For many employers, the challenges and changes of 2020 are carrying a familiar sense of employee uncertainty into 2021. And while some have come a long way in effectively mitigating crises and helping remote employees feel connected, a significant number of today’s employees are still feeling worried—and it’s taking a toll on their overall health and well-being.
According to the October 2020 Leading Indicator Systems Workforce Listening Study, since May 2020, U.S. workforces have witnessed:
- A 38% increase in employees being worried about their own mental health.
- A 45% increase in employees being extremely worried about their ability to take care of family.
- A 140% increase in employees being extremely worried about their own vulnerability to addiction.
- 75% of employees find it challenging to work under their current conditions.
With findings like these, it’s even more vital for employers to deepen their commitment to employee wellness in 2021. To help keep your employees connected, motivated and in high morale, here are 7 proactive wellness initiatives you can implement this year:
#1: Think Digital: Reach Every Employee Where They Are
In the “new normal,” employees are scattered across numerous offsite locations and rarely reachable in a breakroom down the hall. Communicating key benefits information can no longer be left to a wall poster, door sign, or stack of brochures in the reception area. Instead, employers should think digital by:
- Creating and sending digital newsletters.
- Using a dedicated instant messaging platform or posting on an employee intranet or social media
- Hosting virtual town halls to highlight workplace wellness benefits.
- Recording short videos on timely well-being topics to engage employees in an easy and effective medium.
- Have virtual workouts, cooking classes, or other gatherings to keep employees connected and engaged.
#2: Incentivize and Make It Fun!
While it’s ideal when employees are intrinsically motivated to stay well, helping them adopt and maintain healthy habits is the overall goal of any wellness program. Here are some creative suggestions:
- Offer gift cards to randomly selected employees who enroll in workplace wellness programs. Eligibility qualifications could include participation in a personal health assessment, fitness challenge, behavior change campaign or biometric screening.
- Offer benefits-based incentives like discounts on insurance premiums, extra paid time off, and employer-contributions to HRAs or HSAs.
- Spark a little friendly competition in the form of fitness and wellness contents where employees team up together to win prizes like a free fitness tracker or catered lunch.
#3: Take a Holistic Approach to Wellness
Since the onset of the pandemic, mental health programs are seeing a rapid increase in investment and implementation, with 88% of employers increasing their investment in mental health programs, 81% in stress management and resilience programs, and 69% in mindfulness and meditation programs. Since a happy, healthy workforce is more productive, finding programs that cover the whole spectrum of employee wellness is key to strengthening your workforce well-being strategy:
- Mental Health: Bolster mental health initiatives by reducing the stigma surrounding them, highlighting behavioral health benefits, plugging EAP programs, and promoting telemedicine as a platform for engaging mental health providers remotely.
- Physical Health: Share resources and best practices for maintaining physical well-being and communicate them across multiple channels.
- Financial Wellness: Promote key financial wellness resources, as many employees may be experiencing financial uncertainty.
- Emotional Health: Offer tips and resources on mindfulness, meditation and other ways to de-stress to cultivate a greater sense of ease. Encourage ways that employees can maintain work-life balance. For example, vacations and time off are still important even if travel is limited or nonexistent during the pandemic.
#4: Be Proactive: Prevention vs. Treatment
Instead of focusing on treatment, many employers find themselves honing in on preventive benefits to boost workplace wellness. This, in turn, can lower instances of chronic illness among employees and their impact on overall healthcare costs. When employers approach employee well-being from a mindset of prevention, they give their employees the tools they need to make healthier choices, stay motivated to be well, and address potential health concerns before they arise.
#5: Turn to Technology
Technology has become an essential tool for helping workplaces thrive in the new normal, and the same goes for employee health outside the physical provider’s office. According to Human Resource Today’s 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report, telemedicine programs have experienced one of the most significant rises in wellness benefits popularity, with 87% of employers planning to invest more in these initiatives in the coming year.
Communicating telemedicine benefits to employees is a proactive way to arm them with the tools they need to take control of their health wherever they are. Whether it’s a primary care consult, a behavioral therapy session or a simple screening, letting them know how easy it is to tap into this particular resource can only serve to strengthen your employee wellness measures.
#6: Set Up Support for Parents and Caregivers
Supporting caretakers and parents is a vital part of fostering health and wellness in the modern workplace. As employers look to retain and attract new talent, they’re becoming increasingly mindful of the need for benefits that cater to this dynamic— such as flexible scheduling, childcare, paid leave, and even virtual activities for children and dependents. In fact, 89% of brokers believe employers will continue to offer such benefits even after the pandemic has subsided.
#7: Encourage Social Connection & Giving Back
Although social isolation has become a necessary practice to curb the spread of Covid-19, it’s also a key contributor to mental health complications. Because of this, employers should encourage and facilitate social connection, team building opportunities, and a chance to give back. Whether this is achieved by virtual events like happy hours and game nights or setting up corporate social responsibility programs, the onus is on employers to engage their employees in endeavors that spark connection and a shared sense of purpose. Anything that encourages employee interaction can help combat the isolation and emotional health challenges many are facing.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellness, but organizations who take the initiative to proactively prioritize workplace health and wellness will be better able to weather the ups and downs of 2021 with a happier, healthier workforce.