How employers can make emotional well-being a top priority

Today’s workers want, and need, tools to improve their emotional well-being.

Today’s workers want, and need, tools to improve their emotional well-being. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cesar Carvalho
CEO & Co-Founder, Gympass
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Business?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education, Gender and Work is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Education, Gender and Work

  • In a survey of over 5,000 people globally, one-third of workers said emotional wellness is the most important element of well-being to them.
  • Today’s workers want, and need, tools to improve their emotional well-being.
  • From flexible working to fitness programmes, here's how employers and employees can benefit from better workplace well-being.

Across the world, organisations and governments have increased their focus on the workforce's well-being. It's necessary: extensive research suggests that workplace wellness increases productivity, profits, retention, satisfaction, and so much more.

But the effort to improve workplace well-being programmes is complicated. Well-being is really an umbrella term for a wide range of factors. That's why Gympass' new international survey and report, the State of Work-Life Wellness 2024, takes a granular look at just how well workers across the globe are doing in different dimensions of their wellness.

The survey covers eight different dimensions of well-being: physical, emotional, social, financial, occupational, intellectual, spiritual and environmental. The results were striking. While the majority of respondents said all of these dimensions impact their productivity at work, one ranked above all the others: emotional wellness.

In the survey of over 5,000 people, one-third of workers said emotional wellness is the most important to them; no other dimension came close. Second place was financial wellness at 23%, followed by physical wellness at 13%.

Moreover, 95% of respondents said emotional wellness impacts their productivity – a higher response than any other dimension.

Emotional wellness was ranked the top priority in all nine nations we surveyed: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the US. It was also the most common response across generations, workplace environments, seniority levels, sexual orientations and gender identities.

Today’s workers want, and need, tools to improve their emotional well-being.

Emotional wellness was ranked the top priority in all nine nations surveyed.
Emotional wellness was ranked the top priority in all nine nations surveyed. Image: Gympass

Understanding emotional wellness

The National Institutes of Health in the United States defines emotional wellness as “the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times”. When business leaders hear this, they may wonder whether they have a role in this space. After all, the workplace is not therapy.

But the workplace does have tremendous influence over an individual’s emotional well-being. There is research to suggest that “soft features of the work environment” play a major role in emotional well-being. These features include “having discretion over the work day”, work-life balance and social interactions.

In my work, I’ve found this to be unquestionably true: the more flexibility employees have to get their work done at whichever hours are best for them, the more satisfied they are and the higher they rank their well-being.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

This flexibility also gives team members more chances to engage in wellness activities – particularly when the organization provides them with the resources to do so. These activities can come in a wide array of forms, such as access to stress relief programmes, specific training in handling and processing their emotions, and access to physical activity.

Many employees say physical activity is their favourite way to boost their emotional well-being. In fact, physical activity is one of the most powerful ways to improve both emotional and cognitive well-being, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The support of leaders

Our survey finds that people at higher ranks are often out of touch with the daily realities of their employees. When it comes to executives, 91% told us their company offers the flexibility people need to take care of their health, yet only 76% of managers and only 66% of non-managers said the same.

It’s up to executives like me to ensure that our work cultures genuinely support flexibility at all levels and it’s up to managers to make sure their employees feel that sense of support.

Have you read?

The World Health Organization recommends specialised training for managers on recognising and responding when their team members experience emotional distress. Managers should also learn to build “interpersonal skills like open communication and active listening”.

Just as important, leaders need to set an example by caring for their own emotional well-being and openly discussing it to help remove any stigmas. I have shared with my staff that I was in an unhealthy place in numerous ways, including emotionally, a few years ago. But once I committed to getting healthier and transformed my life, using the tools my company offers, everything got better – including my relationships with my family.

Building a robust, holistic wellness programme to help employees see these same benefits takes time, energy, and funding. But it more than pays for itself. In a previous study, my team at Gympass found that 90% of companies tracking the ROI (return on investment) of their wellness programmes see positive returns. The case for workplace well-being has never been more apparent.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
BusinessWellbeing and Mental HealthJobs and the Future of Work
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The ‘4 Cs’ of being a Chief Sustainability Officer

Gareth Francis

May 17, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum