Written by Aggie Warren

How can we balance the need for productivity with wellbeing support?

20th May, 2024   •  

We often hear the term ‘work-life balance’ – that working hard and taking care of yourself exist at either end of a seesaw.

If ‘work’ is up – and productivity a priority – there is only one place where the ‘life’ side of things and considerations of employee wellbeing can be… on the floor.

But… this is false.

Productivity and wellbeing are both crucial to a thriving workplace; the happier we are, the better we work.

The University of Warwick found that happy employees are on average 12% more productive than unhappy employees. 

This might sound small, but it essentially means that for every nine days at work, the unhappy employee is only producing eight days worth of productivity. 

This means they lose a month’s worth of productivity every year.

For the economy, the World Health Organisation estimates that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost $1 trillion per year globally in lost productivity. 


Why are productivity and wellbeing so high on the agenda now?

  1. Working from home

The first reason is the rise in hybrid and remote working. 

Offering work from home opportunities is an important way to support employee wellbeing, by allowing flexibility and autonomy over where and when you work. But it can have its problems too. 

The lack of physical separation between personal and professional spaces can lead to lower productivity because there is an increased risk of distraction – a ‘ding!’ from the washing machine as we are about to sit down to work, a ‘buzz’ from the doorbell mid-way through deep focus.

This also makes it more difficult to switch off. According to the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), only 11% of working-from-home Brits have a dedicated office, the rest work from multi-purpose rooms including bedrooms, kitchens or living rooms. This can impact our ability to use the room for its original purpose; we end up eating dinner while working because our computer is on the kitchen table, or we struggle to fall asleep because the bedroom (by day; office) is now associated with working, rather than resting.

Working from home can also lead to increased feelings of isolation, with 67% of respondents saying they felt less connected to their colleagues due to working from home. This absence of in-person collaboration and interaction can also hinder group discussions and ideation, making your team less productive. 


       2. Cost-of-living crisis

As we have already seen, unproductivity can be extremely costly, and these are costs that organisations, especially smaller ones, cannot afford during a cost-of-living crisis.

And the crisis is costly in itself. Added financial burdens and stresses have caused increased anxiety and mental health risks for people across the UK.

This has knock-on effects on productivity; a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) survey found that 66% of managers were experiencing diminished employee productivity because of the impacts of rising costs of living on employee mental health.


3. Increased awareness surrounding mental health and wellbeing

Finally, mental health and wellbeing have always been important issues, but awareness around them has risen steadily over the past few years. This includes at work, where individuals increasingly prioritise organisations they believe will support their wellbeing.

According to a State of Work-Life Wellness 2024 report by Gympass, 93% of respondents feel that wellbeing considerations at an organisation are just as important as their salary. 

Employees who feel their wellbeing is supported are less likely to experience burnout and are more likely to stay with the organisation long-term. 

However, there is massive misalignment. A recent study by Deloitte & Workplace Intelligence found that only 50% of employees believe their leaders care about their wellbeing, while 91% of leaders believe their employees feel cared for.


What can we do to improve wellbeing and productivity simultaneously? 

This involves having open conversations concerning wellbeing, engagement, feedback and progression and taking time to learn your team’s behavioural styles

Knowing your team well helps to build a culture of trust and effective communication. Employees are less likely to communicate concerns, needs and ideas to a leader that they hardly know and rarely see. 

It also allows you to know how your team works and what motivates them. Positive recognition in team meetings for example might motivate one person to be more productive, but make another anxious and uncomfortable. 

What ‘regular’ means will depend on your team size and circumstances, but weekly or fortnightly catch ups are widely recommended.

Knowing your team well allows you to tailor your style to each employee, recognise their signs of stress and burnout, and celebrate their strengths and successes in a way that works for and motivates them. 


  • Build team connections – have regular team-building activities 

According to Mental Health England, 44% of people said team building activities were the most useful in terms of wellbeing support. They are an opportunity to reduce stress and burnout by having fun.

Team building activities beyond the workplace also improve communication and social bonds, which makes teamwork, ideation, and collaboration in the workplace more productive.

Here are some ideas: 

  • Escape rooms, bowling, axe throwing
  • Team volunteering days
  • Book clubs


  • Set boundaries – encourage your team to take breaks, and set the example yourself

Taking breaks is an incredibly important way of counteracting burnout and the natural energy slumps we are all likely to experience at various points in the day.

This includes both micro breaks – shorter breaks during the working day, and macro breaks – longer breaks for an extended period… holiday!

Holidays give us valuable space and time to refresh and reset. It’s also important for our creativity and often when we generate our best ideas. Hamilton’s Lin-Manual Miranda conceived of his award-winning musical while on holiday. He said: “The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, Hamilton walked into it.”

As leaders, we need to role model the importance of breaks.

Sounds easy enough right? Yet studies have found that the number of days taken for annual leave is on the decline because of numerous circumstances including work culture and expectations. The number of people eating lunch at their desks is also on the rise.

When leaders don’t set an example of the importance of breaks, or create a culture where employees feel comfortable to take them, both wellbeing and productivity take a hit.

You can read more about how to take better breaks here.


In summary, to enable both sustained wellbeing and productivity: 

  1. Have regular one-to-ones and get to know your team through open conversations
  2. Build team connections through team-building activities
  3. Set boundaries, encourage your team to take better breaks, and take better breaks yourself

If you’re interested in how to boost both productivity and wellbeing within your team, please get in touch.