DEI

The Critical Intersection Between DEI and Mental Health

Pandemic-related mental health is undoubtedly top-of-mind. In addition, there tends to be an uptick in dialog about mental health this time of year because May is Mental Health Month. Yet here’s what I’m thinking a lot about recently that extends all year long: the critical intersection between mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

While both topics have grown exponentially in discussions among leaders, they have often grown in tandem. However, it’s important to tie the two together. It’s a junction where belonging, health, happiness, and productivity live. But the key is to understand how they intersect and what that means to leaders who want to foster a positive workplace.

The State of Mental Health

The research and stats continue to illustrate that COVID has propelled us into a mental health crisis. In a report by Mental Health America and Surgo Foundation, “The COVID Mental Health Crisis in America’s Most Vulnerable Communities: An Analysis of the US Cities Most Impacted by COVID-19, Poor Mental Health, and Lack of Mental Health Access”, the researchers hit on an important societal issue. A community and workforce’s access to mental health services – especially for underserved populations – is a DEI issue. Period.

“Mental health benefits: A key component of DEI,” a 2021 article in BenefitsPRO, connects the dots by stating that if an organization is going to be committed to DEI, then mental health benefits must be part of the picture. So, ask yourself, are accessible, impactful mental health benefits part of your organization? And even if you say yes, there is still work to do. And it’s interesting to look back a year later and see what mental health needs were unmet before, during the height of the pandemic, and today.

Create Paths to Help

What has become abundantly clear is that organizational management – and HR leaders, especially – must include mental health benefits, resources, and services with a special lens on underserved and high-risk populations. We expect government entities to pave the way, but every company should also take proactive steps to provide its own inclusive, healthy community. (The article was published under different titles to appeal to various HR professionals, including the aptly named DEI That Ignores Mental Health Is Doomed in HRAdvisor.)

The piece states, “Mental ill-health is often a symptom of lackluster DEI within companies, and specifically among minority demographics… Regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, a majority felt that they had experienced barriers to inclusion. McKinsey’s research supports the argument that certain demographics are more likely to feel less included. Among those groups are entry-level employees, women, and ethnic or racial minorities.”

“When someone’s race, identity, and sense of who they are, are repeatedly questioned and used against them, their mental health is affected. When those kinds of questions and attacks happen within the workplace, the individual and the company suffer.”

Foster DEI to Support Mental Well-Being

Let this remind us that the conversation isn’t simply about COVID-related mental health, although that’s the world we live in at this minute. DEI leaders need to ensure that the workplace always fosters inclusivity to support mental well-being proactively.

Other problems that can impact mental health and a feeling of safety at work for marginalized populations include lack of representation/misrepresentation, microaggressions, unconscious bias, and other stressors that can be hard to see. A solid DEI approach ensures that (1) leaders are trained to watch for these issues and (2) employees have access to resources to manage or mitigate these concerns.

According to Forbes, “Managers can be the ‘first responders to address mental health in a crisis. Training, educating, and empowering managers to lead on both mental health and inclusion – and how the two intersect – can speed up needed support to employees from diverse backgrounds. Managers may be in the best position to handle these sensitive issues with individual employees, helping to answer questions, address concerns, and direct people to the best available resources.”

First, Find Your People

The CDC published data about racial inequities that continue to plague our health care system. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.”

That information doesn’t require much of a leap to the gap between underrepresented populations and mental health resources. The right DEI strategy should incorporate holistic, proactive approaches to address mental health needs, especially for groups that have never received or considered support.

The Connection Between Mental Health and DEI

So how do we draw this line between mental health and DEI? What’s interesting is that it’s truly about perspective. Reaching rural, LGBTQ, ethnic, religious minorities, youth, and other groups can be challenging. But it can also be extremely fulfilling, allowing a culture of inclusion and a celebration of differences to shape an organization.

You would be well-served to take an audit of your DEI strategy. Where does it address mental health? Is it proactive? Is it realistic? Are there proper communications plans to inform employees about resources?

These questions may reveal what’s next – and I beg you to take more than a quick look. See what’s working and what’s not to take a macro and micro look at how to improve. HOW are WE making mental health a priority for ALL of our people? How can we start at the top and make it actionable throughout the organization?

Tech Innovation Can Help Close the Gap

During the last few years, one noteworthy stride has been an increased capacity by the medical community to interact with patients online. Zoom therapy wasn’t much of a “thing” a few years ago. But improved technologies and a growing savviness for online medical appointments can drastically improve our reach into underserved populations.

A fascinating interview in Forbes addresses the ripe market for a tech disruption in mental health. This points to a promising future for organizations invested in closing the gap between mental health and all kinds of populations. The article covers the importance of how connecting underserved people with the technology they need to stay up-to-date is essential.

Some interesting tech innovations in this area include, “explicit measurement-based care efforts integrated within virtual behavioral health solutions, expansion into other modalities of care such as coaching, and continued consolidation in the space.”

“Additionally, many vendors are expanding their treatment modalities from just teletherapy with a mental health professional to things like virtual coaching. Finally, tons of funding is going into condition-specific startups, including those focused on substance use care, autism, etc.”

Opportunity is Knocking

This topic offers hope. There is a real struggle right now as the fog of uncertainty has not lifted, and mental health aftereffects reverberate like aftershocks. It’s discouraging to know there are underserved populations and people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. It’s not an easy task to look at the gaps in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. But we can make positive changes here. Armed with the correct information and a willingness to ask hard questions, organizations can use DEI initiatives to make actual societal change.

Mental Health Awareness

How and Why to Honor Mental Health Awareness Month at Work

Mental Health Awareness Month is here again. For leadership, it’s a critical opportunity to reassess how your organization supports the mental health of your workforce, and plot out a more effective course to do more.

Why do more? Mental health has never been more important. The pandemic not only brought the issue to the forefront but also exacerbated it. In a post we published last fall, the author called today’s mental health challenges a “bittersweet lesson.” I love that term (and his post is definitely worth a read if you haven’t already). Covid-19 and its impacts have forced leaders to look at mental health not just as a factor in performance, but in retention as well, and by extension, the whole enterprise. We’ve also seen how a whole range of factors — being minority, lgbtq+, having an existing mental health condition, or being in a difficult work situation can turn a minor issue into a major one.

So I’d say there’s some real urgency here. But one of the blind spots I’m finding among leaders isn’t a commitment to do more. It’s a commitment to understanding how mental health is interwoven throughout the world of work right now.

Connect the Great Resignation and Mental Health

Let’s acknowledge that most leaders don’t have the time or the bandwidth to play connect the dots on their own — another reason why occasions like this can be so useful. But even among top-notch HR teams and benefits experts, certain problems tend to get siloed in order to get solved. Triage is not a holistic approach, but mental health is.

Take one enormous — and nearly universal — a challenge facing workplaces: the Great Resignation. Some 47.8 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021. This unprecedented wave of quits hit many sectors. It’s certainly still happening. And it has everything to do with mental health.

Attrition and Unhappiness

There are those who argue that the real reason for this surge of voluntary departures is opportunity, not discomfort; ambition, not unhappiness. They point to the hot jobs market as an irresistible chance to try the “grass is greener” approach, despite all that their employers have done for them. They note that younger generations have a different mindset when it comes to how long to stay in a given job. The urge to career climb may drive some to great heights — and you should celebrate that — but it doesn’t account for what’s happened with nearly 50 million people.

There’s plenty of tangible evidence that when employees aren’t happy, they try to find a place to be happier. It could be employees not feeling valued and workplaces being too toxic to thrive in. (For more on toxic workplaces and how to identify and then fix them, we published a great post that still holds true.) So while it may be easier to point your finger at a workforce getting too big for its britches, I don’t recommend it. While you do, you’re likely still losing employees.

Job Dissatisfaction Goes Deeper Than we Like to Admit

So why do people really leave? A recent Pew Research survey of more than 6,600 employed U.S. adults found that the top reasons cited for leaving one’s jobs in 2021 are all related to mental well-being in some form. These include low pay (63%), lack of opportunities for advancement (63%), and feeling disrespected at work (57%). Nearly half of the Pew survey respondents cited childcare issues (48%). Others said they were frustrated by a lack of flexibility (45%). A hefty portion of respondents (43%) cited the need for better benefits, including health benefits and paid time off.

Conditions of employment? Perhaps. But all of these are factors known to play a well-established role in either promoting or detracting from emotional and psychological well-being. Concurrently we’ve seen a rise in conditions such as anxiety and depression: from pre-pandemic to January 2021, reported symptoms of anxiety or depression among U.S. adults jumped from 11% to 41%. 

What Mental Health Really Means

This isn’t a judgment, it’s an observation: While organizations tend to know what they are required to do in terms of regulations, they don’t necessarily know how to best improve mental health in the workplace. There are clear rules spelled out by the ADA, FMLA, and other legislation that help maintain clear guardrails about workplace culture, clinical support, pre-existing conditions, benefits policies, and more. But it may be easier to focus on staying within legal compliance for the organization’s sake than drilling into why these actions are so important in terms of the workforce’s sake.

I’m also finding that most leaders — particularly in the C-Suite but also high-level HR execs and managers — have their hearts in the right place. But we all need more guidance on where mental health begins and ends in the workplace. Bottom line: these days, given the blurred lines between work and life, I don’t know that it ends at all. But it does help to know what mental health stands for: an umbrella term for hundreds of conditions, clinical or not, that comprise emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Ensuring a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have,” one of our contributing authors wrote recently. I’d concur — though it’s also important to understand the nature of your workplace, virtual, hybrid, on-premises, flexible, shifts, supervised or not. And you need to understand the overall culture of your organization — not just your projected employer brand — and how that plays a role in mental health. I’ll give you one example: Organizations that made “innovate!” a key imperative in their work culture are unwittingly (or not) putting employees under an undue level of stress, and may be increasing their own workplace attrition rates. An MIT research team found that the pressure to innovate is actually one of the primary drivers of attrition.

Factoring in the Costs of Unhappiness

In mid-2021 the Great Resignation caused at least a 1.1% rise in the rate of inflation, according to the Chicago Fed; and it’s certainly having an impact on the global economy, the supply chain, and the bottom line.

We also know that the cost of replacing employees who leave can run as high as $1500 per hourly worker, and note that the figure was calculated pre-pandemic — the costs could be even higher now. SHRM also estimated that for every salaried employee we lose, it can cost the employer 6 – 9 months of that employee’s salary to find a replacement. That, too, was a pre-pandemic metric. From that perspective, there’s a business case to be made for making sure your organization is doing all it can to support your workforce’s mental health.

Get on the Bus: 10 Actions to Celebrate Mental Health Month

To honor Mental Health Month, use the time to assess all the factors that contribute to and detract from emotional, psychological, and mental well-being in your workplace. Then, commit to making meaningful improvements. This isn’t a time for performative gestures, it’s a time to take actions that count. So here’s a quick list of possible strategies:

1. Invite full participation.

Enlist the whole organization so that anyone that’s interested can participate (inviting participation is itself a form of promoting mental health).

2. Make the month different.

Treat the month as an occasion. Consider making some radical changes for May to see if they have an impact on mental health in the workplace. For instance: make a month-long policy allowing for a half day personal break once a week, no questions asked. Try a no-contact after work policy, so people can decompress and work doesn’t come home with them. Bring in meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise instructors for virtual or in-house classes. Provide access to on-demand webinars and courses about self-care, mental health, and staying balanced. Bring in SMEs to talk about mental health issues. When the month is over, ask your teams what they enjoyed, and what they would want to continue.

3. Assess your mental health benefits.

Have a summit with your benefits teams and providers to see what can be added to your mental health offerings. For instance, could you offer telehealth with therapists? What about childcare/caregiver support? How hard would it be to build more mental health support for your existing program?

4. Evaluate DEI in your work culture.

Discrimination, bias, and feeling isolated for one’s identity can take an enormous toll on individual mental health. Look at how DEI is working in your culture. You may want to reach out to those who may be feeling isolated or disadvantaged to get their take. Make a safe space for women, minorities, LGBTQ+, and others who may feel disenfranchised to speak their minds.

5. Check on the impacts of your workplace conditions.

Are your employees feeling a sense of connection if you’ve shifted to remote or hybrid working? If not, look for ways to increase it, and build community no matter where people are. What safety policies have you instated to make your workforce feel less at risk if they have come back to the office? If you’re all on multiple messaging and communication platforms, is there a way to scale back and free up some mental space?

6. Take the workforce’s pulse.

Survey all your employees on their state of mind. Make sure it’s clear that this is confidential, but invite and make room for candid input — not just pre-set answers.

7. Check in with your managers.

Reach out to your managers about their own mindsets, as well as the state of things on their teams. Your managers remain a direct line to your employees. Their mental health will certainly have an impact on the people who report to them.  

8. Evaluate your recognition and rewards programs.

Recognition and rewards are the most tangible proof that employees are valued and supported by the workplace. Don’t underestimate their power to boost self-esteem and a sense of belonging.   

9. Bring in leadership for a workplace roundtable.

Having a Q&A with leaders on issues of mental health is a great way to get leaders involved. Topics might include mental health awareness, emotional well-being, workplace stress, and mental health benefits questions. 

