Request a demo
Back to Blog

How to improve work performance by focusing on well-being

June 14, 2021 - 15 min read


Jump to section

Leave the negativity at the door

Establish trust through frequent, open communication

Build resilience in yourself and in team members

Make well-being a long-term focus to strengthen work performance

Our mental health underscores everything we do, including work performance.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, 62% of Americans state that feeling mentally unwell affects their ability to get their job done.

Many companies promote wellness with employee perks—free gym memberships, pizza Fridays, or ping pong tables in the break room.

These benefits are a great start, but they aren’t enough.

At BetterUp, we believe that boosting employees’ mental health and work performance requires a more holistic approach. Prioritize well-being throughout your company by training managers and employees to approach their work with positivity and openness.


Leave the negativity at the door

Has your mood or perception of something ever changed because of those around you? Maybe you just received a new client request that initially seems perfectly manageable. But when a teammate starts throwing their arms in the air, you may start thinking to yourself, "They're right. This is not fair!"

Well, there's a scientific reason for that, and it's known as the trickle-down effect. The principle is defined as how "supervisors' perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors" create "similar constructs at the subordinate level." Simply put, you as a manager influence your employees by the example you set and the environment you create.

Luckily, there’s also a ripple effect. Direct managers have the most significant effect on the employee experience and day-to-day perceptions of the work environment. Employees not only benefit from good leadership behaviors, they often practice them as well.

Inclusive managers have team members that feel more included and that include others. Resilient managers have team members who are more resilient, have greater well-being, and are more innovative and effective in their job performance.

Show a positive perspective in front of your direct reports to encourage them to stay engaged and view their work enthusiastically. Employees that are happy and engaged are likely to have better work performance. In fact, studies show that companies with high levels of employee engagement show higher productivity and 21% greater profitability.

  • Avoid gossip: Conflict is bound to happen in the workplace, but sometimes you can keep negative thoughts to yourself. Before sharing something with your team, ask yourself, "Why am I sharing this piece of information?" If the answer doesn't involve coming up with a solution to a problem, it's probably not worth sharing.
  • Say "thank you": There's no worse feeling than turning in a project only for it to be left unread by your superior. We get it—you, as a leader, deal with an overflowing inbox. With so much work, it's easy to forget that the report you just forwarded along was what consumed someone's life for the past three weeks. Take just one minute to reply to that person and thank them for a job well done.
  • Learn how to manage stress: Recognize the triggers that instill stress and learn how to counteract them with self-care. It's all about figuring out what works for you. It could be going for a walk, picking up your favorite lunch, or calling a close friend or family member.

Take steps to improve your own well-being. Before you know it, you’ll have promoted well-being throughout your team just by adopting a few simple rules yourself.



Establish trust through frequent, open communication

You can't help employees improve their well-being unless you know that they need help. As a manager, it's your responsibility to initiate conversations that could address mental health.

A recent study from Paychex revealed that 54% of employees were "uncomfortable talking to their managers and supervisors about mental health." Managers should communicate consistently with team members to understand how they're doing and build rapport.

These conversations aren’t just to be friendly—they also impact work performance. According to a recent survey from Workforce Institute, 68% of employees believe that low trust in the workplace negatively affects their daily effort.

The process for building trust through communication may not look the same for everyone. Consider the following methods to build rapport in your relationships with employees.

  • Set up weekly check-ins: Establish a day and time each week (and stick to it) to discuss workload, projects, and goals with your team members. Setting aside this one-on-one time also allows you to get to know each other and, if the employee feels comfortable, discuss well-being.
  • Ask questions to gauge well-being: We don't just mean "how is your workload?" Steer away from close-ended questions like this that allow employees to give an automated answer that requires little reflection. Try asking questions like, "What do you usually do after work?" or "What do you do to recharge during the day?" to gauge their well-being. An employee that says, "Oh, I usually just lay down and watch TV because I'm so tired" or "I don't have time to take breaks during the day" could be experiencing burnout that needs addressing.
  • Use ongoing communication channels: Make use of chat rooms like Google Hangouts, Slack, or Microsoft Teams to encourage quick and direct communication between you and your team. Making yourself more readily available increases the amount of communication, ultimately establishing more trust.
  • Be honest in your feedback: Contrary to what some may think, there is no perfect employee, and sometimes situations require a little bit of constructive criticism. Give timely feedback for a job well done—as well as any feedback for a job not so well done. By bringing attention to both the good and bad, you're more likely to create a culture of transparency.

A trusting work environment isn’t something that appears out of the blue. It is your job as a leader to set the foundation for an honest and open team relationship by practicing these skills.

Build resilience in yourself and in team members

We like to think that life would be great if only we could remove all stressors from our (and our employees') work lives. But that isn't realistic. It isn't even really desirable. Instead, build resilience in yourself as a leader and in your direct reports to reduce stress and promote well-being when things go awry.

