Businesses seeing increased employee demand for wellbeing

13 October 2023 3 min. read
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A study across UK and US offices have found that staff attribute higher value to employers who work to improve their wellbeing. Just under half of employees think their bosses should concentrate on boosting employee welfare, while a similar number suggested that their current mode of working did not support a healthy work-life balance.

New research carried out by United Culture has revealed that almost all office workers in the UK and US believe business leaders’ priorities need to shift in the current economic climate. A 93% majority of workers agreed that bosses were losing touch with the socio-economic landscape to this end – rising to 98% among workers under 25.

To that end, 43% explained that leaders should focus more on employee wellbeing – ahead of a 36% portion who maintained the traditional assumption that a manager’s time should be focused more closely on business growth. But amid the continued war for talent, where several years of high-turnover and a tight labour market make it difficult to quickly fill important roles, the latter position has become harder and harder to defend. 

When we asked employees what they want leaders to focus on in the future they answered as follows:

In fact, 37% of respondents suggested specifically that leaders needed to play a role in shoring up efforts to obtain and retain talent. They added that in the future, bosses should be to focus on the employee experience, including wellbeing, diversity and empowerment – to help keep key skills in the firm, and avoid losing them to competitors, or to burnout.

Victoria Lewis-Stephens, a managing director at United Culture, commented, “Today’s leaders have enormous expectations placed on them. Being commercially successful and keeping their people in a job isn’t enough. Changing modes of leadership, necessitated by the lockdowns, have changed people’s expectations. Qualities like empathy are taking precedence over top-down leadership styles.”

Of the more than 1,000 office-based workers polled, 48% still said that qualities identified in the pandemic would continue to be an important feature of leadership: courage, agility and decisiveness. But 46% also felt that listening skills, communication and empathy were the top three most important traits a leader could have.


Even though many working practices from the pandemic have remained, there is still a noticeable gap between employee expectations and reality. People enjoy the flexibility, and work life balance that hybrid working enables – with half saying remote working has positively impacted their organisational culture. But businesses have still not adjusted their employee experience to the new way of working.

Just under a third of respondents felt they did not have clear boundaries between their work and home life. At the same time, just 58% of people felt their current working pattern supported a work-life balance. Looking ahead, businesses need to think in more detail about how they can better support staff to get the most from hybrid working.

Lewis-Stephens added, “Employees increasingly expect to have a seat at the table and that can mean dismantling traditional hierarchies. Leaders need to make themselves more accessible and create space for employees to actively shape the direction of the business. Yet, at the same time they also have to drive business success.”