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Net Thriving: The Other Stock Price

The following is an excerpt from Wellbeing at Work, Gallup's new book that reveals how to build resilient teams and organizations. For more insights like this, order your copy of Wellbeing at Work today.

Much like a financial audit, reporting employee engagement or Net Promoter Scores for customers has become a requirement for boards and institutional investors over the past two decades.

While employee engagement has been on the rise for the past 10 years, as of this writing, 36% of U.S. workers and just 22% globally are engaged. Engaged employees produce far better outcomes on everything.

However, Gallup recently discovered that engaged workers who are not thriving in their lives are much more vulnerable and add risk to your organization.

For example, comparing employees who are engaged but not thriving in life with those who are engaged and thriving, those in the former group report the following risks:

  • 61% higher likelihood of burnout often or always
  • 48% higher likelihood of daily stress
  • 66% higher likelihood of daily worry
  • double the rate of daily sadness and anger

Thriving employees have 53% fewer missed days due to health issues. Suffering and struggling employees have substantially higher disease burden due to diagnoses of depression and anxiety, among others. This translates into big differences in productivity.

Reporting employees' mental health and wellbeing will soon become a requirement for all organizations.

How many employees in your company are suffering, struggling or thriving?

If you want to know the wellbeing of your employees, this two-part question, called the Best Possible Life Scale, is the best question item Gallup analytics has ever found to measure GNT because it encompasses all aspects of an individual's wellbeing:

Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.

Q1: On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (0-10)

Q2: On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (0-10)

Your organization will need to know how your employees answer the Best Possible Life Scale questions to effectively meet the new demand of managing the whole person. Just like stock price is an indicator of current and future earnings, Gallup Net Thriving assesses the current and future resiliency of your workforce.

Even prior to COVID-19, work and life had become blended. Remote working and flextime were on the rise. And then with many employees ordered to work from home to flatten the coronavirus curve, work and life became completely blended for most employees.

Even with a vaccine and economic recovery, work and life will never be separated like they were in the past.

How Does Gallup Define 'Thriving'?

Gallup uses the Best Possible Life Scale as the global standard to measure Gallup Net Thriving across 160 countries.

Packed into any person's responses to these two simple questions is almost everything in their life -- from basic needs such as food and shelter to personal safety to a good job, social status, money and health.

Let's call the two parts of the Best Possible Life Scale "best life present" and "best life future." They are both important because one reveals your current state, which influences your decisions right now, and the other reveals your hope for the future. Even people in a negative state can keep going if they have hope that things will get better.

Just like stock price is an indicator of current and future earnings, Gallup Net Thriving assesses the current and future resiliency of your workforce.

Gallup tracked wellbeing in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the percentage of people who rated their lives highly on best life present dropped at a historic rate -- while best life future improved slightly. People believed there was a way out.

Gallup analyzed how best life present and best life future predict happiness and health as well as negative outcomes such as stress, depression and burnout. Information from best life present and best life future gives us, in combination, indicators of whether individuals are suffering, struggling or thriving -- an index of the resiliency of a culture.

We determined the thriving, struggling and suffering categories based on analytics from over a million respondents across 160 countries.

  • Thriving: These respondents have positive views of their present life situation (7 or higher rating on best life present) and have positive views of the next five years (8 or higher rating on best life future). They report significantly fewer health problems and less worry, stress, sadness, depression and anger. They report more hope, happiness, energy, interest and respect. Across countries, the percentage of thriving employees ranges from 8% to 87%.

  • Struggling: These respondents struggle in their present life situation and have uncertain or negative views about their future. They report more daily stress and worry about money than thriving respondents do. Across countries, the percentage of struggling employees ranges from 12% to 77%.

  • Suffering: These respondents report that their lives are miserable (4 and below rating on best life present) and have negative views of the next five years (4 and below on best life future). They are more likely to report that they lack the basics of food and shelter and more likely to have physical pain and a lot of stress, worry, sadness and anger. They have less access to health insurance and care and more than double the disease burden compared with thriving respondents. Across countries, the percentage of suffering employees ranges from 0% to 35%.

How Employers Can Improve Net Thriving

The first step is engaging your employees, because engaged workers are more likely to involve themselves in your organizations' wellbeing initiatives. Managers who engage their employees establish trust -- making them open to wellbeing efforts that affect the whole person and issues related to suffering, struggling and thriving.

Work should be a stabilizing force in people's lives. This is particularly true in psychologically brutal times like those the world experienced in 2020. And employers play a central role in shaping the whole person.

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