10. Track the results for the month.

Track data on your efforts the same as you would any other: mental health has its own metrics. Participation, survey results, questions asked in a Q&A, how managers rank key issues, and much more should all be shared, and used to take further actions to improve your mental health support system in the workplace. Bonus points if you conduct an open debriefing, where not only do you share the data, you invite your workforce to weigh in on their own experiences over the month.

Conclusion

Use Mental Health Month for a reckoning — but don’t stop there. Every time we talk about mental health on our #WorkTrends podcast (for just two great examples, head here and here), the conversation feels like it wants to continue. So keep it going. Steering the organizational ship is inherently complex, and decisions need to be made with context, clarity, and humanity. But they also have to be made with compassion, commitment, respect, and hope.

Mental Health

10 Ideas To Make Mental Health Support More Accessible For Employees

What are some ideas to make mental health support more accessible to employees? This question was posed to a group of talented professionals for their insights. From offering mental health holidays to flex work schedules, here’s what they had to say.

Offer Mental Health Days

Mental health Days are meant to be used when you have too much on your mind or when are feeling high levels of stress and anxiety. We can’t pre-plan how we will feel, so it’s important to allow employees to take unplanned days off.  Moreover, it is a great way to track the mental health of your employees. If someone is taking too many “mental health days” then you can reach out and support them! It’s easy to apply and simple, yet so few companies do it!

Annie Chopra, She TheQueen

Take Time to Communicate Benefits

In our brand new research on mental health, we found that employers rated themselves a “C” while the workforce rated employer support for mental health as an “F.” When you get into the data, you see that while companies are trying to make changes, these changes aren’t always felt by the workforce. We have to spend as much time communicating the changes and benefits we offer as we do actually selecting those benefits if we want to see real impact.

Ben Eubanks, Lighthouse Research & Advisory

Provide Health Coaching Sessions

Working with a qualified health & wellness coach has the potential to make a big difference in employees’ work and personal lives.  A health coach is NOT a licensed mental health practitioner. A good health coach IS a trained empathetic listener and motivator who works with people in groups or one-on-one. They help to create and work toward solutions to increase the enjoyment of life and work. 

Employers can offer coaching services onsite or remotely, in groups or individually.  The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) certifies coaches who have completed specialized coaching training, demonstrated coaching skills, have experience working with clients, and passed a rigorous exam.

Ronel Kelmen, Attainable Transformation

Include Inspiring and Regenerating PTO Perks

We all understand that employees need sufficient high-quality PTO experiences in order to stay sharp, satisfied, and healthy at work. But what really makes PTO beneficial for our mental health is when that time is also inspiring. 

For example, we offer our employees three fully paid 24-hour days per year to participate in volunteer activities. Not only do these experiences give our team the chance to step outside their work and breathe, but while doing so they’re also engaging in work that can reignite and reshape their worldviews.

Tina Hawk, GoodHire

Promote a Work-Life Balance

Make sure your employees are taking time away from work on a regular basis. This means encouraging regularly scheduled vacations and not rewarding a burning the midnight oil mentality. You may get short-term results, but this type of schedule will often lead to burnout and far less productivity and motivation. 

A great leader challenges their employees to regularly rest, recharge, and connect with their loved ones. When employees feel valued, they will be much more motivated.

Mark Daoust, Quiet Light

Host Mental Health Fairs

One out-of-the-box way to make mental health more accessible to workers is to hold a mental health fair. These events function like traditional health fairs yet focus on psychological health. Booths can give out information on practices like stress management and avoiding burnout. Additionally, you can do activities like meditation and mindfulness worksheets. Beyond providing at-risk employees with resources, you can also use these fairs as a way to educate the workforce at large about mental health and help professionals to be better allies to psychologically vulnerable peers.

Carly Hill, Virtual Holiday Party

Encourage the Use of Wellness Apps

Employers can provide free resources and access to mental health apps. It can be a way for everyone in your company to get the mental health help they need, especially to prevent burnout amongst your employees. Using an app might feel less intimidating when seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist.

You might not be there to visually recognize when an employee is overworking themselves. But with certain apps, they can get reminders to take breaks and maintain healthy habits during their working hours.

Scott Lieberman, Touchdown Money

Foster a “Life Happens” Culture

A healthy company culture understands that even the highest performing employees will face unideal circumstances that may take them away from work. A culture of ‘life happens’ understands that company needs shouldn’t supersede employee needs but ebb and flow. As we navigate turbulent times as a nation, we’ve all faced the universal truth that life happens, and sometimes things are out of our control.

Amrita Saigal, Kudos

Allow Flexible Work Schedules 

A remote or hybrid work schedule creates more flexibility for employees to take care of their physical and mental health how they see fit. Workers want freedom – time to spend with loved ones, take care of themselves, and travel – promoting one’s mental health on their terms. Allow the space and flexibility for your employees to take care of their mental health at their discretion.

Breanne Millette, BISOULOVELY

Train Leaders to Create Inclusive Environments 

Smaller businesses can make mental health more accessible to employees by equipping leaders with the tools and resources to have open, honest conversations and by creating a safe space for employees to speak openly without fear of judgment. 

Creating inclusive environments for conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia can go a long way in making sure everyone feels supported at work. By educating people about and accepting neurodiversity, you can create an inclusive and supportive workplace where everyone can thrive.

Dan Gissane, Huxo Creative

       

The Empathetic Workplace

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

As a business leader, you want to keep employees engaged at work and encourage company loyalty. How does the empathetic workplace blend in with those goals? How can you create a culture that makes people care about their jobs? The key is making empathy your central focus by starting with a top-down approach.

When leadership makes employees feel respected and valued, they provide a space where employees can bring their whole selves to work. In turn, their teams are happier and more motivated. Employers who want to facilitate a compassionate company culture need to improve communication, boost transparency, listen to employees, and include more stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The Importance of Empathy

Traditional work methods got flipped upside down at the start of the pandemic, creating additional stress in people’s work and personal lives. Research conducted by Qualtrics found that 42% of employees experienced a decline in mental health after the start of COVID-19. This stress caused a decrease in work performance, with 20% of people saying it took longer to finish tasks and 12% saying they struggled to juggle workplace responsibilities.

Creating an empathetic workplace can help ease some of the stress employees are feeling. Recent research from Catalyst shows how empathy can improve workplace performance. The survey found that 76% of people with highly empathetic leaders reported feeling more engaged at work, while less than a third of those surveyed with less empathetic leadership reported engagement. So what does this mean for you? If you want your employees to do their best work, creating an empathetic workplace isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

Empathy has the power to transform your workplace. However, it takes more than one initiative to make empathy the cornerstone of your company culture. Here are four things you can do to continuously foster compassion and create a company culture grounded in empathy:

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

Opening communication lines across the company is a great way to show employees that they’re in an environment that values empathy. When appropriately implemented, an open-door policy can improve communication across all levels of an organization and establish trust among employees. Rather than keeping workplace issues to themselves, employees with this policy will feel more comfortable discussing problems with managers. This allows managers to address concerns before they become major stressors.

For an open-door policy to be successful, you need to encourage upward communication. If this is a new concept for your workforce, you may need to prompt workers to provide senior leadership feedback. One way to get the ball rolling is by asking employees for feedback in annual surveys and addressing the survey results in a companywide meeting.

 

2. Be Vulnerable

To effectively lead a team through a crisis, transparent communication is key. Yet very few leaders keep employees in the loop. In a recent survey conducted by Leadership IQ, only 20% of employees said their leaders always openly share ongoing company challenges. When employees are left in the dark, anxiety and fear can develop, causing them to consider looking for new career opportunities. On the other hand, when leaders openly share company challenges, employees are 10 times more likely to recommend them as great employers.

So how can senior managers and CEOs practice vulnerable leadership? You could try discussing challenges you or the company are facing and victories you’re incredibly proud of. By opening up to your team, you make it easier for them to open up to you.

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

To be empathetic, you need to become a better listener. This means keeping an open mind, recognizing how your employees are feeling, and trying to understand their perspectives. While you don’t have to agree with everything said, ensuring your team feels heard can make a world of difference. In fact, employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more empowered to do their best work.

Try to listen more than you talk. Your goal should be to avoid interrupting employees while they speak. Paraphrase what was said after they’re done to show that you are listening. Although you may disagree with what was said, it’s still important to validate the other person’s perspective and let them know you understand where they’re coming from.

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

As the world returns to normal, you may be wondering what your work environment should look like. Some employees may be eager to return to the office, while others enjoy working from home. Before creating a return-to-office plan, talk with your team about their preferences.

Employees will have their own unique qualities that dictate which type of working environment suits them best. As an empathetic leader, it’s important to keep each individual’s unique characteristics in mind while creating a plan that works for them. The world of work has been permanently altered, and there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for everyone.

If you want employees to care about their jobs, you need to care about them. By creating an emphatic work environment, you can create a space where employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work.

Why Workplace Trust and Transparency Matters

Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

Many business experts champion trust in the workplace. They include the likes of Stephen Covey and my dear friend, David Horsager. (His 8 Pillars of Trust and his many excellent books should be required reading.) However, what is perhaps less well known is the neuroscience of trust. As a species, we’ve developed an array of neurochemical survival mechanisms. Employers often ignore these mechanisms, and as a result, miss the opportunity to build trust and transparency in the workplace. 

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

Let’s start with the opposite of trust. It is the “fight or flight” response we experience when faced with a perceived threat. These “threats” elevate the hormone cortisol, which narrows our focus to deal only with the immediate. The threat could be actual, imminent, physical, or merely a harsh interruption in our day. The problem is, our bodies can’t easily tell the difference.

Of course, cortisol has other important functions. Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, memory formation, and blood pressure. At normal levels, it keeps us engaged with the day’s activities. When elevated, cortisol puts us on “alert status” and makes trust a low priority.

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

In my book, The Velocity Mindset, I discussed how cortisol can prevent leadership teams from identifying and achieving objectives. Additionally, I highlighted the role another hormone, oxytocin, plays in velocity (speed with direction and alignment).

Trust in the workplace—and its neurochemical roots—are key drivers for business success. Compelling research by Dr. Paul Zak and others champions the well-established science around oxytocin and trust. According to one study, oxytocin “affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.” Additionally, researchers have found that oxytocin “enhances an individual’s propensity to trust a stranger when that person exhibits non-threatening signals.”

Obviously, creating artificial trust in the workplace via oxytocin injections would be a short-sighted and ethical nightmare. Nevertheless, there must be practical ways to promote trust knowing that our biology.

Fortunately, trust in the workplace can be accomplished with common-sense approaches, as Horsager and others have shown. An Oxford study summarizes the key drivers and human resource practices that develop trust. These include mutual respect, open communication, and fairness, especially in appraisals of work. The study also identifies factors which decrease trust, such as a lack of transparency in decision-making.

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

Trust is the gold standard. It is the glue that makes alignment and velocity possible. The benefits of increased trust in the workplace are enormous. Over the long term, it increases individual employee productivity and engagement. To paraphrase Zak, it improves collaboration and cultivates a happier, more productive workforce. On the other hand, the consequences of breaking that trust are far worse than not having it in the first place.

Studies have shown that a betrayal of trust, whether familial, cultural, or institutional, creates high levels of long-term stress, including the release of cortisol. If such responses become ingrained in an employee’s experience and memory, the chances of returning to a state of unqualified trust are slim. Consequently, employees might resist a manager or HR professional’s efforts to right a wrong or be transparent after a breach of trust. 

Though a proactive HR team may be capable of rebuilding this trust, the effort is complicated by the very neurochemicals that make us human.

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

It is not easy to win trust and transparency in the workplace. As a result, people are taking a risk when asked to make decisions that may not benefit them. The deciding factor is often how comfortable they are with those asking the question. Transparency, trustworthiness, empathy, and understanding are not just words. They are requirements for every HR professional and executive who aspires to true leadership. 

Today, it is impossible to take a “my way or the highway” approach to business. We need everyone’s buy-in to remain focused on tasks that support a purpose. Trust and transparency in the workplace, like everything else that enables leadership, begins with an understanding of what makes us human. And most importantly, it requires a willingness to work hard to gain that trust. 

Virtual wellbeing program

Wellbeing programs create better connection for employees

impact awardWhile there’s still no clear sense for when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, one thing has come into sharp focus—the implementation of wellbeing programs. The future of work will include both in-person and remote arrangements to accomplish this.  

This new reality has various benefits for employees, including more flexibility, better work-life balance, less time spent commuting, and the freedom to work from anywhere. And a study by Stanford found that working from home increases productivity by 13%. So, there are benefits for employers as well. 

 But employees who don’t see their colleagues every day face a challenge: creating a sense of community and connection. And while it may not seem like a business performance issue at first glance, it actually is. 

Harvard Business Review says: “Employee disconnection is one of the main drivers of voluntary turnover, with lonely employees costing U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year.”  

The opportunity in front of us for wellbeing programs

At HealthFitness, we think there’s a massive opportunity for the corporate fitness industry to rethink how we help employees feel they belong and are cared for.

In fact, through our work with hundreds of companies across many different industries, we’ve seen how wellbeing programs can provide the community and human connection many employees are craving right now.

