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Digital Health Coaching as a Modern Employee Benefit

Whether working onsite in the healthcare, construction, service, and hospitality industries throughout the pandemic, the stresses of the past two years have taken their toll. Employees are tired. Employee Burnout is being experienced at an extremely high rate. 

More than four in 10 workers surveyed by global staffing firm Robert Half said they are more burned out on the job today compared to one year ago. That’s a 10% jump from a similar poll in 2020. In addition, nearly half of workers surveyed, some 49%, who are experiencing increased fatigue, blame this on heavier workloads. 

As the pandemic lingers, digital health coaching is on the rise. This modern employee benefit is proving to be a critical lifeline for employees now and in the future.

New Work Models Increase Employee Burnout and Health Issues

Open-ended remote and hybrid work has exacerbated employee burnout — a syndrome outlined by the World Health Organization resulting from chronic workplace stress characterized by decreased work efficiency, exhaustion, energy depletion, and negative and cynical feelings related to a job. 

These feelings are further compounded by increased substance use, sleep issues, and chronic health issues due to the current climate. All of which have a negative impact on safety, absenteeism, and productivity. To make matters worse, remote and hybrid workers aren’t always getting the support they need to cope.

Employers Turn to Digital Health Coaching to Support Workers

Employees need to feel supported while maintaining a sense of privacy. Unfortunately, people struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues are often conditioned to remain silent — to suffer alone. Especially now, workers may even view their struggles as a temporary result of the pandemic rather than an undiagnosed problem. The issues are real, however. 

Between August 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the rate of those reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2% to 11.7%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the pervasiveness of unfulfilled mental health care in America, companies can fill the void to provide employees with guided intervention — supporting employees and helping them make lasting change. Companies can accomplish these goals by adopting robust substance use health insurance and policies, improving workplace culture, educating employees to promote drug-free workplaces, and providing employees with supportive and confidential services in a digital health coaching program.

Digital Health Coaching Meets Employees Where They Are

The root of a healthy company is a healthy workforce. Yet, many employer-backed health and wellness programs struggle to attract, engage, and produce tangible outcomes for employees. In addition, traditional programs are plagued with a one-size-fits-all approach to personal struggles. Personalizing care is critical for employers who want to build a pathway that helps individual employees build a strong foundation and momentum to overcome their struggles. 

With the help of a digital health coaching program, blending cognitive-behavioral training with video-based educational modules and a vast library of impactful content, every employee can obtain support and help when they need it. In addition, by creating personalized experiences and providing targeted content that appeals to different learning styles, such programs can effectively engage employees — raising the likelihood employees complete the program and achieve positive outcomes with staying power. 

Engaging Health Coaching Programs Benefit Workers and Employers

For employers questioning whether adding a digital health coaching program to their employee benefits is worth the cost, the answer is a resounding yes — yes, it is worth it. 

Some 80% of the total costs for treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, asthma, and more stem from risks and unhealthy behaviors worsened by the pandemic. These include poor stress management and standard of care, insufficient sleep, excessive alcohol, drug use and smoking, poor diet, and a lack of physical activity and health screenings. As a result, costs to both workers and employers come in the form of additional healthcare spend and productivity loss. 

Data suggest the benefits of adopting a digital health coaching program, which helps reduce lifestyle risks and unhealthy behaviors, can result in significant savings for employers and employees alike. 

Depression, for example, the second-leading cause of “years lived with disability” worldwide, is steadily linked with greater economic burden and reduced work productivity, and this was pre-pandemic. It’s also estimated to cost employers nearly $20,000 per 100 employees each year in lost productivity and additional healthcare costs. Then there’s obesity. A chronic condition gradually rising, obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4% from 1999–2000 through 2017–2018. Obesity alone can cost employers $100,000 – $550,000 each year per 100 employees in disability, workers’ compensation, absenteeism, and presenteeism.

