Six Ways Managers Can Support Employee Well-being

There are many elements within business organizations that affect employees’ well-being (wellness in physical and mental health, relationships, finances, career, and other areas that contribute to overall satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment). Leadership support; a company culture that values and prioritizes workforce well-being; a respectful, safe, and pleasant working environment; and other factors certainly are important contributors.

But the top driver of workers’ well-being? Managers. Research by corporate wellness tech company Limeade found that three-quarters of surveyed employees cited managers as their top source of well-being support in the workplace. Company cultures and leaders ranked second and third.

Clearly, good health and overall well-being are important to individuals who want to achieve success, and experience full and satisfying lives.

But why does organizational, and especially manager, support for workforce well-being matter to employers?


Lack of Well-being Puts Employees (and Organizations) at Risk

Workers who fail to thrive due to poor well-being are:


  66% more likely to report worrying daily  
  61% more apt to feel frequent burnout  
  48% more likely to experience daily stress  

Twice as likely to suffer anger and sadness

Source: Gallup


Because workers who report higher levels of well-being also claim greater engagement and enjoyment in their work and stronger team loyalty, according to the Limeade study.

Other research links employee well-being to a multitude of business benefits: increased productivity, lower costs, reductions in workplace stress, stronger work relationships, and improved morale, to name just a few.

Conversely, Gallup, long known for its expertise in workforce well-being, points to significant cost risks that companies encounter when employee well-being is lacking. For example, Gallup says that three quarters of employer medical costs are attributable to preventable conditions, that global productivity and turnover lost annually to worker burnout totals as much as $322 billion, and that burnout resulting in voluntary turnover costs companies up to 20% of total payroll.


Six Ways Managers Can Support Employee Well-being

Managers can make a difference in employee health and well-being by asking, listening, coaching, clearing roadblocks, providing support and encouragement and offering learning and team building opportunities,” says Limeade founder and CEO Henry Albrecht. To do all that, he adds that managers must rely on their organizations for training, tools, and flexibility to work effectively with their teams.

In addition, companies need to set clear expectations (and provide specific instruction) to equip managers to speak to employees about well-being concerns. Managers also must learn how to spot problems, refer employees to EAPs and other employer-provided resources, and elevate more-complicated issues to HR when need be.

With that groundwork laid, managers can confidently explore and apply many ways to show support for the well-being of their team members. Six strategies recommended by well-being researchers offer good starting points:

Be flexible, and facilitate flexibility. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for, and benefits of, flexibility in workplaces worldwide. Managers who can demonstrate flexibility in their interactions with team members, while also facilitating job flexibility that allows their employees to achieve better work/life balance, make strong contributions to well-being.

Model well-being behaviors. Employees look to their leaders as role models of the behaviors desired in the workplace. That gives managers opportunities to model positive well-being choices and actions. Some examples: Using break times to walk or exercise, eating healthy meals/snacks, talking about and utilizing well-being benefits.

Stay connected with team members. Managers who make a point of paying attention to employees, checking in with them frequently, and listening to their concerns communicate that they care about workers’ well-being, are approachable, and are ready to help. Further, understanding what matters to employees gives managers insights that help when assigning projects, considering development plans, and structuring work.

Encourage good relationships. Supporting employees’ well-being includes helping them establish and grow positive relationships in the workplace. Actions managers can take include helping workers build networks across the organization, encouraging teamwork by making groups responsible for project outcomes (rather than appointing a single project leader), and enhancing team members’ development and visibility in meetings by rotating members’ responsibility for leading meetings or meeting segments.

Reduce stress. Managers are ideally positioned to improve employees’ well-being by ensuring that workloads are distributed fairly and that deadlines are realistic and achievable without causing undue pressure. Managers also help relieve worker stress by monitoring collaborative requests and taking care to keep sought-after team members from becoming overloaded.

Recognize and reward efforts. Well-being levels tend to be higher in organizations where employees’ achievements in improving their well-being are highlighted and rewarded. Managers can support their team members’ efforts by providing visibility and praise, not only for succeeding, but also for trying. Examples include using meeting time to ask an employee who’s training for a race to talk about their goal and preparation, or taking the opportunity to give company-wide recognition to a team member who earned a professional certification or received a promotion.

Managers who make it a habit to look for opportunities to support workforce well-being will find themselves limited only by their imaginations. For those who need suggestions, HR and learning and development professionals are good sources of ideas, as are the varied Supervisor and Manager Training resources offered by Media Partners.