Age, life stage, gender, health status, occupation, even where we live—these all have a significant effect on what each of us needs from a well-being program. That’s why a personalized approach to well-being truly gets the best results. It sounds challenging to create, but with a bit of strategy and planning, you can design a program that includes workplace wellness options for everyone. Read on for details.
First, think about your well-being program. How well are you serving different aspects of your population when it comes to:
Generation and life stage.
Right now, there are five generations in the workforce, which means that employees’ life experiences and well-being needs will be quite different.
Take financial wellness, an increasingly important part of any well-being program. An employee in his late 20s might be saving for a first home, while someone in her 50s is thinking about whether she’s contributed enough to her 401(k). You may have single folks, families, empty nesters—all with different budgeting and planning needs. So look for a financial wellness program that offers tools and resources to help with every stage of life.
Support for women.
Women have always struggled with a more equitable division of labor when it comes to childcare and domestic chores. Then the pandemic hit, and the increased responsibilities of homeschooling, childcare, healthcare, cooking, cleaning, and much more largely fell back to women. This has taken a real toll on their mental and physical health and forced many to leave the workforce altogether.
Evaluate whether you have programs or policies that can take the pressure off—such as childcare locator services, back-up daycare, mental health content geared specifically towards women, and increased family leave. Employee Resource Groups can also provide excellent support in this space.
Your employees are likely at different points in their well-being journey. Some may be just starting out—learning how to eat better and incorporate exercise into their day. Others may be in maintenance mode, practicing learned healthy behaviors or maybe even training for a big event, like a marathon. Many are managing chronic conditions, like diabetes, and need daily support. So, a good well-being program will have meaningful content and programs for employees with varying health statuses.
Job roles in the organization.
Organizations sometimes fall into the trap of offering well-being tools that work well for people who sit at a desk all day—but field employees, sales reps, manufacturing, and healthcare workers need different solutions. Alternate channels that reach non-desk employees include morning huddles, lunch breaks, end-of-day touch-bases, texts, and podcasts they can listen to on their commute. Make sure your well-being program can reach all types of workers.
We also need to consider different roles in the organization. Here I’m thinking specifically of managers. The pandemic has highlighted the critical role managers play in promoting the health and well-being of their team—and it has certainly affected managers’ own mental health. Create toolkits for managers with job aids and talking points to help make this new part of their role easier. Access to regular trainings to help spot signs of a mental health challenge is also important.
Social determinants of health.
Where employees live—one of the social determinants of health—has a significant effect on their ability to live a healthy lifestyle. For example, we know that finding fresh produce can be difficult in some urban locations. A well-being program could help here by offering healthy, plant-based meals in the cafeteria, sponsoring a CSA, or hosting an onsite farmers’ market once a week.
Or, maybe an employee’s home environment doesn’t lend itself to regular physical activity. Employers can help by allowing some of the “well-being work” to actually take place at work. For example, consider access to walking trails, calendars blocked for an exercise class at lunch, or walk and talk meetings.
Finally, there may be logistical issues that prevent employees from getting the health care they need—whether that’s preventive care or managing a chronic condition. Well-being programs can play a role by connecting with local transportation resources or with health plans who often provide these services. You can also continue to offer telehealth benefits that don’t require any transportation!
Putting it all together.
We’ve shared some workplace well-being program examples to show how you can provide solutions that will be meaningful to different segments of your population. It’s also important to make sure your well-being provider can support this approach.
At WebMD Health Services, this kind of segmentation is built into our architecture, so well-being personalization is easy. For example, we can segment benefits and communications by age, gender, health risk and conditions, geographic location, health plan option and more. That way, each person only receives recommendations that are personalized to their specific situation.
But aside from the well-being program itself, it’s important to take a hard look at culture. We can provide all the well-being benefits in the world, but if the work environment is pressure-filled and unrelenting all the time, we’re not really addressing the heart of the issue—and that’s flexibility in how, when, and where people work.
Leaders need to empower managers to give their teams the support they need when they need it—whether in the form of flex time, hybrid working schedules, or allocating time for well-being during the workday. It’s also crucial for leaders and managers to model healthy behaviors and establish boundaries for themselves, like taking mental health days, putting fitness on their calendars, or leaving early for family commitments.
To sum up, take time to analyze your well-being program through the lens of the various segments of your population. That way, you can be sure to have a well-being program that empowers everyone and the personalized resources to help employees achieve real results: better health, better happiness and better well-being for all.