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19 Ways To Improve Well-Being in the Workplace

It’s hard not to notice the shift happening in the employee/employer relationship lately. In addition to more flexibility and better wages, people want to work for employers who care about them across multiple aspects of their lives. A good well-being program can do that. In this week’s blog, we share 19 ways to improve well-being in the workplace to keep the employees you have happy—and attract the ones you want in the future.

The benefits of having a workplace well-being program are well-documented: improved employee engagement, greater productivity, lower healthcare costs, better retention, and generally happier employees. Well-being programs are especially important in the workplace today because, by their very nature, they provide support across the dimensions of well-being: physical fitness, emotional balance, clinical management, social connections, and financial security—which is exactly what employees want help with. Here are 19 ways you can incorporate these dimensions into your workplace well-being strategy:

Physical fitness.

Exercise and healthy diets can help prevent disease, improve sleep, boost moods, and much more, resulting in healthier, happier employees at work. If you know your employees are interested in physical wellness support, consider incorporating these ideas into your program:

1. Provide access to fitness programs and apps.

Many employees appreciate things like gym discounts, virtual fitness programs, and classes they can access from anywhere. Right now, virtual classes are growing in popularity. Employers can incorporate these by adding regular classes as meetings during their regular workday or subsidizing options their employees are personally interested in, such as individual subscriptions to fitness classes. Some well-being program providers also have exercise videos built into their platforms. For example, on WebMD ONE, participants can access exercise videos offered by our WebMD Health Coaches.

2. Help with nutrition.

This can be in the form of health coaches, weight management programs, or even providing healthy lunches to your staff. A well-rounded well-being program includes nutritional support based on an individual’s needs and interests. For example, WebMD Health Coaches discuss healthy food options, start weight loss programs, and even talk through behaviors and barriers that can help change the way they think about food. The integration with WebMD ONE provides various digital tools to further personalize the support to each individual in between coaching sessions.

3. Create a well-being culture.

One of the best ways to maintain or improve employee well-being is to model it at work. Whether virtual or in-person, an organization can demonstrate it cares about employees’ health by creating a culture of wellness. Some ways to show you have a culture that cares about well-being include offering steps competitions, leveraging walking meetings, providing healthy cafeteria options or a weekly healthy meal planner, and ensuring employees know it’s OK to block time on their calendars for daily physical activity.

Emotional balance.

Employees want—and expect—mental health support from their employers. And the pandemic has definitely brought mental health even more into the spotlight. A few ideas to improve mental health at work include:

4. Communicating about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Chances are you’ve already got an EAP—you may just need to re-market it and promote its services: free mental health counseling sessions for employees and families, help with finances, managing stress, child and elder care locator services, and more. We recommend creating an EAP one-pager that lists the most important things employees need to know and sharing it via email, direct mail, meetings, and other communications.

5. Add virtual mental and emotional health services.

Seeing a counselor is now a highly sought-after need. Enlist the services of a counselor, a health coach specializing in mental and behavioral wellness, or even your CEO to speak about mental health at work. And if you currently offer a well-being program, check with them to see which mental health solutions they offer. For example, in addition to our mental health podcasts, stress coach specialists, and Daily Habits plans, we partner with third-party vendors and solutions to offer specific services our clients are looking for.

6. Openly discuss mental health.

We should all aspire to have mental health—for all levels within an organization. As stewards of employee mental health, training managers to spot signs of excessive stress or issues that lead to mental health challenges is equally important. It’s also extremely helpful for all leadership positions to role model good mental health behaviors so employees feel empowered to care for their own mental wellness—taking mental health days, openly discussing mental health in meetings, and establishing boundaries between work and personal life are just some ways leaders can support their teams.

7. Help with good sleep hygiene.

Getting a good night’s sleep is key for both mental and physical health, but so many of us struggle—especially those who are shift workers or work long hours. Education and tools to help individuals focus on sleep are an excellent way to help employees improve sleep quality, which can also enhance moods, productivity and motivation.

Clinical management.

