Take Some Time to Prioritize Wellness
August 3, 2022
By Terri Moore
August is National Wellness Month and it couldn’t have come at a better time! We all need a shot of wellness these days — and not just the vaccine type of shot. Employee motivation has trended downward over the past few years. People have been pummeled with a wide range of wellness-depleting impacts, from the pandemic, of course, but also from rising incidents of widespread and often random violence, rising racism, polarization across multiple social issues, a declining economy, and more.
Now is the perfect time to recommit to prioritizing employee wellness — and helping keep employees highly motivated and finding the support and resources they need to stay engaged at work. Here we take a look at a number of employee engagement ideas that employers can do to change corporate culture and support employee wellness now, and all year long.
Establish clear definitions
What exactly do you mean by “wellness”? Be specific. While the word wellness once referred primarily to physical wellness, the COVID experience has taught us that being well relates not only to physical health, but also to mental, emotional, social, and even financial needs. Be specific about how your company defines wellness and make sure you’re casting a wide net to encompass the many impacts on employee wellbeing.
Ensure leadership buy-in
Making wellness a priority starts at the top. Unless senior leaders and executives “walk the walk” and illustrate through their own actions and deeds that they buy into wellness and support employee wellness, gaining momentum will be challenging to say the least. Leaders need to embody wellness holistically and wholly to help the workforce feel psychologically safe to attend to any personal wellness needs they have.
Leaders should lead by example, being up-front and transparent about taking a day off themselves to “refresh and renew,” or sharing a personal mental health challenge they’ve experienced. This kind of openness and transparency will help employees feel comfortable caring for and sharing their own needs and experiences.
Shift the culture
Changing corporate culture takes times and requires consistent and aligned communication to continually reinforce core messages. All aspects of wellness will gain focus as employees see and read company messages, hear the same messages repeated by company leaders and their managers, see evidence of a commitment to wellness in leaders’ personal actions, and begin to connect with each other around wellness-related activities and initiatives.
Provide a psychologically save “environment” (on-site, or remote!)
The dated idea that employees — and especially managers and leaders — left their personal lives at home no longer resonates. If the pandemic has had any positive impacts, one of them has been the recognition of the inter-relatedness of our personal and professional lives. We can’t turn one or the other off at will, nor should we.
Again, leaders and managers can set the example here. When they freely talk about their state of mind, their concerns, and how they’re dealing with mental and physical stress and wellbeing, employees will be encouraged to do the same.
Recognize that different segments of your workforce have different needs
Your employees will have different needs depending on where they are in their life and career journeys. This is especially true in an increasingly multigenerational workforce.
Gen Z struggles more with mental health concerns than other generations. McKinsey has found that this generation reports “the least positive life outlook, including lower levels of emotional and social well-being than older generations.”
Gen Y, or Millennials, have been called the “wellness generation” and can be your best advocates and role models for health and wellness activities. According to Harvard Pilgrim Health Care: “Millennials communicate, shop, eat, and even take care of their health differently than any generation before them.” And, they note, by 2025, they’ll “make up 75% of the workforce.” They’re a force to be reckoned with — and a force to leverage in your wellness pursuits.
Gen X is an interesting generation and one that often feels overlooked. Those at both ends of this generation tend to identify with either the Boomers or the Millennials, often feeling they have little identity of their own. Like the Millennials they’re interested in health and wellness — and like the Baby Boomers they’re often in caretaker roles.
Baby Boomers, and to some extent Gen X as we’ve seen, are thinking about — and often worrying about — their impending retirements, and financial standing. Many are stretched financially because they’re the “sandwich” generation — taking care of, and often supporting, both their kids and their aging parents at the same time.
Of course, in addition to generational differences, there are other differences between employees that can affect their wellness and their likelihood to participate in wellness-related activities — parental status, income levels, personal lifestyles, etc. The bottom line — be aware that different segments have different needs and be prepared to address those needs.
Plan activities that promote wellness
Health screenings, team building sports programs, nutrition groups, and a wide range of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) represent a number of ways that you can foster inclusion and community and promote a culture of wellness and support for employees’ unique needs. For instance:
- Have a potluck around an event theme — like a “back to school” healthy eating recipe swap that encourages the whole family to make heathy food choices
- Hold a health-screening fair with a twist — some friendly workout competitions
- A round-robin yoga class where staff take turns sharing and demonstrating their favorite poses
There are endless opportunities and involving employees in coming up with and planning activities can keep them engaged and energized.
Planning activities and events doesn’t have to be time-consuming or tedious. Get employees in on the game with Inspirus Connects — a fun way to build community and share wellness initiatives, recognize and celebrate each other, and be recognized for accomplishments. Promote these activities on Inspirus Connects in the Spotlights area.
Reward behavior that aligns with wellness values
Every organization has standards and metrics they use to monitor and measure success. Your wellness efforts should do the same. Maybe it’s a “spot” recognition program that rewards employees for living the company values, or a quarterly wellness celebration with awards for various employee milestones. Inspirus holds monthly wellness challenges — this month we're focusing on financial wellness. Every day participants record their daily spending on a purchasing tracking sheet, and points are awarded in our Connects employee engagement platform each day an entry is made. The goal is to bring visibility to our spending, so we can make smarter purchasing choices that align with our personal goals.
If you haven’t already embarked on your company’s wellness journey, use August and National Wellness Month as a springboard to begin creating a better work environment for your employees. And, even if you have, take some extra time in August to plan some extra activities to help your workforce achieve better work life balance and your organization to capitalize on the focus that wellness will be receiving. Remember, behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated!