Despite the prevalence of workplace efforts to increase employee well-being, only one-third of American workers say they regularly participate in the health promotion programs provided by their employer, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association.

Additionally, less than half of working Americans (44%) say the climate in their organization supports employee well-being, and one in three reports being chronically stressed on the job.

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The APA survey suggests a key part of the solution is senior leadership support.

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of employees with senior managers who show support through involvement and commitment to well-being initiatives said their organization helps employees develop a healthy lifestyle, compared with just 11% who work in an organization without that leadership support.

The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll among more than 1,500 U.S. adults in March.

The survey found widespread links between support from senior leaders and a variety of employee and organizational outcomes, with more than nine in 10 workers saying they feel motivated to do their best (91% vs. 38% of those without leadership support), are satisfied with their job (91% vs. 30%), and have a positive relationship with supervisors (91% vs. 54%) and coworkers (93% vs. 72%).

These employees are also more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work (89% vs. 17%), and fewer said they intend to leave their job in the next year (25% vs. 51%).

Among all employees surveyed, 33% said they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday, an increase in the percentage of those reporting chronic job stress for the first time in three years.

And only 41% said their employer helps workers develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Promoting employee well-being isn’t a singular activity, but is instead set up in a climate that is cultivated, embraced, and supported by high-level leaders and managers,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.

When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.
“When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.”

And while leadership support is related to how employees feel about their work, only four in 10 working Americans said their senior managers are involved in and committed to well-being initiatives.

Beyond Physical Well-Being

When it comes to building a climate of well-being, employers need to look beyond just physical health to help employees feel recognized, valued, and involved and create opportunities for growth and development, Ballard says.

But as the survey revealed, employers are falling short in their efforts.

Overall, only about half of employed adults said they feel valued by their employer (53%) and that the rewards and recognition they receive reflect the effort they put into their work (50%).

Even fewer said the recognition they receive reflects their contributions to the organization (47%) and is based on a fair performance evaluation system (47%).

Employers who truly embrace well-being as part of how they do business create a workplace where both employees and the organization thrive.
Just half of working Americans said they believe their employer provides enough opportunities to be involved in decision-making and fewer than that (46%) said they regularly participate in activities that involve them in making decisions, solving problems, or setting goals.

With lack of opportunity for growth or advancement being second only to low salaries as a source of job stress, only half of the U.S. workforce reported being satisfied with the development opportunities offered by their employer, and just 43% said their employer provides sufficient opportunity for internal advancement.

“Many employers say they focus on workplace wellness, but what is put into place is too often individual programs or policies that aren’t supported by the organization’s culture,” Ballard says.

“Employers who truly embrace well-being as part of how they do business create a workplace where both employees and the organization thrive.”