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How employee feedback can boost mental health (even when it’s not what you want to hear) 

Mental Health Awareness Week aims to promote a world with good mental health for all. And this year, to support the cause, we’re sharing insights and resources which aim to aid firms in improving overall employee and client wellbeing. Our Research Manager, Rose, writes about the importance of employee wellbeing and offers her insight into creating an effective employee satisfaction survey.  

In recent years, discussions around mental health have taken a front seat in both work and personal settings. The link between job satisfaction and mental wellbeing has become clear, thereby creating more pressure on businesses to prioritise the wellbeing of their employees. The UK’s Stevenson and Farmer report (2017) and the subsequent 2022 report by the Wellcome Trust have highlighted the importance of supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace, identifying key factors such as work demands, social environments, autonomy, and physical health. 

Additionally, platforms like Indeed are collecting and sharing workplace wellbeing data on a large scale, benefiting job seekers, employees, and businesses by providing insights into the health of work environments. It means the benefits of strong wellbeing programmes can impact the whole organisation, with workplace wellbeing linked to productivity, recruitment, retention, and financial performance. However, many businesses struggle to make progress in this area due to challenges in defining and measuring wellbeing. Since subjective wellbeing or “happiness” is difficult to measure, a great deal of work has been done over the past few decades to decide on how to go about doing so. 

Employee satisfactions surveys are often used to measure employee wellbeing. They allow you to gather robust data on what matters most to your employees, as well as measuring current wellbeing and satisfaction scores. Designing a quality survey will help to create a strong employee wellbeing programme that when delivered effectively can help improve productivity, retention and importantly the mental wellbeing of employees. Here’s our quick guide to creating an effective satisfaction survey: 

Clarity and Simplicity in Question Wording 

Always make sure that survey questions are straightforward and easy to understand. This minimises the cognitive burden on respondents and reduces the likelihood of misinterpretation. Simple wording helps ensure that responses accurately reflect the intended constructs. 

Consistent Question Formatting 

Keep the wording and structure of questions consistent across different iterations of the survey to maintain reliability. This consistency aids in comparing data over time and ensures that any changes in responses are due to actual shifts in wellbeing, not alterations in how questions are asked.  

For example: “Were you satisfied with the training you received for your role? Yes or no” vs “On a scale of 1-10, how effective was the training you received for your role?"  

Both options are good questions but stick to one to make measuring the responses over time easier.  

Use Effective Scale Lengths 


Utilise scales that are long enough to capture nuances in responses but not so long that they confuse respondents. An 11-point scale (0-10) is often effective for evaluative measures of wellbeing, allowing for a broad range of responses. 

Unipolar vs. Bipolar Questions 

Prefer unipolar questions (e.g., from "not at all happy" to "completely happy") over bipolar ones (from "very unhappy" to "very happy"). This approach reduces confusion and makes the scales easier to understand for respondents. 

Careful Selection of Reference Periods 

Tailor reference periods in questions to the type of wellbeing measured. For evaluative wellbeing, broader reference periods like "these days" or "overall" are suitable. For affect measures, shorter periods like "yesterday" or "the past week" help minimize recall biases and provide more accurate data. 

Minimise Bias Through Question Ordering 

Structure surveys to minimise priming and other biases. Place subjective wellbeing questions near the beginning of the survey to avoid influences from previous questions. Also, consider the sequence—starting with general wellbeing questions and moving to more specific emotional queries.


Labeling and Scale Anchors 

Clearly label scale anchors while keeping intermediate points unlabeled or sparingly labeled. This helps respondents focus on their actual feelings rather than getting caught up in the semantics of scale points. Absolute terms like “not at all” or “completely” are preferred for clarity. 

Once you’ve implemented your employee satisfaction survey, we recommend analysing the results, creating an action plan and repeating the survey. We suggest repeating bi-annually or annually. It’s important to strike the right balance between allowing enough time for any changes that you made to have effect and missing opportunities for feedback. Think about the scale of changes, how long you think it will take them to bed into your organisation and for employees to see results. Once employees start seeing the results of your action, repeat the survey to gather feedback and repeat the process again.    

Send us a message for more information on how we can help your firm with employee satisfaction programmes.  

References and Resources: 

Stevenson, D. & Farmer, P. (2017). Thriving at Work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers. Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Health and Social Care. 

Smitch, C., Netsi, E., Newman, R., & Bilsland, L. (2022). Putting Science to Work: Where Next for Workplace Mental Health. Wellcome Trust.  

De Neve, J-E., Ward, G. (2023). Measuring Workplace Wellbeing. University of Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre Working Paper 2303.  

What Works Centre for Wellbeing. (2024, 10 May). Guidance for Better Workplace Wellbeing. What Works Centre for Wellbeing.  


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