Resilience isn't about eliminating stress—it's about knowing how to navigate it and grow stronger from it. In fact, we need stress and challenges in order to grow.

It’s a key skill given how many employees deal with stress. The World Health Organization has identified burnout as an official syndrome, and it is tied to negative feelings in the workplace related to one's job. BetterUp Labs found that employees with greater resilience experience less stress, while people with low resilience are four times more likely to burn out.

Organizations that promote a resilient workforce see better financial performance and more productivity. A study from BetterUp reported that companies that grew the most in resilience over a five-year trial had 60% higher revenue growth than those that grew the least.

BetterUp research also showed that "resilient leaders are more likely to engage in inspirational leadership behaviors, such as providing creative perspectives to help problem-solve or encouraging others to contribute and participate meaningfully." To boost your own resilience as a manager, BetterUp coaches recommend the following:

  • Pay attention to your health: Physical exercise is proven to have benefits to your brain health, increasing cognition and lowering levels of stress and depression. Talk with your doctor about what a proper exercise plan looks like for you.
  • Get connected: Humans are naturally social beings, and there is a reason extroverted individuals tend to be more resilient. Social connection can have significant benefits on your mental health. Confide in those around you to help solve challenges and find new opportunities to build resilience.
  • Practice self-awareness: Pay attention to signs of too much stress and face them right away, rather than pushing them to the back burner. Practice mindfulness training, such as meditation, to help you gain greater self-awareness.

Building resilience doesn't just stop at you and your own well-being. Leaders can also take steps to help employees strengthen their resilience, which ultimately benefits the company in the long run.

  • Promote autonomy: Employees don't want to feel like their manager is constantly hovering over them. Unless a deadline is urgent, save project-related conversations for your weekly one-on-ones to avoid micromanaging. Team members who feel that their bosses trust them are more likely to feel empowered. Feelings of empowerment are linked to better relationships, inner drive, and an overall better emotional well-being—all factors that contribute to greater employee resilience.
  • Create a flexible work environment: In the recent era of remote working, employees are experiencing more flexibility than ever before. And the fact of the matter is, it's helping our emotional well-being. Moreover, 80% of employees stated that having flexibility allows them to take better care of their mental health. As companies start to transition back into the office, think about ways you can continue to offer flexibility.
  • Provide resilience training: According to studies from BetterUp, resilience training reduces anxiety, depression, and withdrawal, while increasing feelings of fulfillment, awareness, and optimism.

Make well-being a long-term focus to strengthen work performance

Prioritizing well-being isn't a "one-time" or "quick fix" solution. It's something you need to work on every single day, and what works for one company may not work for another. As a leader, you set the stage for success by choosing how you decide to approach well-being in the workplace.

BetterUp coaches customize their coaching sessions to promote well-being and help you achieve long-term success.

Sign up to receive the latest insights, articles, and exclusive resources from BetterUp.

New call-to-action
Published June 14, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

Read Next

Research & Insights
7 min read | August 4, 2021

Simone Biles is not alone. 1 in 3 workers have taken a step back to prioritize mental health

While Simone Biles made headlines with her decision to withdraw from the all-around at the Olympics, new data from BetterUp labs shows her experience of mental health getting... Read More
12 min read | March 16, 2021

Why mental fitness is of strategic importance

Mental fitness is of strategic importance. In part 2 of the Stuck in the middle series, we explore the effects of poor mental health on performance. Read More
14 min read | November 23, 2021

How to recognize mental abuse, and why it's not your fault

Mental abuse isn't always as obvious as physical abuse, but it can damage every aspect of life, including health, performance, career, and relationships. Read More
13 min read | June 23, 2021

An entrepreneur's greatest asset is wellness. Here are 5 ways to protect yours.

Mental fitness and well-being -- key building blocks of sustained performance -- enable you to stay optimistic and help your teams stay energized. Read More
24 min read | November 29, 2021

Can’t think straight? How to achieve mental clarity

Do you struggle to think straight? Mental clarity is key for performance. Learn to improve mental clarity and get rid of dreaded brain fog for good. Read More
Mental Fitness
12 min read | January 11, 2022

How to do Inner Work® (even if you're way too busy)

Think Inner Work® is an indulgence you don't have time for? Truth: you can't afford not to. It boosts well-being and performance. Learn how to make it work. Read More
25 min read | September 20, 2021

What is Inner Work®? It’s the key to being a better leader

As the world of work changes, employers and employees are missing the value of Inner Work®. Here's what it is and why it's crucial for performance. Read More
21 min read | June 7, 2021

Take your mind to the gym: what it really means to be mentally fit

What is mental fitness, and does it involve lifting weights? Learn the difference between mental fitness and mental health, and how to build your mental muscles. Read More
21 min read | August 17, 2022

What is self-eefficacy? Definition and 7 ways to improve it

Does believing in yourself help you reach your peak performance? Learn about self-efficacy — and 7 ways you can invest in a better you. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.