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Wellbeing At Work: What Does Talent Want?

​The topic of wellbeing hit an all time peak in May 2020 according to Google trends data. It’s not hard to pinpoint the cause; as the world was squaring up against a global pandemic, and lockdowns stripped away the life from the equation of work/life balance, a glaring unescapable spotlight was illuminating the state of wellbeing – particularly wellbeing at work.

At Caraffi we tried to work out where to best direct our efforts to create a wellbeing framework that could support our people through tough times. We ensured that we created initiatives that would address each tier of people’s needs, and we found that small efforts went a long way.

We conducted twice weekly personal training sessions via Teams, held a weekly quiz, upped our internal comms, created a programme launching personal development plans for each employee and conducted the first annual employee-voted Caraffi awards to recognise each other’s efforts within a tumultuous year.

One year later, as things start to return to the ‘new normal’, we are examining the current state of well-being at work and how it may have changed. A large scale study from leading experience management company Qualtrics shows that just 60% of individual and contributor-level employees reported their well-being favourably. We wanted to break this down in more detail and understand why. To do this we’ve started by going back to basics: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We looked at which of Maslow’s tiers were most valued by employees, and which tiers organisations were the best at delivering against.

We weren’t surprised to see that self-actualisation, the top of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy, was most likely to be voted the most important to people to feel wellbeing in their worklife. Beyond this though we spotted several patterns which we think start to show the impact 2020 has had on how people think about and prioritise their wellbeing

Here are some of our key insights:

Employees want more from employers around safety and security

Participants voted safety and security the second most important aspect of their work life right now. This includes feeling like they have job security, benefits and of course the sense of safety surrounding COVID related adaptations in the workplace.

While companies seem to have succeeded in making employees feel safe physically (73% agreed that their safety had been looked after during COVID), feeling a sense of security is a different story.

(It’s worth noting though, while 73% agreed that their safety has been looked after in this survey, wider research points to a trend of return to work anxiety. So employers can’t afford to feel complacent here.)

Only 40% agreed with the statement ‘I feel secure in my role/that I have good job security’, lower agreement than for any other statement.

Employees don’t feel recognised

Employees ranked self-esteem and recognition as the third most important tier on the pyramid overall and nearly one in five said it was the number one priority contributing to their wellbeing. However, only 10% strongly agreed that employees were well recognised for their contributions at their workplace. Perhaps as the workforce went virtual, we lost out on the small recognitions that naturally come with being around each other in a workplace. Employers should ensure that programmes are in place to recognise employees and their work, as well as coaching managers not to neglect the little wins.

Employers are doing well keeping people connected, but employees are least likely to rank social needs as important to them

Our research uncovered that most employees agree that their organisation has kept them well connected at work - only one in ten disagreed. Throughout the pandemic, keeping employees connected and engaged has been a hot topic for people leaders and it seems as though their efforts have paid off.

And these changes are here to stay. PwC research showed that 90% of UK CEOs said that conducting employee wellbeing initiatives is driving long term changes to their business model as a result of COVID-19 (and 23% said doing so would have the biggest positive impact on their organisation’s long term reputation).

Perhaps this is why only 8% of employees ranked social needs as the most important to them. If these needs are already being met, it could explain why they don’t feel like a top priority.

These insights can help people leaders ensure that they are spending their time and resources in the right areas. Leaders need to apply the energy that they applied to keeping their workforce connected to ensuring their workforce feels secure in their role and well-recognised.

This paper is part of a wider piece of research on the changing priorities of employees in a post-pandemic world, undertaken by Caraffi to help people leaders shape their future talent strategies. Follow Caraffi on social media to stay up to date and get notified about further research findings and insights.

Want to understand how you can boost your wellbeing at work programmes? Get in touch with the Caraffi experts:

We asked employees to rank the following in order of how important they were to them in their work life at this time - here’s what they said:

  1. Self-actualisation and sense of purpose at work - personal development plans, training, secondments, mentoring, and the opportunity for promotion to allow you to be the very best you can be. Making progress towards meaningful goals and understanding how your work contributes to the success of the business.

  2. Safety and security - this includes feeling you have job security (including formal contracts of employment), benefits (such as a pension scheme and sick pay), feeling safe in the workplace (for instance having COVID-related adaptations to keep the workplace safe).

  3. Recognition and self-esteem at work - respect and praise are important; getting peer-to-peer or social recognition for your work. Acknowledgement of achievements and effort.

  4. Functionality - this includes having the right equipment/tech needed to work successfully, a dependable salary, comfortable working environment.

  5. Social needs - good working relationships, feeling connected to your colleagues and the business, opportunities for team building and social activities (including remote i.e. Zoom), friendships at work.

Read Wellbeing and Engagement Insight

Research sources:,and%20finally%2C%20self%2Dactualisation.&text=Maslow’s%20hierarchy%20provides%20the%20basis,that%20focuses%20on%20financial%20rewards.