Home / Features / Virtuous cycle

Virtuous cycle

Gemma Rigby, HR Director at Anabas believes in the creation of a virtuous cycle by linking employee health and wellbeing to engagement and performance

Modern workplaces represent a much more dynamic landscape than they were even a few short years ago. Long-gone are the days when the norm was for entire company workforces to be in the office Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm. Today, many organisations are embracing flexibility in when and where their colleagues work, an approach which is helping to enhance productivity and working relationships, support a more positive work-life balance, and widen recruitment opportunities.

This shift has also strengthened what I refer to as the virtuous cycle between workplace and employee. Today, more than ever, I see an interconnectedness between employee health, wellbeing, engagement and, ultimately, organisational performance.

Although the connection between employee wellbeing and performance has always been there, there is no doubt that this relationship has been emphasised more strongly since the pandemic uprooted conventional working patterns.

Countless studies continue to provide validity to the virtuous cycle analogy. Economists at the University of Warwick, for example, carried out a number of experiments in 2022 and found that happiness made people as much as 12 per cent more productive.

Global analytics and consultancy firm Gallup, meanwhile, routinely publishes research on the link between worker wellbeing and business performance. Indeed, the impact of wellbeing can have a tangible impact on the number of days lost due to sickness, productivity and retention of talent. Burnout alone, Gallup says, costs companies $322 billion a year in lost output.


There are many components which combine to make the virtuous cycle between business and employee.

The first two centre around physical and mental health. Interestingly, the Gallup study finds that 75 per cent of medical costs accrued mostly due to preventable conditions, underlining the potential financial impact that an effective employee wellbeing strategy can have on a business.

The case to promote and support healthy workers is straightforward but extremely compelling. People who are physically healthy are more likely to have the energy and stamina needed to perform well at work. At the same time, they are also less likely to be absent due to illness, which is key to reducing disruptions to workflows. Good mental health is also essential for concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making – when employees are mentally well, they are more engaged and productive.

The next element is work-life balance. Organisations which provide flexibility can help employees to manage their personal lives more effectively, which not only helps to enhance overall wellbeing, but often makes them more engaged and satisfied when working.

Stress reduction is another critical component of the virtuous cycle. In its study, Gallup finds that ‘engaged workers who are not thriving in their lives’, compared to those who are ‘engaged and thriving’, are 48 per cent more likely to encounter daily stress and 61 per cent more likely to be often or always burned out. Employers that invest wellness programs and a healthy work environment can help to limit levels of stress.

Wellness programs can also boost employee engagement, which is the next key element in the virtuous cycle. Engaged employees are more likely to be committed to their work and perform at their best, therefore helping to produce better business outcomes than other colleagues. Indeed, companies with the highest rate of engagement are more than 20 per cent more profitable.

Job satisfaction and engagement are two closely related variables. Companies that prioritise employee wellbeing and convey a sense of worth to their workforce often witness heightened job satisfaction and performance levels – this is because satisfied employees are more likely to put in the effort and want to perform well.

The final element is employee retention, a huge priority for businesses given the competitive nature of the recruiting market in many sectors of the economy. Prioritising employee wellbeing correlates with higher retention rates, ensuring continuity and stability within the organisation. By creating a supportive work environment where employees feel valued and respected, companies can retain top talent and be more certain of fulfilling long-term strategies.


In an ideal scenario, all the above components will be working in harmony together and feed off each other. This is more likely to occur when employees’ needs are met across various dimensions, including the health and wellbeing aspects we have just described.

Indeed, there are several other needs that employers should be seeking to address. These include setting clear expectations and providing a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, as well as autonomy to execute those responsibilities and take ownership of their work. Both will help to create a greater sense of empowerment.

Work also needs to be challenging enough to be intellectually stimulating. Meaningful and interesting work can be a strong motivator and help employees to feel engaged with and valued in what they do. Similarly, regular feedback and recognition for contributions helps to boost motivation and job satisfaction – employees thrive when they know their efforts are acknowledged.

Acknowledgement alone, however, is not enough. Employees need to be assured that sustained efforts and success will translate into career development opportunities. Learning and development programmes are also key to this and help colleagues to see a path for growth within the organisation.

There are also cultural needs to consider, especially around alignment with values. Employees who believe in the company’s values are more likely to thrive, with a shared sense of purpose providing additional motivation to perform well.

Although we have set out some specific needs that are likely to be universally applicable, it is important to consider that everyone is different, and that people may prioritise these factors differently. That said, addressing these needs collectively will create an environment where employees are more likely to thrive in their roles, and therefore loop into the virtuous cycle.

About Sarah OBeirne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *