Myth: wellbeing cannot be measured

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Wellbeing advocates often struggle to secure appropriate funding for their workplace wellbeing initiatives. Many times this is because their business case focuses on qualitative data, but budget holders prefer quantifiable metrics - to satisfy their due diligence, allay their sense of risk, and promote colleague accountability of results.

What the evidence says

The good news is that there is widespread acceptance that wellbeing can be measured, albeit a lack of consensus on a common measurement standard.

There have been at least 30 formal measures of wellbeing developed over the past 50 years, using different definitions and applied to the organisational context. It is not necessary to adopt an existing formal measure, but an organisation may find it useful to review existing measures when articulating the metrics that will be relevant to their specific workplace.

References: Download report to access full reference list.

How to measure wellbeing

Unlike sales and expense figures, wellbeing metrics do not fit naturally on a balance sheet. Similar to employee performance metrics, they need work behind the scenes to define what is being measured, when, how and why. This upfront effort, together with a concern about choosing the wrong metrics, can deter organisations from starting their journey.

However, it’s important to remember that wellbeing metrics will change over time - based on organisational learnings, industry best practices and a maturing definition of wellbeing. The necessity to start, learn and pivot should trump the requirement for perfectionism at commencement.

Four steps to measure wellbeing in the workplace. Examples of how to measure employee wellbeing.

Employee wellbeing metrics

The measurement of employee wellbeing typically involves a combination of leading and lagging indicators. Let us explain…

Leading indicators

Leading indicators (“inputs”) help predict future outcomes and events. They “look forward through the windshield at the road ahead”.

Examples include:

  • Organisational support
    • Leadership buy-in (as rated by employees)
      • Leaders ‘walk the talk’ about healthy work practices
      • Leaders talk about their mental health and wellbeing
      • Leaders encourage discussion of employee wellbeing
      • Leaders commit to best practice in employee wellbeing
    • Funding
      • Amount budgeted for employee wellbeing
      • Staff time allocated to wellbeing management
    • Policies and processes (existence and quality)
      • Safety and wellbeing policies
      • Flexible work policy
      • Remote work policy
      • Attractive leave policies
      • Diversity, equity and inclusion policy
      • Bullying and harassment policy
      • Clear and effective change management processes
      • Regular insights gathered
      • Formal feedback loops in place
  • Programs and initiatives
    • Professional development opportunities
    • Wellbeing programs and initiatives
  • Employee awareness
    • Amount of visible health-promoting collateral
    • Number and reach of wellbeing information sessions
    • Number of ‘speak up’ programs and champions
    • Portion aware of the different wellbeing initiatives
    • Portion who understand each wellbeing initiative
  • Employee training
    • First aid (and mental health first aid) training
    • Resilience training
    • Compassion training
    • Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) training
    • Diversity, equity and inclusion training
  • Participation and engagement
    • Employee reach of programs and initiatives
    • Participation and uptake rates
    • Employee health behaviours (e.g. the number who are meeting the daily physical activity and alcohol consumption recommendations, as well as the number who are smoke-free)
  • Employee satisfaction
    • Employee focus groups
    • Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
    • Engagement surveys

References: Download report to access full table and reference list.

Lagging indicators

Lagging indicators (“outputs”) show tangible results. They “look backwards through the rear window at the road already travelled”.

Examples include:

  • Employee health
    • Prevalence of health conditions
    • Employee assistance program (EAP) usage
    • Number of referrals to other third parties for help
  • Claims and premiums
    • Health insurance claims
    • Workers’ compensation claims
    • Health care spend (including premiums)
  • Work time
    • Annual leave usage rates
    • Sickness and absenteeism rates
    • Lost time injury frequency rates (LTIFR)
    • Lost work days to organisational factors
    • Return to work success rates and timeframes
  • Legal and compliance
    • Recommended actions from WHS audits
    • Workplace investigations
    • Workplace litigations
  • Attrition
    • Peer reviews and 360-degree feedback
    • Voluntary attrition rates
    • Exit survey information

References: Download report to access full table and reference list.

The dilemma of choice

Over the years, employee wellbeing offerings have evolved into a smorgasbord of choice. Whilst this represents positive progress, it has also created:

  • A complex landscape for employees to navigate - unless they have a single point of entry to their organisation’s wellbeing service offerings; and
  • A daunting requirement for wellbeing leaders to provide whole-of-business insights - unless their services are integrated and actively capturing meaningful data on all of their initiatives.

Download our report

This post is an excerpt from our evidence-based report: 5 myths of employee wellbeing. To discover the other four myths in our report, please click here.


Want to learn more?

For more information about how Sonder can help you rethink your workplace support, we invite you to contact us here.

About Sonder

Sonder is an Active Care technology company that helps organisations improve the wellbeing of their people so they perform at their best. Our mobile app provides immediate, 24/7 support from a team of safety, medical, and mental health professionals - plus onsite help for time-sensitive scenarios. Accredited by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), our platform gives leaders the insights they need to act on tomorrow's wellbeing challenges today.

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