What 2021 Should Have Taught You About Employee Wellbeing

It’s been quite the year. Again. 

We’ve been in lockdown, seen restrictions lifted, debated vaccines, tried to travel, worked from home, worked from the office, embraced hybrid working, felt cut-off, felt at peace, relished being reunited, felt reluctant to be reunited, looked forward to Christmas, worried about Christmas, and seen restrictions reintroduced. 

We’re all feeling a little uncertain about the future right now, but one thing’s for sure: 2021 taught us an awful lot about employee wellbeing (and just how important employers – and workplaces – are when it comes to employee mental health). 

71% of executives say that employee engagement is critical to the success of their companies – and employee wellbeing is, irrefutably, part and parcel of that. But what are the lessons you should be taking from 2021, and how can they help you to attract and retain a happy, engaged and productive workforce in 2022?

What We’ve Learned About Employee Wellbeing in 2021

As an employer, you’ll no doubt be aware that we’re in a candidate-led, jobs-rich market – placing the onus on employers to impress potential new recruits (and to keep hold of existing employees).

With that in mind, you’re going to want to make sure your people are well looked after – and that starts with their wellbeing. So take a look at our top 2021 learnings, and why they’ll matter to your business in 2022.

1. Employees no longer look at salary alone

Once upon a time, a competitive salary was enough of a hook to bag you the best talent the market had to offer. Not anymore. Today’s workers care about a company’s values and wider benefits, along with how they treat their employees, and how flexible they’re willing to be. In other words, they’re interested in everything that’s going to contribute to their overall wellbeing – so focus on what your business has to offer, beyond fiscal remuneration!

2. Culture counts

A company’s culture is its lifeblood. One that values its people, allows them to be authentically themselves, and recognises good work is essential to the smooth running of any business. In fact, a whopping 69% of employees say they’d work harder if they were more appreciated. Create a culture that celebrates your people in every way possible, and enables them to be honest and open about how they’re feeling on any given day.

3. We’re all affected by mental health

We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. Some days it’s good, others it’s bad. 2021 has taught us that even for people who’ve never experienced mental ill health before, our environment (and external events – like a global pandemic) can exacerbate or bring on mental health conditions. In fact, 57% of employees are feeling greater anxiety since the outbreak of the pandemic, while 53% feel more emotionally exhausted. It therefore follows that all employees need good mental health support.

4. Connections are more important than we thought

Some of us are innately social creatures, while others prefer their own company. But whether you’re introvert or extrovert, social or solitary, this year has made many of us realise just how important our relationships are. In fact, Harvard Business Review reported that since the start of the pandemic, 75% of people admit to feeling more socially isolated.

We might not always choose to socialise, but the key is in having choice. Being isolated and secluded served as a reminder that even virtual relationships are important for our wellbeing – so if your people are working from home, take decisive steps to keep camaraderie alive.

5. Switching off can be hard

During the pandemic, people worked up to three hours more, every day – greatly impacting work-life balance. Perhaps even more concerning is the 86% of employees who felt they had to ‘prove’ to bosses they were working hard and deserved to keep their jobs. Working from home has its merits, but it can be difficult to switch off when the line between personal and professional gets blurred. Support your people by checking in, without micromanaging, and encourage them to set healthy boundaries.

6. People are more exhausted than ever

Despite many of us working from home (avoiding a tiring daily commute), 53% of employees are actually more exhausted than they were pre-pandemic. 2021 has taken an emotional toll on all of us, and between juggling work with childcare, home-schooling and worries about health, job security and finances, it’s not hard to see why. As an employer, it’s important to give your people opportunities for rest and relaxation, and the resources they need to recharge.

To discover how our employee-led wellbeing platform can help you to support your people in 2022 and beyond, book a free demo or get in touch for more info.


BetterSpace is the employee wellbeing platform putting control where it belongs: in the hands of the individual employee. Our groundbreaking solution has been developed with medical and domain expertise and is aligned to our Six Pillars of Wellbeing. BetterSpace empowers your workforce to understand and fulfill their mental health needs. 

This approach has achieved engagement rates of 94%, compared to the average usage rate of 2-18% for Employee Assistance Programmes and 10-40% for points solutions.

Want to know more? Schedule a product demonstration with us today.

Workplace wellbeing insights