New research from McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) provides key insight into how organizations can build a workplace that promotes strong holistic health, i.e., prioritizing physical, mental, social and spiritual health.

Surveying over 30,000 employees across 30 countries, MHI found that employees experiencing positive work experiences reported better holistic health levels and were more likely to indicate more innovative and improved job performance. Positive holistic health was most strongly predicted by workplace enablers, especially aspects of work that provide positive energy such as meaningful work or psychological safety. Such enablers offset workplace demands, the workplace factors that require sustained cognitive, physical, and/or emotional effort, like a toxic work environment.

As you might expect, burnout is most strongly predicted by workplace demands. Crucially, burnout and holistic health can coexist. Only half of employees reported “faring well”, experiencing low rates of burnout and functioning well across the various dimensions of holistic health. The other half of employees include those who are “stretching” (strong holistic health but high burnout), “managing” (suboptimal holistic health but low burnout), or “drowning” (low holistic health and high burnout).

Key Points:
• More than half of employees reported positive holistic health with those aged 18-24 having the lowest scores. Managers and employees working in larger companies (250+ employees) tended to have higher holistic health scores.
• A complementary approach is needed to promote holistic health in the workplace. Burnout cannot be prevented just by providing workplace enablers, nor can holistic health be boosted solely by addressing workplace demands.
• Employee holistic health can be boosted through organizational, team, job, and individual interventions, such as flexible working policies, digital programs on workplace health, and leadership trainings and job crafting and redesign.