This month’s blogs are all about helping you think through what you’d like your well-being program to look like next year. This week, we’re focusing on the workplace well-being trends that are hot right now, and how you can incorporate these benefits into your 2022 employee well-being programs.
Well-being trends we’re seeing in the workplace.
While these are currently so-called “trends,” we’re hoping that many of these things become the norm within the next few years. And ultimately, it looks like employees are expecting some of these things from their employers now anyway—if they aren’t getting more flexibility and benefits with their current employer, they’re looking for other organizations who will offer the support they’re looking for.1 Many of these benefits include:
Care for the whole employee.
Companies who want to keep productivity high and retain key talent know they need to provide non-traditional benefits and support in child and elder care, family leave, parenting, mental health, financial wellness, and physical fitness.
Support for mental health.
Organizations are slowly breaking down the stigma of mental health by encouraging employees and leaders to openly share personal stories. In addition, they are offering more tools to help employees proactively manage their mental health before it becomes a crisis. Most importantly, the culture of work is changing to acknowledge that working longer and harder isn’t always working smarter.
It took a pandemic for workplaces to realize that the traditional 9 to 5 day was not working for many. Employees want flexibility in both where they work and the hours they put in. Some want to continue working remotely, others want a hybrid schedule, and some can’t wait to get back to the office. In a job seeker’s market, flexibility is the name of the game.
Diversity in well-being.
Organizations who are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion acknowledge that each employee has a unique background and experience. This needs to be factored into a well-being program for it to be truly inclusive and provide elements that everyone can access and benefit from.2
Stressing about finances can negatively affect people’s physical and emotional health. Employees are expecting help with basic financial planning and budgeting tools, student loans, and retirement. And research shows that providing the financial wellness support employees are looking for can positively impact employee engagement and loyalty, so it’s a win-win for both the employee and the organization.
Staying connected to others is essential for living a healthy, happy life and staving off loneliness. There is a role for employers to play here—especially with remote work and an increasingly geographically distributed workforce.
There’s been a revolution when it comes to where and how we work out. Online fitness classes, virtual personal trainers, and state-of-the-art in-home fitness equipment have made it possible to stay in shape and never set foot in a gym. Perhaps most importantly, employers are more accepting of the notion that physical fitness isn’t something that has to “fit in” before or after work.
Benefits to consider adding.
What are the specific benefits and programs you should incorporate to reflect some of these trends? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Childcare locator service. EAPs provide a list of local daycare centers or other childcare providers. Many have elder care locator services, too.
- Onsite childcare. Given the current childcare crisis, this would be a welcome benefit for lots of parents.
- Back-up childcare options. These benefits are helpful for the days when regular childcare falls through—particularly if a school or daycare needs to quarantine.
- Flexibility in working hours. Life happens. Let employees know it’s OK to take time to handle whatever they need to do at home to be able to bring their best selves to work—whether it’s blocking time on their calendars to pick up their kids or taking the afternoon off to care for a sick kiddo.
- Breast milk shipping. As business travel starts to pick up, these services allow breastfeeding parents to ship breast milk back home when they are away on a business trip.
Mental health resources.
- Counseling sessions. Most EAPs offer a set number of free counseling sessions for both employees and their family members. Make sure employees know about this valuable benefit. Many counselors now conduct meetings virtually, making it even easier to get help.
- Mindfulness, meditation, and sleep apps. Well-being programs have these resources baked into their platform. You can also sign up for services through well-known providers.
- Stress management and resilience training. Whether you use resources from your well-being program provider or widely available LinkedIn courses, giving employees the skills to reduce stress and increase resilience can help ward off burnout.
- Well-being webinars. Offer regular sessions on timely topics, like ways to get in more movement throughout the day, how certain foods affect your mood, and good sleep hygiene.
- Mental health podcasts. These cover a range of topics employees can listen to on their own time.
Flexible work benefits.
- Flexibility in working hours. As long as they continue to meet deadlines, allow employees to work when they’re most productive—even if that doesn’t fall into a typical 9 to 5 workday.
- Four-day workweeks. This concept is gaining traction. Many departments—and even entire companies—are testing four-day workweeks within their organizations. The results so far seem to be resoundingly positive in terms of productivity, engagement, and employee happiness.
- Meeting-free Fridays. No meetings mean uninterrupted stretches of focus time, something people are sorely missing with endless Zoom meetings.
- Updated leave policies. Take a hard look at your family leave, sick leave, and bereavement policies to make sure they reflect our current moment. Many organizations are formally adding “mental health days” to their paid time off policies.
- Education. Offer mini-courses on personal finance basics like budgeting, saving, and paying down debt. EAPs offer a ton of helpful content on their websites. Or, for more personalized financial wellness support, consider inviting a financial counselor or coach to speak with employees one-on-one.
- Tools. If you don’t have a financial wellness provider, point employees to online tools and calculators that can help them compute a mortgage, save for college, or plan for retirement.
- Benefits. Make sure employees are contributing to your 401(k) program up to the company match. Also, remind employees about Health Savings Accounts, which allow them to save for medical expenses in retirement tax-free.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) continue to be a great forum for employees to come together, share common experiences, and learn from one another. Other creative ways to keep up social connections with colleagues—whether in-person or virtual—include:
- Trivia nights
- Talent contests
- Art or craft exhibitions
- Potluck picnics or happy hours in outdoor settings
- Group volunteer activities
- Online fitness memberships. Almost every form of exercise now has an online component—from cardio to yoga to strength training and everything in between.
- Personal training. Offer discounts on virtual or in-person sessions with a personal trainer.
- Corporate-sponsored in-person and virtual fitness classes. Companies are now scheduling classes as meetings during the workday—not just during lunch or after work—to encourage employees to take a workout break.
- Fitness equipment reimbursement. It’s an oldie, but a goodie—especially now. Employees will appreciate getting a new set of handheld weights or resistance bands.
- Walk and talk meetings. Whether at home or in the office, encourage employees to take some meetings while walking outside.
- Nutrition counseling with a Health Coach or dietitian. Health Coaches discuss healthy food options, start weight loss programs, and even talk through behaviors and barriers that can help change the way people think about food.
- Formal weight loss programs. Check in with your well-being program partner to see if they have a weight loss program they can offer to your employees. For example, at WebMD Health Services, we have a program called Positively Me® that helps participants lose weight while also providing support around nutrition, exercise, mental health, and other components that impact weight.
- Healthy lunches. Offer more nutritious options at the office, or discounts on healthy meal delivery services.
- Telehealth. Allow employees to continue this convenient option for routine appointments, including pediatrician appointments.
As we navigate the many phases of this global pandemic, what remains certain is that well-being programs have never been more critical. Employees need robust well-being tools and resources to help them continuously adapt, cope, and thrive in this moment. For more ideas to improve wellness in the workplace, visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.