Wellness often becomes a hot topic at the start of a new year, when the weather starts to hint at spring, or when employees feel burnt out from the demands of work and life. It’s a hot topic in the employee benefits space for sure, and it’s one where employers have a significant opportunity to walk the walk instead of simply talk the talk about wellness.
As an employer, your challenge is finding ways of supporting the wellness that your employees seek. We believe employers should take a comprehensive approach to employee wellness because it’s the right thing to do to care for their employees, though there are also returns on investment for employee productivity.
Wellness encompasses many different aspects of life, and there are various ways that companies can engage in wellness goals. Consider your employees and the benefits/policies that make the most sense for your company, and remember to keep the conversation open with your employees to see what best meets their needs.
Many health insurance plans include programs that promote wellness. As an employer, take the time to educate your workforce on the benefits already included in the plan. Highlight insurance-provided programs that provide education and support for chronic conditions, such as asthma or back pain or diabetes. Other potential benefits include discounted gym membership or reimbursement for a certain amount of wellness spending.
And, of course, be sure your benefits include adequate sick time and that your company culture supports employees taking time off when they are sick. You can offer all the sick time in the world, but if employees aren’t encouraged to stay home when sick, it impacts that employee and your entire workforce.
There are two key ways your benefits package can help support mental health — through your health benefits and through your employee assistance program (EAP). EAP packages vary greatly, but many include a certain number of free telehealth or in-person visits with a mental health professional. Having this first step to access mental health resources can sometimes be less daunting for someone who is struggling. After the initial visits provided through the EAP, an employee can seek continued care under their health insurance.
It’s not enough to simply provide an EAP and mention it during new employee orientation though. Signs posted in the break room, while sometimes helpful, are still a passive step. Be sure you are regularly reminding your employees about the EAP and the support offered for mental health.
There are several small changes you can make in the office to support wellness, such as including fruits and vegetables as part of any in-office lunches. Some offices regularly have fruit in the breakroom as a nourishing snack option for employees as well.
If you need to have a meeting that is primarily talking, consider a walking meeting to increase physical activity while accomplishing work, if everyone involved in the meeting has the physical capacity to do so. Look around for other ways you can promote healthy living within the office, such as adding a water cooler to support adequate hydration. We don’t recommend weight loss challenges because they can be demotivating or triggering for some employees, but there are many other ways to support employee health in the office.
The financial health of your employees matters to your business. If an employee is struggling financially, they may end up looking for other employment options or be more distracted while at work. The good news is that there are ways of improving financial health beyond a basic raise. Education on financial topics and financial literacy can support an employee in managing their money, debt, or investments. These are great lunch and learn topics. A recent change in 401K law includes finding ways to help employees pay off their student loans, which can be a long-term burden for many college graduates.
Stress management is a key component of employee wellness, which ties back to mental health. This is one of the biggest areas where employees fall short of walking the walk. Effective stress management practices on the employer side include creating clear expectations for employees, dealing with employee issues quickly, and not overloading employees.
Feedback loops are critical here, as they create an open environment for employees to talk about aspects of their job that may be creating stress and discuss solutions to those issues. The more effective your managers are in building relationships and staying on top of employee workloads, the better they will be able to help employees reduce stressors related to their work. Giving employees the flexibility to balance things happening in their personal lives is critical here as well. Do your time off policies and your culture truly support employees taking time off when they need to rest and recharge?
Employee surveys continue to reinforce the importance of wellness for employees, and many are willing to leave a position in search of an employer who truly supports wellness through both benefits and culture. You want to be known as the company that cares for its employees and gives them the tools they need to be successful, not just in their job, but in all aspects of life. Take the time to create the policies, programs, and culture that will support wellness in your workforce.
If you need help developing policies and training your team to support a comprehensive approach to wellness, reach out to us to schedule a call.