This means creating experiences where employees will find friendly and familiar faces—both in-person and virtually. This can include group fitness, personal and small group training, health and fitness challenges, health coaching, seminars and classes across a wide variety of fitness and health topics.

The classic in-person approach 

We’re all familiar with the onsite fitness center. While pandemic-era guidelines changed aspects of the experience (e.g., wearing masks, social distancing), they’re still a meaningful way to create connection.

One of our client’s employees, Eddie, said he had a hard time staying active at his job until he joined a new company with an on-site fitness center. There, he began taking fitness classes (which is something he never imagined himself doing). Plus, he also started using the center’s exercise equipment.

But he discovered an unexpected benefit as well.

Eddie noticed how the fitness challenges his company hosted allowed him to connect with coworkers throughout the company. “I’ve made tons of friends at work through the fitness center,” he says.

And the benefits he received went beyond the physical and social.

Eddie said that many of the colleagues he met through fitness challenges provided him with career advice. “The amount of networking I was able to do at the fitness center was remarkable. It’s amazing how many people you can meet while sharing the goal of creating a healthier lifestyle.”

The new virtual approach 

Like Eddie, many employees looked to their local gym or corporate fitness center for a sense of community before COVID-19. Now we know employees will seek this same sense of connection in a virtual format.

That’s certainly been our experience over the last two years.

Like many companies worldwide, we had to pivot fast in the spring of 2020. Our initial goal was to fill clients’ immediate needs and continue offering health and fitness programming in whatever way we could. To make the best of the unprecedented situation.

But then something unexpected happened.

The fitness classes delivered in a virtual format were a big hit with employees. They also allowed us to extend our reach to more employees that may not be located in a building where their employer provided a fitness center. Beyond fitness classes, wellbeing-related offerings like energy and stretch breaks, educational seminars, and even classes for kids opened up more ways to demonstrate that the company cares about their employees. Employees also enjoyed seeing the friendly faces they knew and trusted.

Given this, we think virtual corporate wellbeing experiences are an important way to create connection and community in a hybrid world. There are two primary options.

Live-streamed content

Live-streamed content can be used for live events like fitness classes, stretch breaks, educational seminars, and kid and family classes. They’re broadcast through professional-grade equipment to provide the highest quality streaming, regardless of device, bandwidth, or location.

The shift to working from home has served as the game changer for Sharon, one of our client’s employees, and her health and fitness routine. Sharon takes up to three virtual classes each day. She transfers between group fitness classes, to virtual personal training to mindfulness, nutrition and wellness classes. She regularly meets with her health coach.

As a result, Sharon is more resilient and stronger. “HealthFitness has been one of the most important aspects of my mental and physical wellbeing while working from home.”

Sharon’s weekly virtual personal training sessions with her HealthFitness trainer, Jim, keeps her connected and moving after knee surgery. This allows her to keep getting stronger in her health journey.

Not only does this benefit Sharon physically, there’s also the same sense of connection that Eddie described. When you know other colleagues are also participating in these experiences, you have a point of much-needed connection.

Video conferencing

Video conferencing offers real-time connections with wellness professionals for personal and small group training. It is also useful for nutrition coaching, ergonomic consultations, and movement efficiency assessments.

This approach will broaden based on employers I’ve talked with over the last 18 months. Employers want data-driven integration, segmenting, and targeting capabilities with programs that address subjects. Subjects like stress, resiliency, mindfulness, sleep, safety, and financial wellbeing.

Eventually, because of this data and technology integration, employers will offer this kind of programming wherever it works best for employees. That may be in person, at home, on the production line, on the go—whatever employees need.

This level of targeting has a side benefit. Employees can connect around common wellness priorities or goals, which again creates the sense of community many of us are longing for.

Regardless of format, wellbeing programs must be front and center

In their report Future of Work Trends in 2022, Korn Ferry says that “organizations that are leading the way in wellbeing embed it in all aspects of their people strategy. Research shows that this has a positive impact on retention, absenteeism levels, productivity, and overall satisfaction.” 

With all of these potential impacts, it’s time for corporate wellness programs to adapt to the permanently altered business landscape by: 

  • Recognizing how classic wellness offerings like fitness centers and programs can solve new workplace challenges, like the lack of connection 
  • Introducing virtual wellbeing offerings that employees can access when and where it’s convenient 
  • Offering a broader range of wellbeing programs that help employees connect with like-minded colleagues and create a sense of community 

When companies take these steps, they show employees they belong to an organization that genuinely cares. 

 

 

Ann Wyatt is Chief Client Success Leader at Health Fitness, a Trustmark company. With a holistic approach that extends beyond fitness, HealthFitness is a proven leader in engaging and connecting people both on-site and online, to create a strong community of health. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

How to find your leadership DNA

How To Find Your Leadership DNA

What is your leadership DNA? It is your authentic self. The concept of authentic leadership is often bantered about. In my experience of working with leaders from the best of the best global companies, the most impactful definition is being the leader you were designed to be. How do you do that? Find your leadership DNA.

There is no one characteristic of a great leader. There are actually millions. The best characteristics for you are already hard-wired in you.  You just need to identify, build and leverage your strengths, passions and experiences to be that kind of leader you were designed to be.

Why is being an authentic leader so powerful?

People gravitate to authentic leaders. However, so many people want to copy an admired leader. This is unlikely to work for you for your brain is not hard-wired for this style. It may, in fact, focus you on your weaknesses. 

It takes great effort to fix a weakness. Instead, take that effort and focus it on further developing your strengths. Leverage the way your brain is hard-wired.

We are uniquely created. Each of us possesses a unique set of gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses, emotions and passions. Whether it is handed down to us though our parent’s genes, taught to us as we are raised from childhood to adults, or bestowed upon us from a higher power; we are who we are. There is a reason why we act, think and feel the way we do. Who we are is hard-wired into our brains.

In “A User’s Guide to the Brain,” Dr. John Ratey writes: 

“The brain is not a neatly organized system. It is often compared to an overgrown jungle of 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons…The neurons form an interconnected tangle with 100 trillion, constantly changing, connections. The connections guide our bodies and behaviors, even as every thought and action we take physically, modifies their patterns. Our neurons are constantly competing to make connections and these connections are what make us who we are.”

If you want to be average, focus on fixing your weaknesses.

When I was a child, I was poor in math. My parents did what most Asian parents would do: they got me a math tutor. Every night with my tutor I went through hell. After three months of working hard, night after night of feeling stupid, I was able to take my math skills from poor up to… slightly above poor. 

Then I got into the business world. The end of the year performance appraisal surfaced that I was weak in my analytical planning. So, week after week, month after month I worked on it. I was able to get my analytical skills up to average.  

What am I becoming? Average.

Now, there is nothing wrong with average. If you want to be average, this is a good approach. However, many of us want to be exceptional at something. If you want to be distinctive, an authentic leader, you need to identify your strengths and leverage them by focusing on developing them even further. If your organization provides a training budget for you, sign up for training courses to enhance your strengths. 

McKinsey’s study on centered leadership shows: 

“Of all the dimensions of centered leadership, meaning has a significant impact on satisfaction with both work and life; indeed, its contribution to general life satisfaction is five times more powerful than that of any other dimension.”

Leverage not only your strengths, but also your passions. These combined with your experiences are a powerful combination. 

How to find your leadership DNA?

1. Identify your strengths and passions.

There are many tools out there that can help you find them. Here are a few to check out:

2. Drill down for specificity.

Whatever tool you use, it’s important to drill down to more specifically determine the who, what, where and when for each. This brings more clarity and breaks things down into bite-size, actionable pieces.

3. Take action, now!

In his book “Smartcuts”, Shane Snow writes about the power of the “Big Mo” (momentum). Momentum is key! 

Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile has found that the answer is simply progress. A sense of forward motion. Regardless of how small. Amabile found that minor victories at work were nearly as psychologically powerful as major breakthroughs. And momentum isn’t just a powerful ingredient of success. It’s also a powerful predictor of success.

Small steps add up! Use the power of compounding. One step forward brings you joy, especially if that step allows you to work on the things you are good at or love doing. One step forward gives you a sense of accomplishment and a positive feeling that you are getting closer to your goal of authenticity.

Get on the path of being an authentic leader, more of who you already are by taking action now, and moving down that path.

Finding Balance Between Business Needs & Employee Needs

Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium

It’s been a hard year and a half, and as the pandemic continues to fluctuate, illness and lockdowns have taken their toll. The effects extend into the workplace, too, as companies struggle to find a happy medium between employee needs and business needs.

During this time, employees reevaluated what a workplace means to them and how job satisfaction plays into their overall happiness. Many employees found that they’re happier when they don’t have to commute, dress up, or stick to prescribed business hours. Others are ready to get back to the workplace where there are fewer distractions and more in-person collaboration.

Many businesses, on the other hand, are eager to get back to an in-office model without Zoom meetings. Managers want to communicate quickly with employees at their desks, instead of via chat. It’s understandable but short-sighted for employers to try to get back to a pre-pandemic way of operating. As the health implications of COVID-19 can’t be undone, neither can the effects it’s having on the workplace, which is why the need to find a happy medium is important.

These changes create a need for HR teams to adapt to the realities of these changes. Therefore, it’s time for businesses to adapt their return-to-office plans to ensure that they are employee-centered. Now more than ever, balancing employee needs against the needs of the business is imperative.

Listening to Employees

Work-from-home employees are not shy about their preferences and pain points around remote work. Coworkers commonly talk amongst themselves about how much they like not having to dress in full business attire or commute. They also expressed frustrations around digital communications and how, since they’re online, the workday can stretch beyond regular hours.

Before putting forth a return-to-office plan, businesses must listen to what employees truly want. To avoid turnover, some employers plan to skip a return-to-office life altogether, especially since a lack of remote work options is a deal-breaker for many employees and may send them searching for a job elsewhere. Many employees have already made that step, citing lack of remote work options as the main reason for seeking other opportunities. Notably, according to a survey by ResumeBuilder, 15% of workers are planning to leave their jobs before December.

What is the best way to find out what employees need to be happy in their current positions? Ask them. Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss what they like about working remotely, what can be improved, their thoughts on returning to full-time office work, and any questions they may have.

HR teams should leverage anonymous channels like digital surveys to make sure every voice is heard. These tools are perfect for individuals who are not comfortable speaking up in a large group, or for those who worry that their opinions will reflect poorly on them. 

Company leaders should also trust employees. They know how they work best, as well as the ways working from home affects their work-life balance. HR teams know happy employees are more engaged, produce better work, and stay in their positions longer, creating positive business outcomes.

Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs

While keeping employee needs top of mind is essential, HR professionals must also evaluate how best to serve the company. If remote work begins to negatively impact employee and company performance, that can’t be ignored. Conversely, if an organization consistently meets KPIs, is growing, and employees are engaged, there’s no need to return to the office five days a week.

Instead of assuming performances and company operations will improve in an office setting, HR teams should strive to find balance. There’s no need for extremes. Companies don’t need to decide to keep operations fully remote or shift them entirely back to the office.

Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become clear what job functions need to be performed in person versus remote. Some team members can complete all of their job functions from home, while others have duties that require in-person work.

Companies should try to strike a balance and meet their employees in the middle. Offer a schedule that accommodates working from home alongside in-person work. For example, some organizations can easily let employees work from home three days a week, while requesting in-person attendance for meetings.

Companies can also strike a balance by easing the dress code to make going into the office feel more comfortable. Additionally, they can find cost savings by allowing employees to work from home. Businesses should evaluate whether they can stagger when different staff members come in. By doing so, they can use a smaller office space, saving on rental costs and utilities, among other expenses. At the same time, employees will appreciate the flexibility of being able to choose to work from home on a regular basis.

Looking to the Future

Before implementing a return-to-office plan, HR teams must equally weigh the needs of the business against those of their employees. Therefore, it may be tempting to develop this kind of plan quickly. However, HR teams must take time to listen to employees and measure their needs alongside business goals. This will create a happier and more effective workplace for everyone.

Retain Female Talent

Women in the Workplace: How to Retain Female Talent

Millions of Americans have left the workforce due to the ongoing public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has particularly impacted female employees who had to become the primary caretakers of their children when schools and daycares closed. As a result, many women had to leave their jobs, and companies lost some of their most outstanding employees. Now companies need to spend time deciding how they can better accommodate, empower, and retain female talent with children.

I am a life coach, helping ambitious working moms become their best selves every day. Part of this is educating companies on how to better support women in the workplace, especially those with children. Using valuable insights from my clients and my own experience as a working mom, I’ve put together five suggestions for companies on how to retain female talent, both pre and postpartum.

Find Out How You Can Support Women in the Workplace

Administering a survey is one of the best ways to determine your company’s ability to hire and retain working moms. Ask open-ended questions so you can find out more about the challenges female employees face and which are the most important. If possible, allow them to give their opinion anonymously to share their feelings without worrying about retribution.

Revamp Your Company Policies & Benefits 

Once you’ve reviewed the survey, you’ll better understand the company policies and benefits that need revamping. For example, do the majority of female employees want paternity leave or extended maternity leave? Or perhaps they would prefer a more flexible work schedule? The company can also assess its employee performance evaluations, possibly changing from time-oriented to task-oriented. 

Whether female talent want to feel more involved during meetings or expectant moms require a designated parking spot, companies should accommodate the needs of women in the workplace. Listening to your female employees, and implementing change, can make it easier to retain talented pre and postpartum female employees. In doing so, you’ll not only improve your business, but women in the workplace are more likely to feel heard and acknowledged.

Start a Mentorship Program 

A study published by McKinsey, titled ‘Women in the Workplace 2020’, reveals that women may face significant roadblocks without the right mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. For example, a sponsor can amplify the voice of lower-level female talent, while a mentor can help guide women towards their career goals.

An official company mentor program is an excellent way for you to capitalize on your most fantastic resource, your employees. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to nurturing talent and providing employees the opportunity to learn from a trusted advisor. Retaining female talent is far more likely for those companies who actively invest in their professional development. Women in these types of workplaces are also likely to be more loyal and productive. This further increases female employee retention rates.

Create an Employee Reward and Recognition Program

Every employee wants their manager to acknowledge their hard work. This recognition is especially true for pre and postpartum female employees who may quit their jobs due to feeling unappreciated, dismissed, or victim to gender inequality in the workplace. If possible, create a monthly reward and recognition program for outstanding employees. This straightforward strategy will foster a positive work culture and inspire employees to improve their work ethic. Working moms will also enjoy the positive reinforcement, especially those working from home who still want their efforts acknowledged outside the office.

Close the Wage Gap Between Your Employees

The pay gap between male and female talent is a long-standing issue of gender inequality in the workplace. It impacts female employees across all socioeconomic and racial groups in almost every industry. Companies should advocate for women in the workplace by closing the wage gap. After all, there’s a higher chance of female talent remaining loyal if they receive equal pay for equal work.

Make it Easier for Working Moms to Progress in Their Career

Are your pre and postpartum female workers anxious about potentially losing their job? Do the women in your workplace fear they’ll miss out on a promotion because of maternity leave? A top tip for supporting female workers is developing tools and creating opportunities that will allow them to advance their careers like their male counterparts. One way to do this is to focus on results, not on time spent; a great way to support a working mom’s need for flexibility. By creating opportunities for women, you can also tackle gender inequality in the workplace, encouraging female leadership and retaining your female employees in the process. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that moms are some of the hardest workers on the planet. With the right strategies and support, you can create a supportive environment for pre and postpartum women. In doing so, your company can encourage women in the workplace to thrive at all stages of life.

 

grief and substance use

Supporting Employees Navigating Grief and Substance Use

Grief and substance use disorders have been considered taboo topics in the workplace for too long. With more than 600,000 lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and alcohol consumption on the rise, we face crises related to mental health and substance use disorders—along with the pandemic itself.

We spend about one-third of our lives working, so employers must tackle grief and substance use challenges if they hope to improve the health and well-being of their workforces. To do that, they will need to address the relationship between alcohol and grief in the workplace.

Statistically, your employees are struggling.

Heavy alcohol consumption has been climbing for years, but the pandemic further exacerbated this trend. Nielsen reported a 54 percent increase in national alcohol sales in early 2020 compared with early 2019. Meanwhile, online alcohol sales had surged by 262 percent since 2019.

In an online survey, 60 percent of respondents reported drinking more than before COVID-19 because of increased stress, increased availability of alcohol, and boredom. Participants who reported being stressed by the pandemic also consumed more drinks over a greater number of days. This study is yet another reminder that many people use alcohol to cope with distress in the absence of better tools. And for anyone living with alcohol use disorder before the pandemic, isolation and stress presented additional challenges in their recovery.

Beyond all of this, another influence on our relationship with alcohol that has become exacerbated and hyper-relevant in light of the pandemic is grief.

Grief Is Present and Evolving in Your Workforce

It’s estimated that one in three of your employees is grieving, which makes it important to understand what grief is: a normative (nonpathological) experience that involves emotional, physiological, and cognitive responses. It impacts our mood and behaviors such as sleep, appetite, and substance use.

Although there are common patterns in grief, it impacts every person differently and looks different for the same person over time. Grief is a process of adaptation, and people naturally move from “acute grief” to “integrated grief.”

Acute grief is how we typically envision grief. It includes an intense and persistent emotional experience, difficulty accepting the loss, and disconnection from one’s social and professional world. As a person learns to live with the reality of their loss, they move to integrated grief. This grief might not be as frequent or as intense, but it remains a part of a bereaved person forever.

All of this said, how do alcohol and grief interact and intersect?

The Relationship Between Grief and Substance Use

Dr. Dan Wolfson, a clinical psychologist specializing in grief and a Lantern.co advisor, says alcohol can slow or prevent the ability to move from acute grief to integrated grief. He also says it’s a form of avoidance.

“When grieving, we need to engage with our emotions rather than avoid them,” Wolfson says. “Our psychological immune systems are tapped, so people fall back on the coping strategies they’re familiar with—even maladaptive ones like alcohol use. So we have to be proactive in engaging healthy behaviors and access support systems early and often.”

Sabrina Spotorno is a therapist for Monument, an evidence-based online alcohol treatment platform. Spotorno has helped many of her patients navigate grief and alcohol use disorder simultaneously.

“Grief can feel incredibly isolating, and we can temporarily lose our sense of self,” she says. “That’s why alcohol can often serve as an artificial source of comfort and companionship. Once we regain our awareness of how much we are in need of community, we can regroup from our period of emotional isolation and find our safe people in support groups and in therapy. Holding space for all feelings, sensations, and experiences, including grief, is what enables healing and change.”

How to Promote Healing in Workplaces of Tomorrow

Recognizing the relationship between grief and substance use, particularly alcohol, and knowing that your employees might be struggling are important first steps. Shifting company culture to support team members is an ongoing practice. Here are four ways to make that transition:

1. Encourage self-care in company policies.

Spotorno recommends encouraging self-care at all times, including consistent and concrete company policies that support this stance: “Offering flexibility with schedules, encouraging time off, and designating company mental health days can be invaluable ways to create a company culture that promotes self-care.”

2. Create open communication channels.

You should also create open communication channels to support grieving employees. This lets you share your support in concrete ways and ask direct questions about how to best meet employees’ needs. Even companies that supply every resource possible to grieving employees can’t truly foster a supportive environment unless they openly communicate about that grief and create space for it.

3. Revisit your bereavement policies.

To address grief and loss as specific influential factors in alcohol use, Dr. Wolfson recommends revisiting your bereavement policies or ensuring you have a bereavement policy in place.

“Someone taking a week off for bereavement leave doesn’t mean they are coming back at 100 percent,” Wolfson says. “We need to build their endurance back up. Expect an employee to start at 40 percent. When people feel overloaded or overstressed, they’re going to regress to potentially unhealthy behaviors. Wouldn’t you prefer a healthy employee performing well at 40 percent than an unhealthy one struggling to meet 100 percent of former expectations? We all need to be given time to work our way back.”

4. Examine the role alcohol plays in your culture and environment

Finally, take a closer look at how alcohol shows up in your office. Challenge your own biases and consider these tips from sober entrepreneurs. Perform an audit of where alcohol shows up in your work environment, whether that’s physically in your office, at company events, or during celebratory moments.

If you’re still not sure how to get started, know that there are numerous incredible ways to help your workforce. You might share grief resources and tools with your employees through internal communications and expanded benefits policies. You can also provide anonymous community support and point team members to virtual, evidence-based online alcohol treatment, including therapy and medication. Finally, connect employees with outside support designed to help with the logistical side of bereavement and grief management.

vaccine-mandates-masks

The Impacts of the Vaccine Mandates on the Workplace

As of January 2022, the federal vaccine mandate will require all businesses with a hundred or more employees to impose coronavirus vaccines, or implement weekly testing. This news has already sparked debate and friction in workplaces across the country. According to the New York Times, this requirement has left many companies on the cusp of fielding calls from wary employees.

COVID-19 has been at the omni-center of countless business decisions since March 2020, with encouraging employees to work from home perhaps being the most obvious one for businesses across the globe. But the new vaccine mandate shouldn’t stifle your plans for encouraging your employees back into the office. Instead, the vaccine mandate should simply become a part of your leadership and HR discussions, in-sync with your company’s return-to-work mandate.

If you’re wasting too much time debating the vaccine mandate, you’re wasting precious business hours that could be devoted to staying competitive instead.

Our Guest: Ed Dischner, Proxy Technologies

In this episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, sponsored by Proxy, I was joined by Ed Dischner from Proxy Technologies. Ed discusses shifting workplace priorities to focus on what really matters, without losing sight of COVID-19.

An expert in his field, Ed has years of experience in Enterprise Sales of Workplace Tech Solutions. Previously holding executive leadership positions at Tealium; a customer data platform, and BlueJeans; a video conferencing provider. Ed also spent 6 years at Salesforce, as it scaled its operations from IPO to two billion in revenue.

I asked Ed about some of the biggest problems faced by businesses when verifying vaccines and employee health status. Ed suggests that vaccine mandates uncertainty and maintaining employee safety are at the forefront.

“Is there going to be a mandate?… There’s a little bit of chasing a ghost on regulation,” Ed comments. “We want to make sure that we’re coming back into a workplace in a safe environment. We’re going to do everything we can.”

Best Practices for Vaccine Mandates

Ed then goes on to talk about how employers can learn about best practices for vaccine mandates. He believes that employer opinion on vaccine mandates typically splits into two separate camps.

“One is just saying, ‘Okay, it’s owned by HR.’ … And it’s really a third party or an industry-recognized organization with a lot of content,” Ed says. “The second group, or cohort, is that there’s a committee. Whether or not that’s workplace solutions, and whether or not that includes HR. And we’re increasingly seeing risk and legal involvement.”

Ed notes that there’s implications across it all, especially when you go cross-departmental. Not to mention, when you take into consideration the number of offices your business has, and how many countries you are in, there’s all the local, regional, and national regulations to take into account, too.

What Companies Get Wrong About Vaccine Proof

Proxy recently published a White Paper identifying some of the key things many companies get wrong about vaccine proof. Ed has experienced some of them first hand, from both an employee and consumer point of view, and shares his thoughts with us:

“So, the first one is just asking for physical cards as proof,” says Ed. “That’s maybe one way that a 10-person company can do it, but there’s no way that a 10,000-person company can do it, especially with being remote.”

Ed goes on to discuss another error – daily temperature checks – and questions whether body temperature falling within a certain range is reasonable enough assurance that employees are protecting themselves and each other, in and around the workplace.

“The third one I kind of alluded to is using spreadsheets,” Ed continues. “It’s good for the first day. It’s not good for three months in, eight months in, and how you’re going to continue to scale this with more and more people coming in.”

But, as Ed points out, the tricky thing with spreadsheets and data is not only where to store all of it and ensuring it is constantly up-to-date, but it’s also the issue of consent. Health information belongs to each individual, so as much as employers may like the visual verification, they may not necessarily need or want to retain each individual record.

Incentivizing a Return to the Office

In response to some of the things companies get wrong about vaccine proof, Ed rounds off his discussion by sharing a positive incentive to encourage employees who have been vaccinated back into the workplace.

“If you want to come back to the office and you have a negative test, or you’ve done your vaccination certificate or a certification, then guess what? We’re going to give you $10 every day for you to be having a subsidized lunch,” Ed suggests. “It kind of gamifies some of the things that aren’t necessarily considered fun or games.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Proxy. Listen to the podcast here. You can learn more about shifting your workplace priorities to what really matters in light of the proposed vaccine mandate, by reaching out to Ed Dischner here.

reward remote employees

10 Ways to Reward Remote Employees And Why You Should Do It

How we reward employees is changing. New work cultures have seen a shift in the number of employees who prefer working from home compared to working in a company office. As a result, HR teams are rethinking the perk and reward systems that have traditionally benefited employees in an office environment.

Interestingly, a study by Harvard Business Review revealed that nearly two-thirds of staff are motivated to stay at their job with the presence of a motivational program for employees, and are 87 percent less likely to resign. Motivation is a powerful tool that can keep employees engaged.

Rewards and recognition for remote employees must not be overlooked, as they can transform remote culture. It’s more crucial than ever to keep employees who work from home motivated. These employees have to be self-driven and proactive on a daily basis.

With more distractions than ever and the absence of a manager looking over their shoulder, finding ways to reward remote employees is a good way to combat low productivity.

What are remote rewards?

A remote reward is a perk, benefit, or gift given to a team member that is sent and/or received digitally.

Employees who consider themselves remote workers or part of a hybrid working model may not be physically present in an office. This makes rewarding an employee in person challenging.

Remote rewards, therefore, need to be flexible as a person might be working anywhere, anytime, and in any place. Businesses should adopt recognition into their natural flow of work to ensure rewards are part of their culture.

Traditionally, you might reward an employee by giving them praise in person, buying them a gift and giving it to them during a team meeting, or even letting them work from home for the day. These rewards, while still impactful, do not work well when an employee works remotely.

Why should you reward employees?

You might be wondering if employee rewards are worth investing in? The short answer is yes.

According to Reward Gateway, 90 percent of HR workers agreed that an effective recognition and reward program helps drive business results. The return on investment (ROI) makes it worth doing.

10 ways to reward remote employees

Creating a digital business culture remotely is all part of the changing HR world, and remote rewards are just a small part of digital transformation. Try these 10 ways to reward your remote employees as part of your next strategy meeting.

1. Send a physical gift via post.

Starting with the most obvious, you could send an employee a physical gift to their home address. Food and alcohol are among the most popular ideas, but gifts are easy to get wrong. It’s always good to find out from close colleagues about personal preferences and tastes.

Another important consideration is that digital nomads and remote workers might not always be in one place. If they are moving around a lot, posting gifts might be tricky.

2. Offer a software upgrade.

Software is somewhat overlooked when it comes to perks and rewards. Although most companies will provide teams with the software they need, what about the software that is considered “nice to have”?

Premium features and additional tools can help improve an employee’s day-to-day workflow and be a nice reward with lots of upsides.

3. E-vouchers, gift cards, and subscriptions

E-vouchers, gift cards, and subscriptions are an easy way to say thanks to someone digitally. Amazon is a great choice when it comes to gift vouchers, as there is such a broad selection of items an employee can buy.

If your team members know the employee well, they might have a more personal suggestion. Below are some other ideas that are popular among teams:

  • Netflix subscription
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Apple Arcade subscription
  • Google Play gift card
  • Shopping or restaurant vouchers

4. Workspace upgrades

A remote employee will spend most of their day in their workspace environment. Rewarding an employee with a workspace upgrade could be a win-win situation.

You can help members of your team maximize their productivity while also rewarding them for great work.

Typical home workspace upgrades might include:

  • A second monitor
  • Improved hardware (new laptop, computer, mobile, or tablet device)
  • An adjustable standing desk
  • Hardware accessories (headphones, webcam, wireless charging devices)
  • A comfortable computer chair
  • Creative/ fun desk items such as a desk treadmill

Ultimately, it’s best to ask what could be improved about an employee’s current setup and customize it to each individual.

5. A message of appreciation (get creative)

Videos, GIFs, or a simple email are also great ways to reward someone for their efforts. A nod to their achievements and a message of gratitude is too often underrated.

6. Health perks

A gym membership, spa day, personal trainer, or online fitness class are all great health perks that might be a great reward to some employees, particularly those who enjoy regular exercise and fitness regimens. Employee well-being is important, so health rewards are always a good idea.

7. Payroll bonus

Let’s face it. Everybody loves a bonus in the bank account at the end of the quarter. There is certainly nothing wrong with an unexpected, generous payout to show your employees that they are appreciated.

8. Days off, half days, and early finishes

Who doesn’t love a day off or a half-day on Friday? Employees who have worked hard and stood out amongst their peers will appreciate a moment to recharge their batteries. Even an early finish for the week could help.

9. Kudos on LinkedIn

A free and easy way to show appreciation might be to send a thank you via LinkedIn. This is a relatively new feature on LinkedIn for 2021.

Using LinkedIn Kudos is a fun and simple way to share your appreciation with team members in the LinkedIn community. Celebrate every success–big and small–directly on LinkedIn. This also has great brand awareness benefits as you are publicly acknowledging people’s hard work and efforts. Kudos to you.

10. Learning and personal development

Reward remote employees with opportunities for self-improvement; it can be great for teams. It’s a nice way to show you care for someone’s personal development and future by supporting them to upskill and better themselves.

Examples of learning and personal development rewards might include:

  • Online courses such as Udemy
  • An online coach
  • Courses and certifications
  • 1:1 mentorship programs
workplace safety

A New Era of Workplace Safety: Prioritizing Psychosocial Health

For too long, the workplace has been viewed as a mystical place where we bring a version of ourselves that is unbreakable. It’s a version of ourselves that powers through every obstacle, even if it takes a toll on our health. Sadly, it’s a version that is essentially unsustainable. How often have we seen an employee get lauded for “going above and beyond,” even when we know that what we’re saying is just code for working through illness. Or forsaking personal commitment? Or working well beyond reasonable and safe hours?

That attitude–celebrating the workaholic, to put it bluntly–is an example of how the conversation around mental health has been too narrow. It’s especially been too narrow when discussing mental health in the workplace. Also, until now, occupational health and safety management was focused almost exclusively on physical safety rather than psychological health. That changed this past summer. An international standard was issued in June to provide a structural framework to help businesses manage psychological health and well-being in the workplace.

In essence, the ISO 45003 Psychological Health and Safety at Work guidelines have two goals:

  1. Lay out global standards for organizations to create and administer an environment where the psychosocial well-being of employees is as clearly defined and cared for as their physical safety
  2. Offer a helpful baseline for HR professionals across industries to evaluate how effectively their organizations are providing a psychosocially healthy atmosphere, without the need for in-house specialists with deep expertise in mental health

For HR and training leaders, it’s important to recognize:

  • Three common mental health and wellness issues that organizations face
  • How the new standards for workplace safety could lead to a more psychosocially healthy work environment

1. A Stigmatized or Nonexistent Support System

The pandemic highlighted the lack of supportive environments for employee mental health at an organizational level. It also shed light on unsustainable and unfair workloads and untimely or ineffective recognition practices. Because of these issues, employees have very little time during the workday and very few, if any, tools to take care of themselves psychologically or emotionally. In a 2021 survey that covered 46 countries, 89 percent of respondents said their work-life was worsening. Eighty-five percent said their well-being had declined, and 56 percent said their job demands had increased.

A strategy for change: Discussing mental health openly at work starts with a clear organizational strategy. You need to create an environment of psychological safety. That means a workplace where employees feel comfortable being themselves and discussing emotional and mental concerns. The ISO guidelines go a step further. They ask top leaders to remember the important role they play in supporting these conversations. They also ask leadership to set a culture of protection from reprisal or judgment for employees who speak up.

2. A Diverse Workforce Has Diverse Mental Wellness Needs

More than nine out of 10 respondents in a 2021 survey felt that mental health should be a focus within the company culture, up from 86 percent in 2019. The increase shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that between 2019 and 2021, mental health was cited as an increasingly prevalent reason that employees left their jobs. Overall, 84 percent of respondents felt that at least one workplace factor negatively impacted their mental health. Further, the problem is most acute among Millennials and Gen Z.

The numbers were disproportionately higher among younger workers and members of underrepresented groups. Women, minority groups, remote workers (in some organizations), and the younger generation joining the workforce are all prone to feeling excluded from blanket policies and run-of-the-mill pledges of inclusion.

A strategy for change: Sure, companies have increased investment in employee mental health over the last decade. The global mental wellness industry grew nearly twice as fast as the global economy from 2015–2017 alone. But the quality and reach of these programs are what matters. ISO guidelines call out the need for organizations to consider the diversity of the workforce and the needs of particular groups around a psychosocially healthy workplace.

3. Burnout Remains Pervasive and Prevention Is the Best Cure

Meet the new mantra, same as the old mantra: Prevention is the best medicine. Yu Tse Heng, a researcher who uncovers ways to humanize workplaces, puts it this way: “It starts with employers, to protect employees from becoming resource-depleted in the first place. And it’s also on the employer to provide the resources necessary to support employees’ mental health.” The employee’s responsibility, meanwhile, is to try and understand where their burnout stems from and to craft a way to get out of it.

Even pre-pandemic, the results of implementing mental health programs at work spoke for themselves. In a 2019 study conducted by Deloitte and the Australian Institute of Health & Safety, the ROI for workplace mental health programs yielded $1.62 for every dollar invested. That’s just in one year. For companies with programs that had been implemented over three years, the median ROI was $2.18 for every dollar spent.

A strategy for change: Self-reflection and self-care are crucial to recovering from or preventing burnout. But the ISO reiterates the importance of employers implementing and maintaining support systems in the workplace for burnout prevention. For example, having trained personnel on staff who can take charge of these programs further mitigates the risk of psychosocial damage.

A Significant Opportunity for Organizations Ready for Change

As mental health and workplace safety become increasingly important and open subjects, employers are at a crossroads. Traditional solutions just won’t cut it. A vacation does not erase the dread of returning to a draining work environment. In fact, American workers last year left an average of 33 percent of their allocated paid time off on the table. At the same time, they reported a 49-minute increase in the average workday.

Organizations seeking a transformative solution to employee mental well-being should consider activating the new ISO guidelines. They present an opportunity for companies to take a fresh look at:

  • How they view employee mental health
  • The role their leadership is playing to change the company culture around mental health
  • The effectiveness of their mental health strategy for today’s changing workforce

As with everything around workplace safety, you can be superficial with fixes and apply Band-Aids to mask the issues. Or you can choose to step up and transform how you approach workplace mental health.

positively energizing leadership

How Positively Energizing Leadership Can Transform Employee Well-being

We live at a time when political correctness captures headlines. Accusations of injustice, privilege, unconscious bias, and systemic racism happen daily. Between 50 and 75 percent of people admit to self-censoring for fear of being seen as politically incorrect. Therefore, it is not surprising that employee disengagement and disaffection in the workforce hover at around 70 percent. Contradicting the dominant ideology often costs employees their reputations. In some cases, their employment–and the emphasis on political correctness–is not diminishing, even though most employees dislike it.

Attributes of a Culture of Political Correctness

In corporate cultures where political correctness dominates, taking offense and being on the lookout for transgressions are typical. Pressure toward conformity to an acceptable point of view is common. People tend to pass judgment on others, level accusations, and hold grudges. Negative energy predominates. Couple this with today’s high employee burnout, and the need for a positive culture is greater than ever.

Attributes of a Culture of Virtuousness

As highlighted in Positively Energizing Leadership, there is extensive research on what drives positive cultures. Organizations that exceed industry averages in performance and employee well-being prioritize a culture of virtuousness instead of political conformity.

Virtuousness refers to the highest aspirations to which human beings aspire—the best of the human condition. For example, in these organizations, people seek opportunities to contribute to, uplift, and positively energize others. The culture prioritizes the demonstration of compassion and charity, humility and gratitude, unconditional love and acceptance, and trustworthiness. Forgiveness is a daily occurrence. These organizations emphasize helping each employee flourish and contributing to the welfare of the whole. Positive energy predominates. The result is bottom-line performance that almost always exceeds industry averages.

The Role of Leaders

Empirical evidence confirms that the most important factor in creating such a culture is the organization’s leader. However, not just any leader can create this kind of culture. The extent to which the leader is a positive energizer helps determine if there is a culture of virtuousness and extraordinary bottom-line performance.

Positive energy is inherently life-giving and vitality-producing. For instance, in nature, the most common source of positive energy is the Sun, which is a life-giving force. All species, including human beings, are inclined toward life-giving energy and light. They languish in the presence of life-depleting or life-endangering negative energy. This phenomenon is called the heliotropic effect.

Forms of Energy

A variety of forms of energy exist including physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and relational energy. Each of the first three forms of energy diminishes with use. They require recuperation when expended. Relational energy is the only form of energy that elevates with use. We seldom get exhausted, for example, by being around a person with whom we have a loving, supportive relationship. Positively energizing leaders exude positive relational energy and cultivate elevating, replenishing, and life-giving cultures for all employees.

Positively Energizing Leadership

Positive relational energy is based on demonstrating virtuousness. Research in children as young as three months old confirms that human beings thrive in the presence of, virtuousness—gratitude, fairness, generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. When leaders demonstrate virtuousness, the well-being and engagement of employees improves. Their organizations produce significantly higher levels of productivity, quality, customer loyalty, innovation, and profitability compared to industry averages.

Also, demonstrating virtuousness unleashes the inherent potential of all human beings toward positive, life-giving energy. Multiple studies show that experiencing and observing virtuousness is heliotropic. It leads to employee and organizational thriving, especially in difficult times.

Practices of Positive Energizing Leaders

Leaders can change an organization’s culture from one mired in fear, disengagement, and political incorrectness accusations. To move into a culture full of positive energy, flourishing, and above-average performance, positively energizing leader activities include:

  • All employees receive a gratitude journal for recording the best things that happened during the day or the things for which they are grateful.
  • In addition to recognizing outstanding performance with awards, top performers receive chances to contribute by teaching, coaching, or mentoring others.
  • Leaders create a publicly available gratitude or good news wall where employees record what or who they wish to celebrate.
  • Mistakes and errors are redefined as learning opportunities by publicizing what was learned from the incident.
  • Managers write letters to the families of employees describing the contributions the employee is making to the organization.
  • A team of positive energizers in the organization mobilize to “infect” their colleagues with a positive, virtuous culture. Infect means that others can explain or illustrate virtuous cultural attributes. They also attempt to achieve a one percent improvement themselves.

John Quincy Adams captured the essence of positively energizing leadership. He said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a positively energizing leader.”

employee mental health

Employee Mental Health: It’s Not an “Either-Or” Proposition

In a bittersweet lesson, the pandemic has shone a bright light on the inequalities that we’ve lived with for far too long. These inequalities continue to affect the engagement, productivity, happiness, and mental health of so many unique groups within the world’s workforce. People are sidelined because of their gender or gender choice every day, or their cultural, societal, or ethnic background or beliefs. The cumulative impact of being minimized or overlooked because of one’s perceived differences builds barriers to a healthy mind. It also prevents equitable access to resources for mental well-being. Finally, the damage occurs even when the offending behavior is subtle, indirect, or unintentional. As a result, we all suffer.

What can employers do to change the story? The sources range from an employee’s personal life experiences to underfunded healthcare systems. They include poor leadership, overt discrimination, and stigma. The consequences are real, and they’re measurable.

A Sad New Triad: The Pandemic, Workplace Discrimination, and Employee Mental Health

Research in the last 15 years has demonstrated that when someone is mistreated because of their personal characteristics, it can have wide-ranging negative impacts on their mental and physical health. Discrimination can lead to anxiety, psychological distress, cardiovascular effects, and poor self-reported health status. Evidence also shows that mothers who experience racial discrimination are more likely to have babies with low birth weight (which in itself predisposes that child to more inequality). Workplace discrimination can also cause:

The pandemic exposed yet more discrimination in the workplace, adding new challenges to employee mental health:

  • Socially, culturally, or sexually diverse employees in the U.S. have experienced an average of 1.6 “acute challenges” during the pandemic. This compares with only one for incidents among their non-minoritized colleagues, according to McKinsey.
  • The same McKinsey investigation highlighted that two out of three self-identified LGBTQ+ employees report either acute or moderate challenges with mental health. They are also 1.4 times more likely than heterosexual and cisgender employees to cite challenges with fair performance reviews, workload increases, and losing workplace connectivity and belonging.
  • One in 10 women with young children quit their jobs because of the pandemic. The rate is nearly double (17 percent) for single mothers, according to KFF research.
  • The Latino community represents only 18 percent of the U.S. population but accounts for 29 percent of the COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.
  • COVID-19 also disproportionately affected Black workers. According to McKinsey, 39 percent of jobs held by Black workers in the U.S. were defined as “vulnerable” because of the pandemic. Comparatively, three percent of white workers holding similar jobs were subject to furloughs, layoffs, or being rendered unproductive during periods of high physical distancing.

Workplace Discrimination Has a Broader Impact

Discrimination affects each person’s mental health. It also inhibits their ability to access support for their challenges and stifles their capacity to remedy the root cause of their injuries.

Obviously, employer-sponsored mental health solutions are more important than ever–and for everyone in the workforce. It’s critical to ensure the solution you choose is accessible and suitable for your entire population. But it’s equally important to realize the limitations of the traditional “either-or” model of mental well-being–that we’re either mentally well or mentally unwell.

Fortunately, psychology is embracing a model of mental well-being that draws a wider net. It will also help remove the barriers built by social and cultural stereotypes. Finally, and over all else, it will more readily enhance employee mental health and well-being and company success.

Employee Mental Health Is Not A Yes-No Question

Since the 1950s, mental health has been guided by what’s called the “single-spectrum model.” It’s a paradigm that says mental health and mental illness are opposite ends of the same spectrum. In other words, it says mental health is the absence of mental illness. This model has been useful in helping people understand that everyone’s mental health fluctuates. But the either-or picture it paints can also be too simplistic and potentially stigmatizing.

This model automatically implies that someone cannot experience positive well-being if they are mentally ill. The evidence tells us otherwise. Today, we more fully appreciate that the single-spectrum model of mental health:

  1. Inhibits employees from getting help with mental health conditions (because of its either-or mindset toward mental illness)
  2. Doesn’t foster the potential of nurturing a healthy mind (but focuses instead on “fixing” mental health problems)
  3. Creates discrimination (by continuing the stigma around mental health)

The reality is that:

  • Every single employee is unique
  • Everyone’s mental well-being picture is different from anyone else’s
  • Everyone lives in a vast landscape of mental well-being. A yes-or-no response isn’t always appropriate when it comes to whether they’re mentally healthy.

So, it’s time to look at employee mental well-being from a perspective of whether someone is flourishing at work and home (that is, they feel good about their life and are functioning very well) or if they are struggling and languishing in life. This is a much more equitable and inclusive view of mental health and how it affects employees.

This Mental Well-being Model Help Remove Discrimination

With the right treatment and tools, someone experiencing chronic depression can feel purposeful in life. They can make valuable contributions to their team and the wider community. On the other hand, consider someone with no mental health diagnosis–or someone who has no symptoms they associate directly with mental illness. They can be ungrounded and disconnected from their work and family, and perform well below their norm.

This dual-spectrum model is underpinned by years of research and is about 20-years-old. It can help us stop pigeon-holing employees as being either mentally ill or mentally healthy. Instead, we have the opportunity to look at someone’s entire employee experience as a field on which those two areas play out. It makes us realize that positive mental health and mental illness are not necessarily polar opposites.

The dual-spectrum concept of mental well-being means having positive feelings and functioning. This needs to happen at home and at work, in personal relationships, and in colleague interactions. It also acknowledges that we can experience positive well-being regardless of any mental health condition. In other words, employees with mental illness aren’t always struggling. And those with no defined mental condition aren’t always doing well.

But in almost every case, and regardless of the model you subscribe to, the solution to discrimination’s harsh impact on mental health begins in the same place: with awareness and understanding. By appreciating that each individual carries their own experiences, identities, cultural and social richness, and viewpoints, we realize we have more that unites us than what separates us. With understanding, we can create empathy. From there, we can begin to overcome barriers, break stigmas, and smash glass ceilings.

There is no such thing as normal. We’re all unique. Everyone has the right to a healthy mind.

time off

Taking Time Off Won’t Fix Employee Mental Health

For too long, employers have leveraged time off to support employee mental health. We’ve all heard managers or supervisors respond like this to a stressed and weary employee: “You’re feeling tired? Take some time off and recharge your batteries!” or, “You’re feeling overwhelmed? Use your PTO and step away for a bit.”

Unfortunately, anxiety and depression are worse for employees during the pandemic. But employers continue to rely primarily on time off as the solution. In fact, some companies are actually increasing the amount of paid time off they’re providing.

More than one in five companies are offering employees more vacation time this year, according to a survey from the executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some employers have gone a little further by encouraging employees to unplug, and they’ve designated time during the week or month for employees to do just that.

  • One technology startup declared the last Friday of every month as an office holiday.
  • A 50-person business-to-business marketing agency in Texas permanently revised its office hours to be based on what it calls a “three-day weekend” calendar.
  • Technology giant Cisco last year introduced “unplug” days.

Other companies have gone even further to encourage employees to take time off. PricewaterhouseCoopers started paying employees to use their PTO—offering $250 for taking a full week off.

Yes, taking time off helps. But it isn’t helpful when it’s mandated as a preventive measure or treatment for burnout, stress, and other symptoms of mental ill-health.

Time Off Is a Double-edged Sword

As Erin L. Kelly, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, told Forbes, a vacation declaration essentially pushes some people to take unpaid leave when their families might be under great financial stress. And with the continuing high unemployment rate, people who feel lucky to be employed may think they’re taking a risk if they take vacation days.

Employees also may feel legitimate anxiety around taking time off, according to Kelly. In their minds, admitting they need a break will mark them as less committed and make them vulnerable to poor performance reviews. It can also result in missed opportunities for good assignments or shifts, or they may be targeted in the next round of layoffs.

So, will employees really take advantage of permanent three-day weekends and Friday afternoons without meetings? Will they really unplug when they’re scheduled to? Statistics say they won’t, and especially not workers in the U.S. American workers left an average of 33 percent of their paid time off on the table last year.

Better: Supporting Mental Health Every Day, for Everyone

Every mind is unique, and every person’s situation is different. And just as we all exist somewhere on a very wide spectrum of physical health, we are every day somewhere on a very broad spectrum of mental health: from barely coping to abundantly thriving, from totally disengaged to fully and productively engaged, from struggling to stay focused minute-to-minute to sustaining razor-sharp attentiveness.

And it’s not just about how we feel when we’re at work. What happens at work doesn’t stay at work, and what happens at home doesn’t stay at home. This is even more true as we continue to navigate the uncertain and constantly stressful impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Research has already proved the importance of focusing on a healthy work/life balance, of supporting employees to be more mentally fit in every area of their lives, personal and professional. Giving employees more time off is only a first step in preventing more frequent and more serious incidents of poor mental health in our workforces.

9 Steps Toward Greater Employee Mental Health

To be as effective as possible, consider these nine aspects of a proactive and preventative mental well-being strategy.

Accessibility

Ensure every employee has access to all of the mental health services and programs you offer— anytime, anywhere. A digital approach, for example, allows all employees to engage with resources however and whenever they want.

Data

Use data and insights to influence your wider strategy. Data on uptake, engagement, outcomes, improvement, and the collective well-being of your organization will help you track and understand the impact of your initiatives.

Training

Empower your managers to support mental health. Four in five managers believe it is part of their job to intervene when an employee shows signs of depression—but only one in three managers report having appropriate training to intervene.

Measurement

Empower employees to measure and manage their mental health and well-being. Online tools are available to help employees track changes in their moods and emotions, to better identify triggers, and ultimately be able to make better-informed choices about how best to respond.

Variety

Cater to a diverse range of needs and preferences. Everyone’s mental health and well-being are diverse, vibrant, and ever-changing. It’s also essential to consider how a diverse population will have different preferences, requirements, and outcomes.

Credibility

Have experts in their respective fields design your initiatives. Research has shown that only a small proportion of the thousands of mental health applications on the market are backed by clinical evidence.

Tone

Make your employee communication aspirational and engaging; talk about mental health as something to aspire to rather than hide from. The terminology and tone you use can have a significant impact on employee perceptions of your program.

Visibility

Combine a top-down and bottom-up approach to communication. Success demands an always-on communication strategy that continually reminds employees of the support, tools, and networks available to them.

Signposting

Direct employees to reactive support when necessary. Ideally, treatment-based support strategies need to be timely and offer a sense of choice in available treatment. One example: instant access 24/7 to your employee assistance program (EAP) with the touch of a button.

Key Takeaways

A proactive, whole-person approach to supporting employee mental health will create a culture of caring and support, an environment in which employees can express their emotional and mental challenges, and a workplace where mental health is understood, nurtured, and celebrated day in and day out.

employee uncertainty

Managing Employee Uncertainty to Help Them Thrive [Podcast]

Employee uncertainty is bad for business. When people don’t feel their work situations are stable, they get anxiety, depression, and have a tendency to catastrophize. They also become disengaged with their work. Because of this, productivity wanes, and so does financial success. Gallup estimates that 22 million employees are disengaged, resulting in $350 billion lost each year due to absences, illness, and other unhappiness-related issues.

It’s up to leadership and HR professionals to manage employee uncertainty before things get out of control, especially in these unprecedented times spurred by the pandemic. It is up to managers to get ahead of uncertainty and find ways to communicate with employees, reassure them, and have structures in place to manage uncertainty should it arise.

Our Guest: Sandy Scholes, Chief People Officer at Flipp Corporation

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Sandy Scholes, chief people officer at Flipp Corporation. She has over two decades of diverse HR experience, having held several executive HR leadership roles at organizations like Entertainment One, Becton, Dickinson, GlaxoSmithKline, and CARA. Sandy has long sustained a passion for working with people and focuses on growth empowerment. She aims to help create work cultures of learning at organizations and provides strategies to manage employee uncertainty during times of organizational change.

Because employee uncertainty is especially prevalent thanks to the pandemic, I was eager to get her insight into how to work with such uncertainties. I wanted to know: What can organizations do to combat this? The first thing is to equip leaders and managers with the ability to spot uncertainty in the first place.

“It starts with all of your leaders and coaches. You need to pull people in a room and equip leaders and managers with the right kind of skills to try to notice that. You have to double your communication,” Sandy says. “At Flipp, we’ve asked all of our leaders to be deliberate and spend one-on-one time checking in on employees to see how they’re doing.”

The second thing to realize is that everyone reacts differently to uncertainty, and will need different accommodations. What one employee needs to feel more secure may be wildly different than another.

“You can’t treat everyone the same. For example, at Flipp, for parents, we’re trying to manage uncertainty by providing more flexibility. How do we create a schedule where they don’t feel overwhelmed?” Sandy says. “Managers and coaches need to understand that they have to provide this level of flexibility so that people can work differently now.” 

Don’t just survive. Thrive.

Of course, managing uncertainty isn’t enough. Once you help people get to a baseline of comfort, you want to make sure they’re able to get to the next level. Employees don’t just want to survive; they want to thrive.

“Make sure employees have a growth and development plan. You have to sit down with them monthly, even if they’re remote. Talk about career aspirations. Because if they don’t feel like they’re going to develop, then they’re going to feel stagnant,” Sandy says.

And engagement will suffer. With the surge of the “Great Resignation,” this isn’t a risk you can take. Offer employees options to grow. Give them stipends to allow for creativity and learning–even if it doesn’t directly correlate to work.

“If employees want to take music lessons or guitar or they want to sign up for a wine course, they can take some of that money and spend it on a personal thing. It’s all about feeding your soul,” Sandy says. “Stay invested, grow people, help challenge them, and make sure they’re learning and they feel like they’re making a difference.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about managing employee uncertainty by reaching out to Sandy Scholes on LinkedIn.

self-sabatoge

Overcome Your Self-Sabotage to Live a Confident, Empowered Life [Podcast]

Self-sabotage is the act of keeping yourself from achieving what you want. It can take a variety of shapes and forms, from anxiety to depression to negative self-talk. It happens both in your personal life and at work–and can wreak havoc in both. For instance, self-sabotage could mean the difference between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to get that promotion–and losing the opportunity completely.

