An action plan to increase the wellbeing of your employees

Improving wellbeing using people analytics

  • Blog
  • 24 Nov 2023

Improving and investing in the wellbeing of employees is not just an ethical act, according to PwC experts Marlene de Koning and Bas van de Pas. They also see many economic benefits for organisations. People analytics can help with this.

The World Health Organisation describes stress as the ‘global health epidemic of the 21st century’. Even before Covid, work-related depression alone cost the EU 617 billion euros per year. This shows that even one facet of wellbeing already has substantial business consequences. Therefore, improving employee wellbeing and investing in wellness is not just the right thing to do, it also makes great economic sense for organisations. 

A recent PwC study examined the drivers influencing financial performance in terms of employee productivity, turnover and absenteeism. Wellbeing has proven to be the most impactful driver of all. Yet, many companies still struggle to quantify these gains and evaluate the effectiveness of their wellbeing interventions because wellbeing is a broad and complex concept. So, to avoid a common pitfall of investing large budgets and not achieving wellbeing goals, let's break down how to approach it.

Employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is a combination of the physical, mental, emotional, financial, social, and fulfillment and purpose dimensions. However, every organisation will define wellbeing and its desired outcomes slightly differently. Therefore, ask yourself:

  • What is wellbeing for us and when are we successful? 
  • Is it when our employees are happy? Healthy? Productive? Or something else entirely?. 

When you've answered these fundamental questions, you took a first step towards starting to measure your employees' wellbeing and how effective you are at improving it.

Improving wellbeing is not a one-time initiative

It is important to realize that improving wellbeing is not a one-time initiative, it's a continuous process and an ever-changing state. Some changes and improvements will take time to reveal and, while that happens, new factors might come into play. Hence, keeping your finger on the pulse through regular monitoring of employees' wellbeing is key. Spend enough time designing the right wellbeing measurement as it will be your main source of information about the state of wellbeing and employee pain points. You can leverage existing scientific models (e.g., PERMA+) or design a bespoke solution.

Once you've identified the pain points, go beyond symptoms and investigate the root causes behind them. Say you detected sleeping issues among your factory workers. A surface-level intervention would be offering them sleep coaching or sleeping apps. But if you dive deeper, it might be financial uncertainty that keeps them awake or a poorly designed shift schedule tempering with their sleeping rhythm. Understand the true drivers behind employee pain points to design truly impactful interventions.

People analytics can help you along on this journey in identifying where the problems lie, creating solutions and monitoring effectiveness of your interventions. Let's take a look at a few examples of how people analytics can address common wellbeing challenges.

Improving wellfare using people analytics

Improving ways of working with technology

With the rise of hybrid work, the 'always on' mentality and the pressure for productivity can sometimes create unsustainable work practices. More than one-fifth of workers report their workload was frequently unmanageable in the past 12 months. Thus, optimizing ways of working can be a powerful intervention to improve physical and mental wellbeing. SES, a global provider of content connectivity solutions with more than 2,000 employees, achieved impressive results by using passive behavioral data to examine its working culture

For this organisation, meetings are the heart of its operations. However, SES leaders wanted to look into ways to improve the company’s meeting culture with technology to simplify operations and free up time for its people. Initially, they wanted to cut down 100,000 meeting hours annually and they chose Microsoft Viva Insights to do so. 

SES involved some 900 employees in a trial that gathered data on meetings and identified patterns that could be improved.  The trial succeeded in identifying inefficient meetings which ran for too long or involved unnecessary people. After the initial success, SES is now starting to use data to run new projects to further improve its ways of working. 

Recently, they have decided to try out meeting-free Wednesdays. The feedback they received from the employees was highly positive - more than 60% said that their wellbeing improved, 70% felt they were more productive, while over 80% believed that it was valuable to block meeting-free time.

Preventing financial hardship with an app

60% of full-time employees are stressed about their finances and —in addition to harming people’s emotional and physical wellbeing — it hurts their engagement and productivity. With this mounting pressure, organisations might want to know which employees might be more susceptible to accruing financial debt and help them prevent this dire situation. 

Companies can look for potential early signs, such as major life events and other behavioral cues. However, if a larger part of the workforce might be at risk of financial difficulties, you can go further and explore what personality traits signal propensity to indebtedness. PwC's partner Scorius provides tailor-made personality assessments which, in this case, can help determine which employees might be at a higher risk of incurring debt. It allows to take preemptive actions, such as offering financial education coaching or financial fitness apps both offering helpful resources to increase employees' financial awareness.

For example, PwC helped a financial institution develop a financial fitness app where users complete an assessment and see how financially fit they are and what they can improve. After the test, they set financial goals and the app guides them with practical actions and tips in the areas where it is necessary (i.e., income and expenses, assets and debts, buffer and risks, and pension).  The app aims to build up knowledge, motivation, and behavior according to their financial situation. It has already helped over 2,000 users to become more financially fit.

Reducing stress with wearable devices

According to Gallup, 44% of employees experience a lot of stress. Given its association with physical and mental health problems and lower productivity, it's a fruitful avenue for exploration for many companies. To examine the impact of certain work patterns on employee stress, a pilot group of 2,000 PwC UK employees volunteered to wear devices connected to their work calendars. This way, the firm could receive anonymized data that linked, for example, stress levels to meeting sprawl. On their personalized dashboards, the employees could see how back-to-back video calls impacted their sleep, ability to switch tasks, or if particular patterns of work were creating evidence of stress. 

The pilot also revealed a clear difference between actual stress, which was measured from the heart-rate-variability feature on the wearable device, and perceived stress, which was tracked through a daily survey that asked participants how stressed they felt. A number of volunteers reported not necessarily realizing they were stressed initially, and gaining an understanding of how it can creep up gradually.

When looking at a clear picture of conditions that make workers either thrive or wither, companies are well equipped to tailor interventions and resources like health and wellness benefits, or workload adjustments. In PwC UK's case, the data showed a need to empower workers to take more frequent breaks and encourage walking meetings.

Finding what's right for your organisation

These were only a few examples of what kind of people analytics solutions you can utilize in diagnosing and improving wellbeing. There is no right or wrong here, and more sophisticated analyses and tools are not necessarily the ones that will reap the most benefits. The key is 

  • focusing on the right wellbeing pain points and root causes,
  • enabling your organisation to address these with the right solutions, and 
  • continuously monitoring and course correcting where necessary. 

Wellbeing is a powerhouse for many organisational and employee gains – and you can achieve these benefits by supporting your wellbeing efforts with data and evidence. 

Five steps to make the value of people analytics visible

Contact us

Bas van de Pas

Bas van de Pas

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)62 263 83 99

Marlene de Koning

Marlene de Koning

Director, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 273 81 38

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