Employee well-being more often comes to the top of the agenda for managers. As shown in our last whitepaper: well-being is important for retention, performance, and company culture. And in a sense, well-being is always on top of the agenda of everyone’s own life. Working at an organisation contributes to well-being by providing energy in the form of salaries, self-development, and a sense of contributing to something greater. However, employees also invest energy in working for their organisation through cognitive work, manual labour and travelling. Ecosystems can be seen as relatively stable networks of actors exchanging energy with each other. They exchange energy that creates a certain balance from which a system emerges. So can organisations be seen as well-being ecosystems?
One might argue that employees search for (at least) balancing their investments and rewards. If a job doesn’t provide energy in any form (e.g. no recognition, low salary), while energy investment is high (e.g. long hours, high mental demand), then employees might perform badly, leave the company or get burned out. If a stable relationship is created, employees stay, perform their job and an organisation emerges. Now, on a higher level, organisations run on the energy that employees invest. Work needs to be done, and the more/better employees invest their energy, the more likely it is the organisation can sustain itself and grow.
Sustaining these energy loops between employees and the organisation can shape a healthy relationship where the employee and the organisation can both evolve and thrive. We then talk about synergistic properties that lead to high well-being at the employee level (e.g. high salary, good career, good work-life balance), while also leading to high well-being at an organisation level (e.g. high revenue, satisfied employees, positive impact). So together, these relationships can be seen as a well-being ecosystem.
Every ecosystem is different
But the pathways between employees and organisations might differ between and within organisations. Firstly, each organisation is different. It has a unique ecosystem. Some organisations maximize on goals like high revenue (corporates), while others on contributing to a positive cause (NGOs). While at an individual level similarly, some employees maximize on high salaries while others on contributing to a positive cause. Finding a match here between employees and organisations would likely sustain their relationship. But in order to understand these pathways, we need to look at organisations holistically. And for this reason, we would like to introduce a case study of a Habital project. Due to the specificity of the data we’ve kept this organisation anonymous.
A case study into an ecosystem
With Habital, we analyze employee satisfaction holistically. We identify four main factors: organisational aspects, work processes, work environment, and personal factors. In each main factor, we have sub-branches that bring together the holistic experience.
In this case study, we see quite satisfied employees (figure 1). On a holistic level, we see employees who are very happy with their organisation (8.0), work processes (7.6), and work environment (7.4). However, their personal factors score quite low (6.8). We can dive into these personal factors and look at the second layer which consists of several sub-measures. In this second layer, we see high engagement (7.8), but lower mental health (6.4) and even lower work-life balance (6.1).
Interestingly, if you separate these variables on gender using the dashboard filters, an interesting divide occurs. Women turn out to suffer more from mental health issues (6.0), while men have more work-life balance issues (5.9). This data shows that each group needs a different approach to improve their well-being and avoid burnout. Luckily, we also ask them about desired interventions. Although both groups desire better communication lines within the organisation to improve their mental health, men mostly want a confidential counsellor. While women rather have a re-evaluation of work division and pressure.
Holistically speaking, we see that the organisation seems to function very well according to its employees. People are satisfied with the organisation, work environment and work processes. Plus, the engagement is high. It seems that the employees as a whole, are working quite hard to make their organisation thrive but this in turn causes low mental health and poor work-life balance.
It is likely that this imbalance in the ecosystem might cause problems over time. high engagement but low mental health is a perfect recipe for burnout. Luckily, our information shows what managers can do. Moreover, women and men could be approached differently in conversations and can be offered different solutions to deal with their issues. In this way, the ecosystem can recover itself by redirecting some energy towards the well-being of their employees. This hopefully leads to a new balance of happy and healthy employees in a healthy organisation.
However, organisations are open systems and strongly connected to the outside world by exchanging energy (through goods and services) with their customers. So, work processes and organisational structures should function well in order to sustain the organisation, and in turn its employees.
Nevertheless, it is likely that supporting employees with their work-life balance and mental health will improve their well-being and in turn their performance as shown in our whitepaper. Together, this will further improve the work processes and organisational structures, and create more revenue through better connections and services with customers. So, creating this synergistic loop becomes fruitful at many levels. High employee satisfaction, high retention, high performance, and high revenue. Everything anyone wants to see.