Employee Wellness: 4 Ways to Keep Staff Happy, Healthy, & Engaged
April 26, 2022
By Terri Moore
The month of May is all about re-birth and re-emergence. Flowers are blooming, temperatures are rising, and we’re all ready to shed our coats, get outside, and enjoy some much needed fun-in-the-sun. May is also the perfect month to focus on health. It’s National Blood Pressure Month and International Nurses’ Week begins May 6th. And to kick things off, May 1st is Employee Health and Fitness Day.
For HR professionals, health and wellness is becoming a vital component of the employee journey. In Future Workplace’s 2021 HR Sentiment survey, 68% of HR leaders said that employee well-being and mental health is a top priority. This is not surprising, given the fact that the health and well-being of your workforce is in direct correlation to the health and well-being of your company’s bottom line.
If you want to keep your staff happy, healthy, and engaged, it’s important to develop a holistic approach that covers the following four types of wellness: physical wellness (we’re all sleep deprived and stressed out); mental wellness (we’re still dealing with a lot of stigma around this); financial wellness (inflation is affecting everyone); and emotional wellness (the war in Ukraine has us all feeling helpless.)
Here are a few suggestions to help you cover all four wellness bases.
1) Make physical wellness an integral part of your company’s culture.
We all know that stress causes inflammation in the body that can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. While no job is 100% stress-free, companies can (and should) take steps to reduce stressors in the workplace, promote work-life balance, and make physical wellness part of the overall culture.
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress levels among your employees is to offer a variety of flexible work arrangements. Remote and hybrid work schedules have become normalized since the pandemic, and many employees found they enjoyed the less stressful commute of working from home. At the same time, some employees couldn’t wait to get back into the office. The key is to let your people work in the manner that is best suited for them, and to be open to changes if one arrangement doesn’t work out.
Another way to emphasize the importance of employee health is by hosting regular health screenings and seminars. If you make it easy for your staff to get checkups and speak with medical professionals about their health, chances are they’ll take advantage of those services.
At Inspirus, we hold monthly challenges that incentivize employees by encouraging the right behaviors. This month is the "Fruit & Veggie 31 Day Wellness Challenge," that promotes a healthier diet by eating at least one fruit and one vegetable per day during the month of April. Participants will receive points in our Connects employee engagement platform for achieving different levels of "success." Wellness challenges are fun, and promote camaraderie.
You can also send out a monthly health-focused newsletter with details about gym memberships and discounts, corporate sports teams, wellness challenges and activities, and Q&As regarding health benefits and coverage options.
If you make employee health an integral part of your company’s culture, you’ll experience less turnover and have a workforce that is less-stressed, more loyal, and more productive. Healthy employees equal a healthy company.
2) De-stigmatize mental health problems through communication and counseling.
While the pandemic played a prominent role in mental health problems globally, it also brought awareness to a topic that holds a certain level of stigma. Most people are reluctant to admit mental health issues because they don’t want to be viewed as weak. This has led to a rise in drug use, overdoses, and suicides.
In a 2021 report from the American Psychological Association, one in five workers surveyed said that their mental health is declining.
Employers and HR teams need to implement programs and services to help at-risk employees and create a culture in which talking about mental health is normalized and encouraged.
Employee benefits should include mental health services such as free telehealth counseling and access to wellness apps like TalkSpace and Calm. Articles and information can be posted on your employee engagement platform and you can invite guest speakers and lecturers to come in or run webinars that discuss mental health issues like how to deal with stress, anger and depression.
And most importantly, managers should know how to spot the early warning signs of mental health issues in their employees so they can reach out and get them the help they need as soon as they need it.
3) Promote financial wellness through education and career mentoring.
Everyone is feeling the effects of inflation. Gas prices are soaring, groceries cost more, and healthcare premiums and prescriptions continue to rise. We could all use some assistance in the financial wellness department. Offering financial education benefits to your employees is a smart way to help them cope with money stressors. You can provide free or low cost financial planning and legal services and host regular workshops on topics such as budgeting and investing.
Fear of job loss or being replaced by technology is another form of financial stress. Employees worried about losing their job are almost 20 percent more likely to have heart disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Career path planning, mentoring, and on-the-job skills training can help employees feel more secure and in turn can lead to higher levels of employee motivation and productivity. Also, it’s important for managers of remote workers to respect and encourage a healthy separation of work and home life. Be mindful of sending emails or calling employees in off-work hours, as this can lead them to feel like they have to be available 24/7 or risk losing their jobs.
Another important point to consider when promoting financial wellness and education is how to reach a multigenerational workforce. The financial challenges younger workers are facing are quite different from the ones stressing out older employees. A great way to reach your entire staff with targeted messaging is through your employee engagement platform, where you can tailor finance education outreach to different segments of your workforce. A one-size-fits-all plan simply won’t cut it.
4) Improve emotional wellness by focusing on engagement and community.
The emotional well-being of your staff goes hand-in-hand with their level of engagement. If you want to learn how to improve team culture while at the same time enhancing employees’ emotional wellness, engagement is key. We recently launched an 8-part blog series called "Jo's Journal" that chronicles one employee's journey as she takes stock of where she's been, and where she's going during and post COVID-19 (and offers employer insights at the end of each entry).
One of the best employee engagement ideas is to build a sense of community within your organization. Look for and focus on the values and concerns we all share. For example, right now, everyone is heartbroken over the war in Ukraine. Organize ways for your staff to come together and volunteer, raise money, and participate in other types of outreach. Apply this approach to your local community as well.
Any employee engagement strategy must communicate to your staff that you care about them as human beings, not just as employees. Having a sense of purpose and a common goal as an individual employee, as part of a team and as an entire corporation is vital to the wellness of both the workers and the company itself. Employee recognition and praise is also important, as everyone likes to be acknowledged for their hard work and dedication. And make sure you’re paying special attention to engaging Gen Z in the workplace, as they have the least positive outlook when it comes to emotional wellness and dealing with loneliness.
“Humanity needs a goal that yields more time with loved ones, more accomplishments, and more time free from cognitive or physical impairment.” This statement from a McKinsey Health Institute report about how we can add years to our lives and life to our years pretty much says it all.
Changing corporate culture won’t happen overnight. But shifting your focus from the “resource” to the “human” can go a long way in improving the overall wellness of your workforce and reducing employee turnover at the same.