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PwC’s Well-Being Learning Project

Revealing definitive links between well-being and performance

When corporate well-being practices are combined with individual commitment to healthy behaviors and attitudes, it leads to a positive impact not only on the individual, but on their teams and client relationships.

This is a key finding from the Well-Being Learning Project, one of the largest studies to date of a corporate well-being effort. This research, conducted over a six-month span and featuring data collected from more than 1,400 partners and staff, examined the behaviors at the individual, team and organizational level that truly make a difference in our people’s well-being and in our business overall.

Key findings from the Well-Being Learning Project

A commitment to healthy behaviors is more important than choosing “the right” habits

Researchers discovered that each of the healthy habits PwC employees adopted in the study positively impacted one or more measures of their well-being. While there are many possible components of a corporate well-being effort—from hydration and meditation, to taking frequent breaks and encouraging employees to find ways to recharge—the specific behavior an employee chooses to embrace isn’t nearly as important as the act of simply committing to engage in a healthy habit that is personally meaningful.

That said, the study revealed three healthy habits that rise to the top and deliver the greatest impact on well-being. PwC employees who made a point to: 1) Appreciate their personal accomplishments at work, 2) Remember the ways they had been fortunate in work and life and/or 3) Engage in activities that renewed or recharged them were most likely to report higher levels of happiness and passion for their work, an increased PwC People Engagement Index and lower levels of burnout.

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Inclusive leadership and teamwork enable well-being to thrive

The study showed that the work environment must be aligned with healthy behaviors for well-being to flourish. Specifically, individual well-being is affected by a handful of key contextual factors, such as team inclusion (i.e., whether a person feels like they belong and are accepted as a unique individual in their team), job characteristics (i.e., the significance of their work and feedback they are receiving from managers), civility on their project team (i.e., respectful behaviors among team members) and the climate for well-being set by leadership and managers.

This link between healthy habits and the surrounding work environment is critically important. Previous well-being efforts do not include these important contextual and environmental factors and focus solely on instilling healthy habits in their employees—which the study shows will likely lead to limited long-term success.

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Corporate priority + healthy habits = big business benefits

The study confirmed that investing in well-being and flexibility impacts important business outcomes, such as employee intent to remain with the organization and their perception of team effectiveness. Each of the eight healthy habits significantly impacted at least half of the well-being outcomes studied. Employees who engaged in healthy habits reported a perception of better client relationships, a belief in improved team dynamics, lower levels of burnout and a stronger intention to remain with the firm.

The relationship between healthy habits and intent to stay with the firm was particularly noteworthy. Prior research has shown that intent to stay is a key predictor of actual future turnover. One study found that half of those at high risk of leaving, based on a survey response, actually quit their job within three years.1 And today, turnover comes with a hefty price tag for employers. While there is no standard to accurately measure the cost of employee turnover, estimates indicate it can cost 20-33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace them.2

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Technology boosts well-being

The study looked at two key aspects of technology as it relates to well-being: first, how frequently technology was used by employees to track well-being (e.g., via a wearable device or tracking app) and secondly, whether that technology was useful in encouraging healthy habits.

Researchers found that while participants did not believe that technology was important to improve well-being, participants who actually used well-being technology reported improved perceptions of team effectiveness and enhanced client relationships.

With no shortage of health and well-being technology in the market today, from wearables to virtual fitness classes and meditation apps, organizations have a plethora of dynamic technologies to consider incorporating into their well-being initiatives.

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1. Ledford, G., & Lucy, M. (2003). The rewards of work: The employment deal in a changing economy. New York: Sibson Consulting, The Segal Company.
2. Catalyst, May 23, 2018, “Quick Take: Turnover and Retention” https://www.catalyst.org/research/turnover-and-retention/

“Well-being is not a solitary journey — we've learned that in the workplace. Teams are a big part of creating a culture that supports and enables well-being at scale.”

Michael FenlonChief People Officer

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Mike  Fenlon

Mike Fenlon

Chief People Officer, PwC US

DeAnne Aussem

DeAnne Aussem

Leadership Development & Well-being Leader, PwC US

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