As the pandemic continues to be top of mind, healthcare providers see a decline in people receiving care for chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This is concerning, as we know that staying on top of these conditions is key to preventing full-blown health crises in the long-term. Here are some things you can do to help improve your employees’ health while potentially reducing healthcare costs:

8. Offer a condition management program as part of your well-being solution.

A program that offers multiple modalities to support condition management is a great way to ensure you empower the right individuals at the right time. Condition Management coaching, digital reminders, goal setting, and educational content are important to keeping higher-risk individuals engaged.

9. Keep offering a health assessment.

A yearly health assessment continues to be a great tool for making employees aware of their current and future health risks. In addition to the health assessment results, a good well-being program provides employees with immediate, actionable recommendations they can use to help mitigate any risks and improve their overall well-being.

Social connections.

Before we had even heard the word “coronavirus,” we were already experiencing a “loneliness epidemic” in this country that experts linked to serious health risks like heart disease, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.1 Now the shift to remote work has eliminated those casual office interactions and the so-called “weak social ties” that make a difference to our well-being. As much as we can, we need to continue to try to keep our social connections alive. Here are just a few suggestions for sustaining social connections with coworkers:

10. Sponsor a volunteer event.

Plan an event that gives the team a chance to bond while doing good, whether in person or virtual. Plan activities that match your company’s mission or sustainability goals, or find a local organization you can develop an ongoing relationship with.

11. Hold a trivia night.

During the pandemic, lots of companies popped up to facilitate trivia nights so employees could connect and show off their Jeopardy skills. These are a fun way to promote social interactions and meet new team members, especially as remote work continues for many. For example, I used Kahoot to host a fun, virtual trivia “get to know you” with my full team.

12. Encourage safely distanced meetups or picnics in parks.

As restrictions ease, there may be some opportunities to safely meet up with coworkers. Picnics, happy hours or setting up games in the office can be a great way to build connections—especially when you’re able to meet people from other departments that you may not have spoken to before!

13. Have photo contests and virtual art galleries.

We do these activities at WebMD. People can share incredible things they see on their walks, photos of their pets or children, or even show off their unique talents in drawing, music, dance, whatever! We have such an amazingly talented group of individuals working here, and it’s nice to make space to talk about our hobbies and find others who share similar interests.

14. Create virtual book clubs.

Surprisingly, a virtual format works really well for a book club. You can still talk about the books and have a few laughs, but you could technically get ready for bed and still participate! At WebMD, we recently had a book club that focused on personal development and career goals, but you can also empower your employees to create book clubs around their own interests—gardening, biographies, whatever!

15. Lean into Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

Like a lot of items on this list, ERGs were around before the pandemic. However, our experiences over the last year and a half have made them even more valuable for fostering connections and raising awareness of the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organizations.

Financial security.

Employers traditionally offered support for retirement, but that’s typically where financial wellness in the workplace ended. Now, companies realize that financial stress may make employees less productive and even affect their health. Some popular ways to add financial wellness initiatives to your well-being program include:

16. Financial education.

Teaching finance fundamentals can help alleviate some stress and empower your employees to set financial goals. Topics like how to set up and stick to a budget, how to create a long-term savings plan, concepts like interest rates and the time value of money, and other finance-related topics are all important to teach.

17. Debt counseling.

This could include assistance with consolidating debt, establishing a plan to pay it down, and education on interest rates and budgeting to help employees avoid future debt. It also helps employees cope with the stigma and stress of being in debt.

18. Financial coaching.

Financial coaching helps employees experiencing an immediate financial crisis set goals for the future and improve their current financial situation.2 Sessions could be in-person, over the phone, or via video with a financial professional. If you have a 401(k) program, ask if they have someone who your employees can contact for these kinds of sessions.

19. Student loan debt assistance.

Organizational tools that pull in and consolidate all student loan data in one place can be a huge relief for your employees. You may also want to make loan consolidation services available so employees can look into lowering their monthly payments.

Focusing on the holistic health of employees is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s essential for keeping employees healthy and engaged and recruiting talent in the future. If you’d like help figuring out ways your organization can support the dimensions of employee well-being, visit our website or contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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