Enhanced Digital Health Coaching

Enhanced digital health coaching serves to lower these costs. Employees who improve their general health and complete their treatment protocols to address risky behaviors, mental and chronic health issues are less likely to require expensive interventions later, saving them and their employers in the long run. 

Employers must act as employees continue to deal with pandemic burnout, increased stresses, substance use, and other risky behaviors. In doing so, they’ll help employees address the issues they may be silently struggling with, allowing them to make lasting change and improve the health of their workplaces.

The Future Workplace and How to Prepare

I’m often asked to give my predictions for what the new year will bring to the future workplace. We’ve seen changes we never imagined, from the shift to remote and blended workforces to flexible scheduling—not as a perk but a necessity.  We observed just how critical mental health and family benefits are to our employees. We’ve watched millions leave our workplaces as part of the Great Resignation. And they’re still leaving. Our workforces are shrinking.

Looking back on the past two years, I didn’t know what would trigger the shift to an employee-centric dynamic. But I was sure it would happen. I wish it didn’t take an unprecedented pandemic to push the envelope. But it necessitated changes in HR and leadership that we were already talking about.

Workplace Revelations

Thanks to the pandemic, employers see how critical it is to treat their employees as people. They know that they need to recognize that employees have lives and stresses outside the office. And also, that they have needs well beyond having the right equipment and processes to get their work done.

A prolonged health, economic, and social crisis has sent the walls between work and life tumbling down. Employers who don’t support that reality are going to find themselves on the receiving end of an exodus in the future workplace. An August 2021 jobseeker survey found that 55 percent of American employees plan to search for a new job in 2022.

How can you ready your workplace for the changes already happening?

First, acknowledge they’re happening and they’re not going to stop. This is not a course correction or a passing trend. This is a new reality. Second, address the basic needs employees have—the fundamentals that make their work and lives easier. In some cases, we can follow the examples of front-running organizations. They may not be perfect but are nevertheless the ones innovating solutions to better support their workforce. In other cases, you’ll likely be on your own: no two organizations are alike any more than any two people are. The good news is that we can all learn from each other.

Family Support

One of the hardest parts of managing work and life in the pandemic has been somehow navigating caregiving and domestic responsibilities. The pressures of childcare forced a whole cohort—women—to make a terrible decision between jobs and children. Women are the ones leading the Great Resignation. A Lean In/ McKinsey report found that one in three women contemplated changing or leaving their jobs in the past year, up from one in four women in 2020. Forty-two percent of women and 35 percent of men say they are burned out, up from 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men last year. Women are bearing the brunt, the numbers show.

But solutions need to accommodate everyone and need to meet evolving definitions of what family means in the future workplace. This leads me to Amazon (remember I said they may not be perfect?). Amazon’s Family Flex program offers working parents a whole new level of flexibility—customizing schedules, swapping shifts, as well as care and financial resources—to make working easier. Adoptive parents—too often, left out of family support networks—are included here.

Remote Work

If you can offer remote work, should you? The answer is yes. If you can continue to provide remote work options for your teams, do so. And don’t just offer it to employees, offer it to managers as well. According to a recent study of tech professionals by Guru and Loom, both managers and employees have spent nearly two-thirds of their weekly work schedule working from home—64.4 percent of employees, and 66.4 percent of managers. A full 91.6 percent were satisfied with their working environment; 32.5 percent said they experienced a better work/life balance when working from home or in a hybrid setup.

Remote work is sometimes still seen as a perk or a trend—as if people will “sober up” and want to go back to the office. But remote work is a big part of the future workplace. Of course, this only holds true for industries where remote working is feasible. But even there I’ve been privy to discussions where the question isn’t how to enable more remote work, but when to transition people back—as if we’ve all been on some kind of diet or part of a social experiment. 4.3 million people quitting in August and then 4.4 million in September isn’t a fluke. Employees want to feel better about taking themselves to work every day. Becker Friedman Institute for Economics’ survey on some 30,000 employees found that nearly half of employees could work from home, with employers enabling them to do so an average of two days a week. Depending on your industry, if you can provide remote, you should, or you may lose out to a competitor who does.

