

Check out our guides on workplace culture, employee engagement, and employee surveys. Learn about every aspect of a successful employee voice initiative!

WORKPLACE GUIDES

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