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The Importance of Employee Well-Being: 5 Areas of Wellness Employees Need Help With Right Now

In case you haven’t heard, employees are struggling. After more than two years of a pandemic, they’re stressed, burned out, emotionally exhausted, and not getting enough sleep. Needless to say, the importance of employee health and well-being in this moment can’t be overstated. Check out these five areas of employee health and wellness that organizations can help with right now.

As employees continue to grapple with the many challenges of the pandemic and its after-effects, many employers have turned to workplace wellness programs to shore up support for beleaguered employees. This is encouraging. But, the problem with some employee wellness programs is that they tend to focus primarily on physical or clinical health—such as lifestyle modifications, condition management, nutrition, and fitness. And while physical health is certainly a huge component of overall well-being, today’s employees need—and are asking for—support in other dimensions of well-being.

We know what employees need for health and well-being because our health coaches speak daily with hundreds of people across various industries, job roles, and levels within organizations. Our health coaches consistently hear about:

  • Declining mental health
  • Anxiety around safely re-engaging in society after so much isolation
  • Loneliness and lack of social connections
  • Poor sleep
  • Financial worries
  • How to get back to an exercise routine
  • Work-life balance and routine changes, and
  • Stress related to securing good childcare

To be clear, employers can’t solve all of their employees’ problems, but there are many areas that they can positively impact. So without further ado, here are five areas of wellness you can focus on to help your employees.

1. Mental health and burnout.

Mental health is the single most important dimension of well-being that employees need support for now. New research from employee benefits provider Unum shows over half (56%) of U.S. workers, primarily millennials and Gen Z, felt mentally unwell in the previous year. Burnout is also on the rise. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, nearly 3 in 5 employees reported classic symptoms of burnout, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%).

Here’s how you can help:

  • Make it easier for employees to receive counseling, including text/chat and video support.
  • Reduce the stigma of mental health through employee and leader testimonials.
  • Form a Mental Health Employee Resource Group (ERG), or name mental health champions/allies within the organization.
  • Offer a mental health day or additional time off to recharge. Make it clear that leadership supports taking paid time off for self-care.
  • Provide access to apps for mindfulness/meditation, stress management, resiliency, and sleep support.
  • Better communicate and promote your mental health resources, including Employee Assistance Programs and behavioral health benefits included within medical plans.

2. Flexibility.

Employees now want more flexibility in how, when, and where they work, and it’s become a major retention factor. In fact, a recent ManpowerGroup survey found that nearly 40% of global candidates say schedule flexibility is now among the top three factors they consider when making career decisions.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Allow employees to set their own schedules to better align with family responsibilities, or simply to work when they feel most productive.
  • Consider 4-day or compressed workweeks.
  • Let employees choose where to work—at home, in the office, or hybrid.
  • Offer unlimited PTO.
  • Hold “no meeting” days so employees can schedule appointments or get focused work done.
  • Offer choice and control in work shifts for those who can’t work from home, including self-scheduling, shift-swapping, compressed workweeks, part-time work, and job sharing.

3. Caregiving.

Nearly nine in ten employed caregivers—meaning people who work and also have unpaid care responsibilities at home—depend on other care providers so they can perform their own jobs.1 Finding quality, affordable care was never easy, but it’s even more difficult now. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that a daycare worker shortage has left nearly half a million families without childcare, leading to additional stress for parents.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Institute or increase caregiving leave.
  • Show employees how the EAP can help with finding elder or child care.
  • Host onsite daycare centers or provide backup daycare options.
  • Offer paid parental leave for both parents, including those who adopt and those who experience pregnancy loss.
  • Allow flexibility in meeting the needs of parents or older relatives, like attending doctor appointments during the workday.
  • Offer a childcare subsidy or discounts for daycare centers.
  • Consider adding long-term-care insurance to help pay for home health aides or a parent’s care facility.

4. Financial wellness.

Like mental health, financial stress was a huge employee concern before the pandemic. Now, with rising inflation, soaring gas prices, and a potential recession on the horizon, people are more stressed out about their finances than ever. According to Bankrate’s April 2022 Money and Mental Health report, more than 40% of U.S. adults say money is negatively impacting their mental health.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Give employees options for how they get paid. For example, Earned Wage Access (EWA) allows employees access to their money as soon as they’ve earned it.
  • Offer student loan debt repayment programs—this is particularly important as it is uncertain how long the payment pause on federal student loans will last.
  • Continue to offer education and guidance on budgeting. Personalized tools can help employees set and stick to a budget.
  • If the budget allows, provide access to trained financial counselors who can help employees strategize how to manage their money in this period of high inflation.

5. A supportive culture.

Your company might have the greatest wellness program in the world, complete with help for multiple dimensions of well-being, but employees may still feel unsupported. Why? It often relates back to workplace culture. According to a report by Achievers Workforce Institute, the top three drivers of workplace well-being are: feeling accepted, included and valued at work; being warmly welcomed and made to feel part of the team; and having a supportive manager.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Recognize employees through formal recognition platforms or small tokens of appreciation.
  • Ensure a good onboarding experience: assign a team member to shadow a new hire for the first week, or set up a lunch or happy hour to welcome them to the team.
  • Take a critical look at work demands, workload, norms around working long hours, and other unwritten “rules” that cause unnecessary stress.
  • Help employees set boundaries by encouraging them to communicate regular log-off times, set times when they will not be available, and carve out time during the day for self-care.
  • Provide opportunities to socialize with coworkers—virtually or in-person—to increase all-important social connections. Wellness challenges are a great way to bring people together around a healthy pursuit.
  • Provide managers with skills and training in:

It may seem unconventional for employers to be involved in areas of their employees’ lives that were previously considered the employee’s responsibility. But, given the current fragile state of worker well-being, proactively caring for employees with non-traditional employee benefits isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s essential to continued productivity and engagement in the organization. And, employee expectations in wellness programs frankly demand it. If you’d like to learn more about why employee health is important or want to plan and launch a wellness program for employees, visit our website or contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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