Job Security

By April of 2020, more than 30 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits (the highest increase in claims ever recorded). Furloughs, staffing changes, shrinkage, and temporary layoffs left many employees feeling betrayed (and furious).

But some companies took it upon themselves to retain employees any way they could. Inc’s list of top workplaces includes organizations like Autoscribe, who committed to keep all their employees through the pandemic. Likely the move took some extreme budget maneuvering. But the result is a sense of trust that’s going to be priceless in the years to come. When you’re presenting yourself as an employer, how you address the issue of job security is going to be a big deal to skittish talent. Be transparent, dispense with the platitudes, and if you have to, reassess your values and your culture when it comes to supporting employee retention.

Ninety-four percent of enterprises and 93 percent of SMBs reported plans to expand their job opportunities in the coming year. But keeping pace with hiring goals for the future workplace isn’t about numbers. It’s about meeting the needs of people coming to work for you. Every organization has its own culture, structure, and technology. Use these to create the kinds of programs that set you apart. Find ways to provide learning opportunities that extend well beyond the parameters of job skills. Or offer trackable development journeys established between managers and their teams. Other options include financial solutions like student loan benefits or committed DEI initiatives, including leadership development opportunities, mobility, and more.

Key Takeaways

This is a perfect time to do some soul-searching within your organization. Work may have changed for good these past two years—and that may be a good thing. My advice: embrace it. Don’t just ask your employees to bring their best selves to the workplace. Bring your best workplace to your employees. That’s the best way to set up your recruiters and talent acquisition teams for success.

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.

Employer Healthcare Benefits and the ‘Great Resignation’

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs between April and June of this year, and that trend isn’t likely to end soon. A Microsoft survey found that 41 percent of people are considering making a similar move.

This mass exodus, referred to by many as the “Great Resignation,” came as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 74 percent of those surveyed by LinkedIn cited the pandemic as their reason for moving on. During the shutdown, people had a chance to really contemplate their current work situations. Stress and burnout were also contributing factors, but many workers appeared most concerned with their employer’s response to the coronavirus and the financial risks and ramifications (e.g., frozen merit increases, holds on promotions, potential layoffs).

None of this should be a surprise. Even under “normal” circumstances, people leave their employers for many of the same reasons. Burnout is the number one contributing factor, followed by lack of opportunities and low pay. People have also come to enjoy the flexibility of remote work. Returning to the office and working a set schedule is far less appealing, as evidenced by the prediction that freelancers could make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2027.

Employer healthcare benefits: a potential solution for the Great Resignation

Some industries have been harder hit by the Great Resignation than others. Leisure and hospitality are still struggling with attracting and retaining talented employees, losing more than 740,000 people in April alone. In the retail sector, nearly 650,000 people quit that same month. Nursing saw an 18.7 percent turnover rate in 2020.

Many businesses have responded by raising wages and offering hiring bonuses of up to $1,000, but financial incentives haven’t been enough. A Korn Ferry survey found that 94 percent of retailers can’t find talent to fill empty roles. Part of this could be due to the prospect of long hours spent in positions that involve interacting with the public, which still feels daunting and dangerous for many; the coronavirus still poses a severe threat to people’s health.

Another part of the equation is insufficient employer healthcare benefits packages. According to the 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Benefits Survey, just 50 percent of small businesses (fewer than 200 employees) offer health coverage to employees. And with more than 40 percent of the private workforce employed by such establishments, that’s a lot of people personally insured, underinsured, or uninsured. The Great Resignation is compounding the issue. More than 60 percent of the workforce receives health benefits through their employers. When someone leaves without another job, they lose their employer-sponsored health insurance and aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance, creating a gap in health insurance coverage between jobs.

