Senior-level executives who are invested in their employees’ overall well-being have employees who are more invested in their jobs. Yet, executives aren’t doing enough to support a healthy organizational climate. Only 43 percent of employees say that their leadership is involved in and committed to well-being initiatives, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Leadership matters

When employees see their bosses endorsing benefits that enhance well-being, they are more motivated to work hard and are less likely to leave their job. When senior management shows support through commitment to and involvement in well-being initiatives, 73 percent of employees said they believe the organization helps employees develop a healthy lifestyle, 91 percent stated they are giving their employer their best work and 91 percent reported being satisfied with their job.

However, it goes beyond simply being invested; employees need to trust that their leadership supports the benefits that promote overall wellness and a healthy work-life balance in order for those programs to be effective. Employees feel more trust in management, and in turn their employers, when they are recognized for their achievements and contributions and when the communication lines are open. When senior leadership is able to follow up their words with actions, it shows a serious commitment to a healthy workplace. Employees notice this and it shows in their overall attitude toward their job. In fact, for those employees who say they don’t trust their employer, 63 percent plan to leave the company within a year. On the other hand, when they do feel that trust, 79 percent said they would recommend the business to others.

'“When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.”'

Creating value

How can senior management show employees that they are valued? Health benefits are a start, but value goes beyond the physical health of employees and their families. Although every individual organization will have different needs and management styles, senior leadership can support a healthy work environment through efforts in the following areas: employee involvement, health and safety, employee growth and development, work-life balance and employee recognition.

With its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, APA recognizes the efforts organizations are taking to promote employee well-being and business success. Management at Certified Angus Beef in Ohio encourages rank-and-file employees to be active participants in regular breakfast meetings with leadership to encourage employee involvement. The Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library management found that 80 percent of their employees who participated in the Live Healthy, Live Well Challenge reduced their risk of chronic disease while 96 percent either lost or maintained their weight. Moore Communications Group pays for its staff to join professional organizations and use professional development opportunities, as well as provides mentoring between leadership and lower-level employees to encourage advancement.

A skewed perception

Supporting well-being initiatives appears to be a win-win situation for senior executives, so why are they reluctant to participate or encourage their employees to develop a healthy lifestyle? One reason may be perception. According to the study, senior leadership was more likely to see their actions and the overall workplace climate as supportive to well-being than the average employee.

When senior leadership actively supports well-being efforts within the company, it is not just the employees who benefit — it trickles down to the business’s bottom line. In a psychologically healthy workplace, employee productivity is higher, product and service quality and customer satisfaction improve, and absenteeism, turnover and injury rates decline.

“Promoting employee well-being isn’t a singular activity, but is instead set up in a climate that is cultivated, embraced and supported by high-level leaders and managers,” David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, said in a statement. “When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.”