To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to develop deep self-awareness. By rewiring behaviors, negative thought patterns, and challenging yourself to change, you can take control of your self-sabotage and overcome what’s holding you back.

Our Guest: Therapist, speaker, and author Dr. Candice Seti

On the #WorkTrends podcast, I recently spoke with Dr. Candice Seti, therapist, speaker, coach, and author of The Self-Sabotage Behavior Workbook. In her private practice, Candice works with individuals to help them through maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns. The aim is to replace those patterns with healthier ones that allow her clients to overcome self-sabotage and see success in their personal and work lives.

Because self-sabotage is so prevalent in the working world, I wanted to get Candice’s professional opinion on why we do it. Why would we voluntarily engage in behaviors that hurt us?

“Where to begin? Fear, comfort, self-doubt, anxiety, just poor self-esteem. I mean, there are many reasons we self-sabotage. But mostly, it’s habitual. Habits develop and ultimately reinforce themselves … they create self-fulfilling prophecies,” Candice says. “So we just get stuck in that habit loop … so it very easily creates a pattern, which is part of the problem.”

Another part of the self-sabotage problem that existed pre-pandemic has been further exacerbated by COVID-19. More people are experiencing the effects of self-sabotage due to major life changes and emotional ups and downs.

“With the impact of the pandemic over the last year, stress levels have increased exponentially. Work changes have been implemented and there’s been a major increase in self-sabotaging behaviors as a result. I mean, you definitely see it in the workplace with things like procrastination taking stronger form,” Candice says. “You’ve also seen more social avoidance and emotional eating.”

Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Breaking the Cycle

So if self-sabotage is so pervasive, what can we do to break the cycle? According to Candice, the first step is to be aware of how negative thoughts are manifesting in your mind. She says you need to pay close attention to the voice in your head telling you that you can’t do something, or you’re not good enough, or you should put tasks off.

“Pay attention to that voice. Not only what is it saying, but how you’re responding to it and what behaviors you’re engaging in. Then, you’ll have a good, solid understanding of what your self-sabotage looks like,” Candice says. 

Once you understand it, says Candice, then you can figure out a plan of attack. For example, if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome, where you believe that you’re not experienced enough to be doing your job, you can combat those negative thoughts with positive ones. Focus instead on your achievements and capabilities, rather than any failings you may encounter. This will help build your confidence and drown out the self-sabotaging dialogue.

“Self-sabotage is rooted in fear,” Candice says. “Think about how you can start facing those fears to prove yourself wrong and start building your confidence and challenging those fears.”

Once you face your fears head-on, your whole relationship to success changes. By being aware of what’s holding you back, you can become empowered to go after what you want.

“For most people, when fear of success is the driver, it’s not enough to just say, ‘I want to succeed.’ You have to actually challenge the fears because those are what are keeping you rooted in that self-sabotage,” Candice says.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about taking control of your fears and combating self-sabotage by connecting with Candice Seti on LinkedIn.

mental health

The Real Girl in Red and What It Means for Employee Mental Health

“Do you listen to the girl in red?”

It’s a good question for anyone whose job it is to understand workplace culture and employee mental health. The question has become a coded way for women on social media to ask each other if they’re queer. But for HR and talent leaders, the question carries significance beyond gender identity.

The hashtag #doyoulistentogirlinred was created in April 2020. The tag was the outgrowth of Girl in Red, a pop music project of Marie Ulven. She is a 22-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter and record producer. Ulven shot to prominence between 2018 and 2019 with homemade bedroom-pop songs about queer romance and (here’s the connection for employers everywhere) mental health.

In a recent interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition, Ulven discussed fame, sexuality, her new album, and her battles with mental ill-health.

She specifically talked about the continuing stigma that prevents so many people from speaking out or seeking support for their mental health challenges. Even the name of her new album, “If I Could Make It Go Quiet,” speaks to a challenge that many people face: undesired intrusive thoughts they can’t control.

The stigma is real. Are you listening?

Another song on Ulven’s album called “Serotonin” is even more direct about Ulven’s struggle with mental illness.

“I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts my entire life, and I’m just mentioning a couple in this song,” Ulven told NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

When asked what she hoped people would take away from this song and her experiences with mental ill-health, Ulven replied, “I really hope that people feel less crazy.”

“I think it’s so important to just hear that a lot of people have these thoughts,“ Ulven continued. “I’ve been scared about jumping in front of trains, been really scared of being at train stations. And I’ve had so many people message me about that, like ‘I relate so much to this song.’”

Her audience is your workforce

In general, Ulven might just as well be speaking on behalf of a huge percentage of today’s workforce. For example, one estimate says more than six million people in the United States may experience intrusive, worrying thoughts. Amid the stress and upheaval caused by COVID-19 and so many social and political events in the last year, a growing number of employees are:

  • Urging employers to be proactive and provide preventive programs and tools to help them navigate their mental health
  • Increasingly saying they want to work for companies that have a culture of caring for the whole employee—including physical, social, and mental aspects

Even before the pandemic, in 2019, one study investigating the attitudes of employee mental health found that:

  • 86 percent of survey participants thought a company’s culture should support mental health.
  • 75 percent of Gen Z employees (like Ulven, currently between the ages of six and 24) and half of millennials left roles in the past for mental health reasons (voluntarily and involuntarily), compared with 34 percent of respondents overall.

Unfortunately, too many employers aren’t getting the message. A recent study by Unmind and WELCOA found that:

  • Barely one in three employers (37 percent) feel they have a strong understanding of the mental health and well-being of their people.
  • Only 64 percent of employers have a strategy in place for specifically managing employee mental health and well-being.

The light at the end of the tunnel: the mental health train headed in your direction

Yes, Americans are starting to return to the workplace, returning to the rituals of after-work drinks and lunching together at nearby restaurants. But the fallout of COVID-19 will be felt in the workplace for quite a long while. With this in mind, a year of living in fear, isolation, and sorrow may have taken a toll on the mental and emotional health of your employees.

“We’re seeing pretty alarming numbers,” says Vaile Wright, senior director of healthcare innovation at the American Psychological Association (APA), who oversees its Stress in America survey. “People’s bodies and minds just aren’t in quite the fit place they were in a year ago.”

At the same time, most employees are afraid to talk about being stressed out and possibly burned out. According to a recent survey by Joblist, almost 48 percent of employees fear negative consequences. Namely, they’re concerned they may be denied a raise or promotion if they talk about work stress.

What can you do? Chiefly, Unmind argues that the answer lies in embracing the new vision of workplace mental health. The first step is to understand the four foundational elements needed to help manifest a  proactive, prevention-based approach to employee mental health.

Those four pillars are:

1. The whole-person, whole-organization mindset

Basically, this should be the north star for any employee mental health solution. It aims to do more than respond with a treatment to mental health issues. Or simply ease employee stress and anxiety.

2. No employee left behind 

Too many mental well-being platforms and apps simply fail to empower everyone to navigate their own situation. With this in mind, instead of offering treatment options only for the one in five U.S. employees who report having mental health concerns, solutions should offer programs and tools for everyone.

3. Empowerment for employees and insight for HR and well-being leaders

An optimal mental health platform will only succeed if it can deliver on three critical drivers of its value. These include 1) measurement of outcomes, 2) variety of programs and tools, and 3) accessibility for everyone. It will empower employees with a variety of tools. These can include self-guided programs, in-the-moment exercises, daily diaries, and the receiving of gratitude and praise.

4. Human touch and solid science

The new vision of workplace mental health demands the right support for you and your employees. The science and software behind even the best-planned solution will be next to useless without proper vendor support.

With those pillars to build upon, you would have a proactive workplace mental health platform. Also, you would have an authoritative and trusted partner to help deliver better well-being, improved employee performance, and enriched company culture, and a stronger brand.

In addition, far fewer of your employees would feel alone and disenfranchised. As you create a new beginning for workplace mental health, you’ll be offering your employees something positive as they enter a  post-pandemic world.

 

wfh burnout and zoom fatigue

How to Prevent (or Defeat) WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue

When the COVID pandemic swept through the country last year, companies rapidly transitioned employees to remote working. However, this shift led to growing challenges, including WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue. As we transition from pandemic to post-pandemic life, many companies are adopting hybrid models, where some workers come into the office part-time only while others remain fully remote. That model means our burnout and fatigue issues will remain relevant for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, organizations treat these issues as simply day-to-day challenges. They fail to recognize their systematic, long-term nature; they don’t address them strategically. At heart, these problems stem from organizations transposing their “office culture” norms of interaction to working from home. Over time, we’ve learned that just doesn’t work well. We now know: Virtual communication, collaboration, and relationships function very differently than they do when we share a workspace.

To survive and thrive in the post-COVID world and within hybrid working environments, organizations must make a strategic shift. Specifically, they need to focus on best practices for those employees working from home–part-time and full-time.

Defeating WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue: A Strategic Approach

Take these steps to establish effective work-from-home best practices for the long term:

Gather information from employees

Talk to employees about their virtual work challenges. Not enough time to connect with everyone? Try conducting surveys, do focus groups, or organize one-on-one interviews with key personnel. Be sure to collect quantitative and qualitative data on the virtual work issues in your organization.

Develop metrics and determine a baseline

Structure surveys so that you can use the quantitative results to establish clear metrics on challenges to prevent WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue. Do follow-up interviews to gather qualitative data. Prior to beginning the interventions listed next, use both forms of data to develop a baseline.

Educate your employees about needs-deprivations

Human nature dictates that we don’t recognize a large component of what we perceive as WFH burnout. We don’t recognize the deprivation of our basic human needs; specifically, our connection to each other. So early intervention involves educating employees on this topic.

Cultivate a sense of meaning among employees

Withing the virtual workplace, help employees intentionally develop a sense of meaning. That includes using an evaluative tool to establish a baseline of purpose. Use self-reflective activities on identity as tied to one’s work. The goal: To connect work to something bigger than yourself.

Create mutual connections using native virtual formats

We want to connect. But compared to in-person meetings, our emotions just don’t process little squares during a video conference as truly connecting. The mismatch between expectations and reality leads to drain and dissatisfaction. So focus on creating human connection and a sense of trust, perhaps by replacing bonding opportunities from an in-office culture with innovative virtual bonding activities.

Provide remote-specific professional development

Intentionally focus on employee and team development highly relevant to virtual or blended work teams. Effective communication, collaboration, and remote relationship building are just a few of the development areas the best organizations will target in hybrid working environments.

Initiate formal virtual mentorship relationships

Ask your senior staff to actively mentor junior team members in business areas and ask junior staff to mentor senior staff in other areas, like tech. This approach to bonding, in addition to the guidance it provides, also helps address the lack of social connection in virtual workplaces.

Establish times for informal digital co-working

Ask each employee to spend an hour or more per day coworking digitally with their colleagues. Create a sense of presence by joining a videoconference call without an agenda. Turn your speakers on but microphones off (unless you want to ask a question or make a comment or simply chat, of course). Next, simply work on your own tasks.

Digital coworking replicates the positive aspects of being in shared cubicle spaces with your team members, even while doing your own work. Benefits include mutual bonding through chatting and collaboration, being able to ask and answer quick clarifying questions, and being able to provide guidance and informal mentorship.

Fund effective remote work environments

Since the pandemic began, many companies have identified inequalities within remote working environments. For example, some employees have high-speed internet and quiet workspaces at home, while others do not. Address any inequity by investing in the work environments of remote employees.

Reduce unnecessary meetings

Zoom fatigue is real. So don’t schedule meetings unless you need to make a decision or get clarification on something that requires synchronous discussion. And make the best possible use of time when a meeting is required by staying focused on the task at hand.

Conduct weekly check-ins

The most effective leaders check in with employees regularly. Not just to determine progress being made on work-related tasks, but to also determine the team members’ well-being. So check-ins don’t add to Zoom fatigue, keep check-ins to weekly 15-30 minute video conferences.

Support work/life boundaries

Too many leaders expect employees to work after hours, then refuse employee requests for flexibility. Some employees, scared for their jobs, voluntarily take on too much work. To reduce burnout, leaders must reinforce boundaries. Whenever possible, they must also encourage and welcome flexible working schedules.

Take things step by step

Start with education about basic needs. Next, use the data from your conversations and internal surveys to pursue the actions that seem to make the most sense. Resist the temptation to fix everything at once by focusing on the issues that seem to have the highest sense of urgency.

A Change in Mindset

To prevent or defeat WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue, reframe your company culture and policies.

As you initiate this strategic shift, be sure to consistently support your employees. If you do this, your partnership with them will enable your organization to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world.

languishing

Image by Andrea Piacquadio

The Languishing Issue: Help Employees Move from Stuck to Strong [Podcast]

Ever get that blah feeling? That surge of listlessness you can’t explain? The thing that keeps you in bed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer until 8:13 am when you have a work Zoom meeting at 8:15? Well, that blah feeling is called languishing, and it’s what some are calling the dominant feeling of 2021.