The key to attracting and retaining talented employees could be as simple as offering employer healthcare benefits. It can be a huge differentiator by increasing job satisfaction, employee loyalty, and productivity.

Employer-sponsored health insurance options

Despite the benefits, finding room in the budget for employer-sponsored health insurance can be difficult for many small businesses. While deductibles and premiums may be on the rise, it is still worth the effort to explore your options. Many retail and services workers are now taking entry-level positions in offices and warehouses with lower wages because of the benefits, career development, and upward mobility they offer.

Here’s what to consider when building your employer healthcare benefits plan.

1. Supplement a high-deductible health plan with virtual primary care.

A complimentary virtual primary care plan can be a good supplement for businesses that cannot afford full employer-sponsored health insurance. Virtual care plans can reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with deductibles, copays, and prescriptions.

2. Include a health savings account with high-deductible plans.

Health savings accounts provide many advantages for employees. The funds are available to pay for medical expenses, which puts the individual in control of when and how to use the money. Want to pay a deductible? Go ahead. Need to refill a prescription? Feel free. But the contributions come out before taxes, lowering taxable income. Many plans also earn tax-free interest, and any unused funds can be rolled over for the next year.

3. Base premiums and deductibles on employee income.

Basing premiums and deductibles on employee income doesn’t always work for smaller businesses, as the difference in wages isn’t usually extreme. For midsize and larger employers, however, it can be a helpful tool in attracting and retaining talented employees. Perhaps pay 80 percent of premiums for workers making less than $60,000 a year while also offering lower annual deductibles.

4. Offer an independent virtual primary care plan when insurance isn’t an option.

Telehealth plans can help employees access the care they need. Look for comprehensive solutions like virtual primary care, which allow employees to see the same primary care physician regularly and manage chronic conditions with ongoing treatment plans. These plans also provide access to annual virtual wellness exams—including routine labs—as well as virtual urgent care and behavioral therapy.

The reasons people seek other employment opportunities will vary, even after the pandemic. Finding ways to address the most common causes of talent loss should help, but it’s also important to provide people with the perks and benefits they seek—one of which will always be employer-sponsored health insurance.

Four Ways to Overcome the Frontline Labor Shortage

A record 10.9 million jobs went unfilled in July. Meanwhile, 8.4 million people remained unemployed in August. If there are more jobs available in the U.S than people who need them, why is there a frontline labor shortage that’s causing restaurants to close dining rooms, retailers to reduce hours, and delivery operations to run short on drivers? Why didn’t the decision to cut off additional federal unemployment payments get people back to work?

The Great Resignation is hitting the frontline hard as businesses struggle to regain their footing after a year of shutdowns. Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight. New data from Arlington Research and Axonify shows that 45 percent of frontline workers have already decided to leave their jobs. Retailers, grocers, and restaurants that are already struggling to keep up will find themselves even more understaffed and overwhelmed when the holiday season arrives.

Why can’t we retain frontline workers?

Almost 50 percent of frontline employees were furloughed or laid off last year. Essential workers have dealt with non-stop safety concerns, operational changes, and frustrated customers. Frontline jobs have always been physically and mentally exhausting. The pandemic represents a tipping point for this part of the workforce. As executives determine the way forward for their businesses, frontline workers are making decisions about their own futures.

Many employers have improved their compensation packages as a way to attract and retain workers. Amazon hiked its average U.S. starting pay to $18. Target launched a debt-free education assistance program for its 340,000 frontline team members. Disney offered $,1500 hiring bonuses for culinary roles in its theme parks. These are great improvements, but they’re just first steps because they don’t address the main reason people are quitting: the work experience.

Compensation ranks fourth on frontline employees’ list of reasons for leaving. Burnout is number one. You can’t pay people to stop feeling exhausted. And compensation only goes so far, especially as more employers offer competitive wages. Beyond band-aid solutions, organizations must meaningfully improve the day-to-day work experience to attract the best people—and keep them. With that in mind, here are four things you can do to overcome the labor shortage and become a frontline employer of choice.

