Employee wellness isn’t simple, and it’s not a one-step process.
Employee wellness is complicated because of all the factors that contribute to health and wellness. While providing fresh fruit in place of donuts for a morning team meeting is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of employee wellness.
Wellness programs need to consider the full continuum of mental, emotional and physical elements of an employee to improve corporate wellness initiatives. Supporting holistic well-being of employees takes into account the diverse wellness needs of employees, rather than just focusing on physical health. It’s essential for employers to recognize that all aspects of wellness are related and influence one another. For example, an employee who eats healthily and works out regularly might still be performing poorly at work due to high workplace stress — despite eating well and exercising.
Combining all aspects of well-being is an effective strategy to improve employees’ overall quality of life, job satisfaction, happiness, engagement and work performance. Consider some of the following to help encourage and support a holistically enriching life for your employees:
Put A Focus On Mental Health
Investing in the mental health of employees is good business. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults (or 43.8 million) experiences mental illness in a given year. Another 1 in 25 U.S. adults (or 9.8 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. This means that some of your employees are living with a mental illness, and it might be significantly affecting their work performance.
A 2003 study gave some eye-opening insight to the high costs employers take when mental illness is overlooked in the workplace. The study surveyed a random sample of 28,000 workers in the U.S. It was found that mental illness, including substance abuse, costs employers an estimated $225.8 billion each year through issues such as absenteeism, decreased performance and lost productivity.
While employers don’t have the ability to treat employees themselves, educating and providing resources for mental health goes a long way. Employers should be sure that health insurance benefits include mental health related issues, as well as include mental health questionnaires in health risk assessments and provide employees with information on local therapists and counselors.
Address Workplace Stress
Although workplace stress is common, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. High stress in the workplace can diminish opportunities for constructive teamwork, reduce productivity, and harm the physical and mental health of employees. Besides the high costs of stressed out employees — with one study claiming that workplace stress is responsible for up to $190 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs — workplace stress can contribute to severe health issues including hypertension, insomnia, substance abuse and heart problems.
Employers should take steps to determine levels of employee stress and identify the common stressors lurking around the workplace. Some signs of overly stressed employees may include an increased amount of PTO be taken off, negativity, moodiness and an overall decrease of staff morale. If several of these red flags exist, send out an anonymous employee survey to gauge levels of stress and ask for examples of existing stressful situations employees are facing. Evaluate and rethink meetings, deadlines and workloads that are contributing to high stress. Also, be sure to implement de-stressing activities at work such as guided yoga or meditation or a lunch and learn session about effectively managing stress.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Most employees strive for optimum work-life balance, but it’s not always feasible. Helping employees achieve a reasonable level of work-life balance will keep employees happier, more productive, and less likely to look for other job opportunities. Balanced employees tend to have stronger relationships with employers because they feel their personal lives are respected. A higher degree of loyalty and motivation can also be expected from employees through a positive work-life balance.
Perhaps some of the simplest ways of increasing work-life balance is by creating a flexible workplace. Employers can offer flexible hours and the ability to work from home when needed. Another trend is extending unlimited PTO to employees. Some companies that have offered unlimited PTO have claimed that it leads to happier, less stressed employees whom surprisingly take less time off each year.
Provide Opportunities for Social Engagement
Employee relationships can either positively or negatively impact one’s mental, emotional and social well-being. Since employees spend about 40 hours a week together, it’s essential that some sense of camaraderie and harmony exist in the workplace. Employees should be encouraged and given the opportunity to get to know one another on a personal level rather than just being desk-mates. Helping employees bond and understand one another on a deeper level will help promote respect, empathy and trust among the workforce.
In order for employees to interact and bond on a deeper level, employers must provide them with opportunities for social engagement. Sharing a drink at a team happy hour once a month, eating a healthy breakfast together as a team once a week or taking a team-outing to play a round of mini golf can help break the ice.
Put A Focus On Financial Health
The financial side of employee well-being is often overlooked. It’s assumed that financial health only affects an employee’s home-life. However, financial stress can take its burden in the workplace too. It can contribute to high blood pressure, reduced productivity, and make it difficult for employees to concentrate on their work. A study by Payoff even found that 1 in 4 Americans have PTSD-like symptoms from financial stress.
Helping employees understand more about financial well-being and gain control over their finances will help reduce a lot of the effects of financial stress. Employers can provide some sort of financial education — whether that be access to financial counselors, lunch and learn sessions or offering employees access to online financial planning resources and tools. Companies can also provide employees with onsite classes covering different aspects of finances such as “How to Save Money” or “How to Manage Your 401K”. Remember that — like all aspects of health — financial wellness is a process that deserves ongoing education.
Employers need to understand that wellness is a continuum. To get results from your wellness initiative, you must adapt a holistic approach to health and wellness that considers every aspect of employee well-being. Investing in mental, social, emotional and financial health, along with physical health, will help create a happier, healthier workforce — with results that last.