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Employee Wellbeing

LSE research challenges the effectiveness of workplace wellbeing initiatives

The study's findings challenge conventional notions of workplace wellbeing and suggest a more individualistic approach to employee satisfaction.

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51% of employees emphasised the benefits of autonomy in shaping their work conditions.
Employees reported that inflexible working significantly worsened mental and physical health.
Employees prefer employers who focus on providing sufficient work-life balance and decent pay.

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New research from the London School of Economics (LSE) suggests that workplace wellbeing initiatives, such as meditation apps, subsidised gym memberships, yoga, and free lunches, may not be the key to employee happiness. The study, conducted by researchers at LSE’s The Inclusion Initiative (TII) in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, indicates that employees would prefer employers to focus on providing sufficient work-life balance, decent pay, and addressing negative aspects of the workplace.

The Beyond Workplace Wellbeing Framework, created by TII based on interviews with 100 individuals in banking, finance, and professional services in the UK, advises employers to reconsider the emphasis on traditional wellbeing initiatives. Notably, none of the interviewees expressed favorability towards such initiatives. Instead, the study highlights that employees value autonomous working conditions, where they have decision-making power over how, when, and where they complete their work.

The research found that one-third of employees reported that job demands, inflexible work arrangements, and the way they were treated significantly worsened mental and physical health conditions, suggesting that organisational wellbeing initiatives might be redundant. In contrast, 51% of employees emphasised the benefits of autonomy in shaping their work conditions, leading to increased productivity and enhanced wellbeing. Autonomy was also linked to greater work-life balance for a third of employees.

The research found that one-third of employees reported that job demands, inflexible work arrangements, and the way they were treated significantly worsened mental and physical health conditions

The Beyond Workplace Wellbeing Framework proposes a shift in employer responsibilities, emphasising the need to minimise workplace-related ‘ill-being’ and create psychologically safe work environments. The framework advocates for autonomous working conditions, allowing employees to tailor their workdays to align with business goals and job demands.

Lead author Dr. Jasmine Virhia, a Behavioural Scientist at TII, emphasised the importance of employers focusing on minimising ill-being, stating that the framework provides guidance on assessing how organisational practices impact employees’ physical and psychological health. Co-author Dr. Grace Lordan, Director of TII and associate professor at LSE, highlighted that employers should not be solely responsible for employee happiness, suggesting instead a focus on addressing workplace challenges such as bullying and burnout while providing a psychologically safe environment.

The researchers propose a shift from a paternalistic approach to a trust-based work model, where employees take greater responsibility for their personal wellbeing without compromising productivity. The study’s findings challenge conventional notions of workplace wellbeing and suggest a more individualistic approach to employee satisfaction. The Beyond Workplace Wellbeing Framework is available as a PsyArXiv working paper [link to the paper].

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