Languishing is a newly discovered mental health state that encompasses a sensation characterized by apathy, dissatisfaction, and loss of interest in most things. And it can dramatically affect your success at work.

With 85 percent of employees reporting that they’d take a $5,000 pay cut to feel happier at work, and with so many employees leaving companies at a rapid rate–employers and employees both need to take languishing seriously.

Our Guest: Maya Garza, VP of Solution Consulting and Behavioral Science at BetterUp

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends I was excited to talk to Maya Garza, vice president of solution consulting and behavioral science at BetterUp, about the languishing phenomenon. Maya leads the team of behavioral scientists who serve as executive advisors to our partners. With over 15 years of experience working with Fortune 500 organizations to implement human-capital solutions, she’s an expert at maximizing human potential.

I asked Maya what she thinks the most overlooked employee issue is to date. Unequivocally, she said, it’s mental health and well-being. And that is due in part to a widespread misunderstanding of mental health issues.

This lack of understanding can hurt the company, Maya explained, because BetterUp research shows that 55 percent of employees are languishing.

“Those who are languishing experience heightened stress and physical and mental exhaustion,” Maya said. “Employees at work might feel overwhelmed, down on themselves, or uninspired … They might even put off what used to be a challenging or an exciting task. That turns into a snowball effect that then leads to stress and burnout and lack of innovation.”

How can everyone deal with the experience of languishing?

The first step to managing the experience is to admit that you’re languishing. 

“Simply asking yourself where you are mentally is actually a helpful diagnostic tool. And next you might want to think about, well, gosh, how do I get myself out of that?”

Maya suggests celebrating small wins and reminding yourself what you’re grateful for. Research shows that these practices help improve mental health. Of course, Maya says, it will take more than individual employee actions to help with organization-wide mental health issues.

“Moving yourself from stuck or languishing to truly flourishing is really hard to do. You don’t solve it by one walk or one talk with yourself. You really do need systemic intervention. And I think this is where HR can really be that thought partner for managers and for leaders,” Maya says.

“What it really comes down to is: Is the leadership at your organization being intentional? Are they really deeply thinking about aligning their words and their actions? So remember, we are humans first, we are employees second … Change is accelerated from the bottom up and we need to invest in the potential for every employee to really be at their best.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends sponsored by BetterUp. I think we could all benefit from imagining what our teams can do if they’re feeling their best, and how we can make that so. You can learn more about this topic by connecting with our guest, Maya Garza, on LinkedIn.

employee burnout

Image from Stokkete

Loneliness and Isolation: Fighting New Forms of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is real. According to a Gallup poll, a staggering 76% of employees experience some form of burnout in their careers. In a survey conducted here at TalentCulture, only 5% said they had not experienced any feelings of burnout since the pandemic began.

So, what’s causing this? The usual suspects like heavy workloads are, unreasonable deadlines exist, of course. The absence of direction and feedback from supervisors and lack of upward mobility remain near the top of the list.  But two other reasons for employee burnout surfaced during the pandemic: Isolation and loneliness. And here’s the thing: Feelings of loneliness and isolation can affect one’s health in the same way that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can. In a separate study, researcher Juliane Holt-Lundstad found that loneliness is worse for you than obesity.

It doesn’t get any more real than that. Let’s discuss…

Our Guest: Amy Durham, Certified Executive Coach and Corporate Mystic

This week, Amy Durham joined me on the #WorkTrends podcast. Amy is a U.C. Berkeley Certified Executive Coach, an Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, and is the author of Create Magic at Work. Amy has been studying the impact of loneliness and isolation in the pandemic workplace, and she’s here to understand how leadership and employees can work together towards a plan to overcome the overwhelming effects these factors have on the body and mind. When I asked Amy what is causing burnout today, she got right to the root cause and the solution:

“Harvard Business Review came out with an article about ‘America’s loneliest workers.’ What they found was that the lack of workplace social support had negative business outcomes. And what’s cool is that if you bring people together, even on Zoom, it increases job satisfaction and reduces burnout.”

“Bringing people together providing social support is so important. And it’s a win-win because it improves profitability and productivity, keeps retention high and helps employees stay engaged.”

Combating Employee Burnout Through Connections

I asked Amy what leaders can do to help eliminate the feelings of loneliness and isolation as they worked from home — or anywhere else — where social support wasn’t readily available or apparent. 

“I encourage every leader to take responsibility — to have the courage to facilitate a connecting activity. For example, ask a meaningful question to kick off a meeting like ‘When was the last time something gave you goosebumps?’ and then listen, really listen, to the answer.”

“People never forget that because you actually connect with someone,” Amy added as she stressed how important that social connection is to preventing, or defeating, loneliness and isolation.

Yes, employee burnout is real. And as we identify new forms and new causes, we must pay attention. As Amy says, we must have the courage to take responsibility. And we, as business leaders and HR professionals, must act. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends and I hope it inspires you to make meaningful connections and provide the social support that helps combat this new form of employee burnout. I also hope you’ll learn more about this issue by connecting with our guest, Amy Durham, on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

 

employee well-being

Image from Africa Studios

How Your Approach to Employee Well-being Impacts Business [Podcast]

Thus far into the COVID-19 crisis, mental health and well-being have dropped a staggering 33 percent. As a result, many employees are no longer content with basic health benefits as a perk. Instead, now more than ever, they think of wellness as a critical element of their overall compensation package. As many employers are learning: The pandemic didn’t just revolutionize remote work. It is also driving a pivot in how organizations approach employee well-being.

So in this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, we’re discussing how an organization’s post-pandemic approach to employee well-being impacts so much more than just performance. Let’s get started!

Our Guest: David Osborne, CEO of Virgin Pulse

David Osborne, the CEO of Virgin Pulse the world’s largest digital health and well-being company joins us on this week’s podcast. Given his company’s focus on bringing employee well-being into the DNA of corporate culture, David is uniquely qualified to help us take on this timely topic.

I started this episode by asking David the difference between “basic health benefits” and a more human approach to employee well-being. David framed our entire conversation with his response:

“Well-being prioritizes the whole person. It takes everything into account. Physical activity, nutrition, sleep, financial wellness, mental health, and more.” 

David quickly added that today’s best employers realize that “wellness” is a much different approach than just offering healthcare benefits and provide a human-focused level of care to their people.

Employee Well-being: The Right Approach

“People are going to come out of the pandemic relatively broken. A lack of activity, gaining weight, mental health, the financial impact, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. So well-being should be the number one area employers focus on right now. As more people get the vaccination and the world opens up, employers must meet employees where they are. They must recognize that life and work are not going to go back to just the status quo.”

“We’re not going to flick a switch and be perfectly fine all over again. We must be prepared.”

David and I went on to talk about how the approach employers take to wellness — starting right now — can make or break their businesses. Grab a cup of caffeination or a healthy drink of water, and listen to the entire episode!

We thank Virgin Pulse for sponsoring this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, and we thank David for joining us! Be sure to connect with David on LinkedIn and follow Virgin Pulse on Twitter. 

And, as always, thank you for being a member of the TalentCulture community!

 

employee well-being

Image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

How to Best Support Employee Health and Well-being in 2021 and Beyond

Over one year into the pandemic, nearly everything about the workforce has changed — from when and where we work to how employees interact with each other and clients. How employers have adapted their benefits design and their employee well-being and support strategies have also been affected. It has become increasingly clear that this crisis has accelerated significant shifts in many dimensions of our life and work.

The pandemic has also underscored the many complexities of navigating and accessing quality healthcare and how every aspect of their well-being impacts an employee’s work performance — not just physical health.  As a result, many employers are placing health benefits at the center of their overall workforce strategy. As I’ve seen first-hand in my role as Chief People Officer at Castlight, this mindset change has created a shift in the roles of HR and benefits leaders. Specifically, C-suite leaders have become more actively involved in their employees’ benefits experience.

For the workplace of the future and the employees of today, this change is essential. Nearly half of Americans receive health insurance through their company. And a recent trust survey showed that most Americans trust their company leadership more than governmental media. That means employers are in a unique position to impact their employees’ health journeys positively.

Top Priorities for Employers in 2021

The pandemic has given employers an inside look into employees’ daily lives. Now, many organizations have an opportunity to transform how they decide to support their workforce. When it comes to supporting employee health in 2021 (and beyond), employers must pay attention to what employees consider their top priorities. These include navigating the COVID-19 vaccination process and engaging employees in a whole-person approach to their health.

Supporting Employee Well-being Through the Pandemic and Beyond

As vaccine eligibility opens up for more of the population, employers can leverage their position as a trusted resource to improve vaccine literacy. They can also help facilitate more seamless distribution among their workforce.

Employees have many questions about the vaccine, and there’s a great deal of misinformation circulating. Almost a third of the public is still hesitant about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine — many are worried about side effects. Others are concerned the vaccine is too new or that it could give them the virus. Employers must step up and provide their workforce with comprehensive vaccine education materials backed by science, yet easy to understand.

Additionally, by providing ongoing targeted communications, HR leaders can ensure that all employees get the specific care and information they need. For example — essential employees need to know about on-the-job safety protocols and whether or not they’re eligible to receive a vaccine within their state. In contrast, non-essential employees may want to know when they’ll be eligible, where they can get a vaccine, and how to make an appointment.

A Whole-Person Approach to Sustained Employee Well-being

COVID-19 has emphasized just how foundational an employee’s health and sustained well-being is to their happiness, engagement, productivity, and success. So beyond vaccine distribution, employers need to be thinking about keeping their employees engaged in their healthcare long after the pandemic ends. Many leadership teams have started reimagining how they think about benefits as a whole.

After all, remote work has offered a glimpse into everything their employees are juggling each day. Now, it is clear that employees routinely deal with issues all on top of a full-time job. These real-world demands include childcare and homeschooling, taking care of a loved one, and more. This perspective has helped employers learn more about what their teams are dealing with outside of the office. And they’re finally starting to understand the importance of flexibility.

On top of that, COVID-19 highlighted other aspects of well-being, such as mental health. For example, from before the pandemic to January 2021 symptoms of anxiety or depression among U.S. adults jumped from 11% to 41%. Now, employers must look holistically at their employee populations. They must consider all facets of health — physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial. Then they must develop a personalized, equitable benefits design that meets the health goals and needs of every employee.

The Role of the C-suite: Leading Through Complex Times

Moving forward, critical benefits conversations are no longer the priority of just the benefits manager. Members of the C-suite must become intimately involved in employee well-being as well. CHROs, in particular, need to understand their employee segments more deeply. Ensuring a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have.  Then catering to their specific needs by offering benefits in a personalized way.

Employers can (and should) play a vital role in employee well-being in 2021 — and beyond.

Specifically, given their unique and significant reach into the workforce, mid-size and large employers can be critical leaders in health advocacy. Compassion, communication, courage, and a strong community focus will continue to be imperative leadership traits throughout these difficult times. The way employers care for their employees — and the health and holistic well-being of the employees’ families — will determine their employer brand for years to come.

 

healthy living

Image from Daxiao Productions

The Secret to Healthy Living: Work Well and Play More [#WorkTrends]

For more than a year now, many of us have been enjoying our work at home experience. On the surface, this has been an opportunity for better integration of work and life commitments. We’ve enjoyed being more available to family and friends (including the furry variety). We’re also eating at home more often and, with much lower commute times, perhaps sleeping more. That seems like healthy living to me.

But in a recent poll here at TalentCulture, nearly half of you said your employer expects you to be available at all times. So do we really have greater balance? Are we taking the breaks required to remain healthy? Are we eating better and sleeping more?

If we’re constantly answering texts and emails — always working — are we really living healthier lives than our pre-pandemic selves?

Our Guest: Marcey Rader, Health and Wellness Expert

Joining us on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is Marcey Rader, an accredited health and wellness expert, award-winning speaker, sought-after productivity coach, and author of three books. In other words, she’s perfectly qualified to discuss the issue of healthy living within our current work from home realities. From a health perspective, I asked Marcey about the upsides — and downsides — of working remotely.

“When COVID hit us last year, we heard people saying ‘I’m losing 25 pounds because now I’m taking walks every afternoon,” Marcey said. But then she added: “Now, though, we have the COVID 25  where people are not moving enough.” 

So the primary downside, simply put by Marcey: “We’re not moving enough.”

Healthy Living Secret: Work Well, Play More

Marcey went on to say that healthy living isn’t all about work-life balance, but working well and, yes, playing more. And by playing, Marcey talks about taking advantage of every “movement opportunity.” 

Marcey defines these movement opportunities as, “Every hour you get up and you do 20 squats. Or you’re doing push-ups after each of your meetings. Or you’re doing walkie-talkies (walking and talking) on the phone during meetings.” Marcey further clarified this practical secret to healthy living: 

“Any movement opportunity you can fit in your day can be helpful. We must keep moving!”

Marcey went on to talk about the importance of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), quality sleep, and so much more. And here’s what I learned from our conversation: Working well and playing more are not mutually exclusive concepts. Using walkie-talkie meetings as an example, we can play we can move while we work. 

To learn more about Marcey’s work, connect with her on LinkedIn. And check out her newest book, Work Well. Play More!: Productive, Clutter-Free, Healthy Living – One Step at a Time.