The COVID-19 pandemic has finally given employee well-being the attention it has always deserved. While 42 percent of employers are planning to invest the same amount into health and well-being programs in the coming year, 37 percent are planning to invest more.
In fact, 88 percent of employers are investing in mental health in 2021, 87 percent are investing in telemedicine, 81 percent in stress management and resilience, and 69 percent in mindfulness and meditation.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we asked some industry professionals for some ways they are making employee well-being a priority. Here’s what they had to say:
Create a flexible, well-rounded wellness program
Heather Doshay, VP People at Webflow, urges us to remember that well-being is a multi-faceted and nuanced concept. She shares, “Consider the needs of a diverse team of employees and the wide definition of well-being from physical health, to mental health, to financial health. There are great ways to support all of these within your total rewards, events, and workplace strategies.”
For instance, a gym membership might be a great benefit for some, while others might find mental health benefits to be more valuable.
The best way to build inclusive wellness programs is to ask your team what they want. Create open channels for communication, such as engagement surveys or a well-being task force, to help understand the desires and goals of your team members. You might find some unrealistic requests, but you may also find some easy wins you can provide your team. Help everyone feel heard and respected by including them in decisions.
Be explicit about time off
Laura N. Simon at Simon Consulting says it’s important to provide verbal or written direct permission for team members to take time off from work. She explains, “In a performance-driven society, team members need to have their leader explicitly give them permission to recover. I come from a high-end athletics background where we have to teach our Elite and Olympic athletes how to recover. High-performing work environments are no different!”
Leaders should be encouraging their team members to unplug from work and recharge. At a minimum, this means time off requests should be granted whenever reasonable, and team members should not be expected to check-in during paid time off (PTO). Company leaders should model this same behavior. More proactive managers might also monitor accrued time off or unlimited PTO days and suggest time off to their team members when it’s overdue. This can help prevent burnout and lead to overall better employee well-being.
Further, flex hours or remote work opportunities can allow team members to take needed time off for things like doctor appointments, mental health care visits, or a mid-day yoga class.
Support people to invest in themselves
Marialena Savvopoulou, Total Rewards Specialist at Beat, believes it’s a collective effort to ensure our communities return back to normal and everyone’s well-being is uplifted again. That’s one of the reasons Beat is offering a COVID-19 vaccination benefit to their team.
Marialena shares, “Our leaders wanted to wholeheartedly support and encourage team members to get the vaccine. Our benefit provides all Beat employees with paid time off to attend their vaccine appointments, tackle waiting times, and recover, wherever in the world they are.”
In the spirit of providing well-rounded benefits, Beat also offered a one-off Wellness Gift for all Beat employees in 2021, as a small gesture to help each team member flourish. Marialena adds, “Health is wealth, and at Beat, our people’s wellbeing and life balance really matter.”
Promote psychological well-being
Chris Lesperance, VP of Operations at Sapling echos the importance of creating a well-rounded wellness program that takes employee feedback into account. This includes unlimited vacation time, flexible work hours, remote work stipends, and volunteer time off.
But one of the things Chris finds particularly effective is Sapling’s level of transparency within the company—particularly during the pandemic. He explains, “Management is very open with our Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and the goals of the business. Along with visibility to attainment of goals and monthly all hands discussion of our OKRs, we have been able to provide our team with a great deal of understanding in how the future of the company is evolving.”
This understanding helps satisfy many different areas of the elements of employee well-being. Each team member understands the goals they’re trying to achieve in their role. They also understand how the company financials look, so they don’t have to worry about their continued employment during this tumultuous time. And, finally, team members understand if they’re interfacing across teams in the right way to achieve OKRs. Chris adds, “Giving positive answers to these questions really lends to employees feeling more fulfilled and stable in their careers.”
Final thoughts on ensuring employee well-being
There is no shortage of ways to improve employee well-being, as there are many different areas you could focus on. For instance, physical, mental, financial, and social well-being are all important factors to consider in a comprehensive wellness program.
Sync with your team to learn more about their specific needs and wants, and implement changes as you’re able. Some can be easy, like organizing a lunchtime walking group (even if your team is remote!), and some will require more effort, like reevaluating your healthcare coverage options. But remember this, anything you do can provide a net positive impact on your team’s overall well-being—and that’s already a big win.