Insights to help you improve the wellbeing of your employees

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Why employee wellbeing matters

Safe and healthy work environments benefit employees, employers and the Victorian community.

A safe workplace is a key outcome of the Leading the way health and safety strategy and the Victorian public sector mental health and wellbeing charter.

Many academic studies have shown a link between employee wellbeing and improved organisational performance.

A workforce that is well works well…organisations need to take better care of their people and recognise how the demands of work affect their physical and mental health, as well as their ability to perform well at work.

– Sir Professor Cary Carter, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, President and wellbeing expert.

Improving the wellbeing of your employees triggers a virtuous cycle. It leads to higher levels of engagement and productivity, which again leads to better health, wellbeing and satisfaction with work.

Research suggests that employees who report high levels of wellbeing are more likely to:

  • be more creative
  • be more productive
  • provide better customer service
  • report more positive interactions with their managers
  • be more confident to speak up
  • be more satisfied with their job, career development and work-life balance
  • be more engaged.

A recent Gallup Panel Web study found that employees who are engaged and have high wellbeing are:

  • 27% more likely to report “excellent” performance in their own job at work
  • 27% more likely to report “excellent” performance by their organisation
  • 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change
  • 30% more likely not to miss any workdays because of poor health in any given month and miss 70% fewer workdays over the course of a year because of poor health
  • 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organisation in the next 12 months
  • 18% less likely to change employers in a 12-month period
  • 19% more likely to volunteer their time in the past month.

How we measure employee wellbeing

How your employees feel at work is an indicator of their wellbeing.

We analysed the People matter survey data from 2019 to 2021 to find out what drives employee wellbeing in the Victorian public sector.

We grouped the survey questioned based on:

  • organisation factors
  • job factors
  • individual-level factors.

Then we identified the factors that have the biggest impact on employee wellbeing. We call these drivers.

For example, we found meaningful work to be the top driver of employee wellbeing. Respondents who felt they were doing important work and making a worthwhile contribution reported higher levels of wellbeing.

Interestingly, we found consistent results before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the survey, we asked respondents how work made them feel in the 3 months before they took the survey.

We measured their wellbeing by how often they experienced:

  • Positive affect – feeling enthusiastic or happy at work
  • Negative affect – feeling worried, miserable or severely stressed at work.

Then we assigned them a wellbeing level:

  • low wellbeing – those who reported being worried or miserable more than being enthusiastic or happy at work
  • moderate wellbeing – those who reported being worried or miserable about the same as being happy or enthusiastic at work
  • high wellbeing – those who reported being happy or enthusiastic more than being worried or miserable at work.

Measures of employee wellbeing to look out for

To improve employee wellbeing we need to understand what affects it.

We’ve included some measures of wellbeing from the People matter survey that organisations should pay attention to.

Results from the survey show about:

  • 50% of respondents feel happy or enthusiastic about their work
  • 37% of respondents feel worried about their work
  • 19% of respondents feel miserable
  • 26% of respondents experienced high to severe job-related stress.

This graph shows the percentage breakdown of responses.

Impact of negative behaviour

Negative behaviour can impact the health, wellbeing, performance and behaviour of your employees.

Measures of negative behaviour should be considered and included in your action planning.

We asked respondents if they’d experienced negative behaviour at work in the 12 months before they took the survey.

This graph shows a breakdown of the types of negative behaviour respondents experienced.

Engagement, job satisfaction and wellbeing

If your employees are satisfied at work, they’ll likely be more engaged and productive.

This also leads to lower absences and turnover.

This graph shows how engaged and satisfied respondents are with their jobs, work-life balance and career development.

Positive affect and employee engagement

This graph shows the relationship between positive affect and employee engagement.

If your employees feel enthusiastic and energetic at work, they’ll likely be more engaged.

The positive affect rating shows how often respondents felt enthusiastic or happy at work.

As positive affect goes up, employee engagement typically goes up.

Each dot represents a public sector organisation that took part in the 2021 survey. 

Negative affect and employee engagement

This graph shows the relationship between negative affect and employee engagement.

If your employees feel miserable or worried about their work, they’re likely to be less engaged.

The negative affect rating shows how often people felt worried, miserable or severely stressed at work.

As negative affect goes up, employee engagement typically goes down.

Each dot represents a public sector organisation that took part in the 2021 survey. 

Link between job satisfaction, engagement and levels of wellbeing

Employees who report higher wellbeing levels also report higher levels of:

  • satisfaction with work-life balance
  • satisfaction with career development
  • engagement levels

Drivers of positive and negative employee wellbeing

We analysed People matter survey data from 2019 to 2021 to find out what drivers impact employee wellbeing the most.

We put all survey questions into factor groups. The factor groups that have the biggest impact on employee wellbeing are called drivers.

Top 5 drivers of positive wellbeing in order of impact

  1. Meaningful work
  2. Learning and development
  3. Psychological and physical safety climate
  4. Manager support
  5. Workload

Top 5 drivers of negative wellbeing in order of impact

  1. Workload
  2. Psychological and physical safety climate
  3. Safe to speak up
  4. Manager support
  5. Job enrichment

All drivers are important to understanding and improving employee wellbeing. But we found some were more important than others depending on where you work and what you do.

For example, health professionals reported different drivers of wellbeing compared to child protection practitioners or police officers.

To illustrate this, we’ve divided the drivers into 2 groups:

  • drivers that affect wellbeing across the public sector
  • drivers that affect some employee groups more than others

Drivers that affect wellbeing across the public sector

Drivers of wellbeing that affect some employee groups more than others

How to use the drivers in your action planning

Your People matter survey 2021 results provide information on how your employees feel at work.

Positive employee wellbeing benefits everyone and helps us serve the Victorian community.

You can compare your People matter survey results against each driver and use the survey statements to help guide your action planning.

Speak to your People matter survey coordinator, human resource or people and culture representative for more advice about action planning.

More information about employee wellbeing

A safe and healthy work environment benefits employees, employers, and the Victorian community.

Read more about the People matter survey 2021.

For tips, tools and activities for managing team wellbeing check out the Wellbeing toolkit.

If you’d like to know more about what research we’ve done or the technical definitions and methods we used, please get in touch.