Show employees that you care.

Burnout is the biggest reason frontline workers are walking away. Number two: lack of appreciation. The pandemic has made us all reflect on how we work and live, and the subsequent economic rebound has opened new opportunities. Staying in a stressful job where you’re not appreciated just isn’t worth it.

Fix this by making “thank you” the two most commonly used words in your workplace. Next, prioritize mental health by making related benefits and training widely available to full-time and part-time staff. Show new and experienced employees you prioritize their wellbeing by reducing common job stressors. This includes offering flexible scheduling and monitoring employee workloads. Foster a sense of community through social events and recognition programs. Even better, leverage employee-led committees to organize these activities.

Foster an inclusive and equitable workplace.

Frontline employees work in stores, branches, and warehouses. Their time is heavily scheduled, often to the minute. They’re unable to work remotely or adjust their schedules to accommodate personal responsibilities. This inflexibility has a direct impact on their job satisfaction, as 64.2 percent of store-based employees expressed happiness with their everyday work as compared to 81.4 percent of office-based workers.

This workplace inequity extends to factors like career development and pandemic support. In every case, employees who work on-location are less happy with their workplace experience as compared to those who work in an office. Furthermore, part-time employees are significantly less satisfied than full-timers when it comes to compensation, communication, technology, and manager support.

Become an employer of choice by demonstrating that everyone–regardless of role, location, or status–gets an equitable opportunity to succeed. Explore flexible working practices, such as adjustable shift times and hybrid roles. Conduct regular equity assessments to identify and close gaps between location and office-based work.

Empower frontline managers to create positive experiences.

One in two employees have quit a job to get away from a manager. Frontline employees who intend to leave are less happy with their direct managers (66 percent) as compared to those who plan to stay (80.9 percent). On the frontline, the manager is the face of the company, and they play the most important role in preventing turnover.

But managers walk a challenging tightrope between short-term performance goals and long-term relationship building. To avoid the frontline labor shortage, provide employees with the support they need to prioritize their teams. Reduce administrative workloads so they have the time to be present in the operation. Make sure new managers receive training and support immediately instead of waiting for the next program to come around. Provide on-demand resources and microlearning to help them prepare for their new roles.

Build your talent pipeline before you need it.

Many of the frontline workers who left were your best people. They were your future supervisors and managers. Hiring challenges make it unlikely that you’ll fill these gaps with external candidates. Instead, you need to build your talent bench internally ASAP. However, 35.8 percent of frontline employees only receive training during big job changes while 20.3 percent rarely or never receive it.

Frontline workers have always been difficult to reach with traditional classroom-based training. Pulling them out of the operation hurts the business, so their development opportunities have been limited. On the flip side, a reimagined training program is one of your best lines of defense in the war for frontline talent.

Apply new talent strategies, such as mobile and microlearning, that make development opportunities more accessible on the frontline. Design reskilling and upskilling activities that can be completed in just three to five minutes per day, thereby not disrupting the operation.

Employee experience can end the exodus.

The frontline labor shortage isn’t just about pay. It’s about the work itself. If you want to attract and retain the right people, give them an experience that helps them be their best, feel included and supported, and develop their careers. For even more insights on how to reimagine your frontline work experience, check out Axonify’s full report on The State of the Frontline Work Experience in 2021.

On-Site Employee Benefits: Bringing Dental Care into the Workplace

Employee expectations are changing, with many looking to their workplaces to provide better benefits and wellness solutions. Employees want to feel valued, and in turn, they value employers who take the initiative to make sure their workers are healthy.

In recent years, workplaces have been offering on-site health services, including massages, counseling, eye-care check-ups, and more. Bringing benefits to employees makes their lives easier and gives them a greater chance of staying healthy. Organizations that prioritize comprehensive benefits not only make themselves more competitive in the job market, but also show that their brands are flexible, forward-thinking, and that they care about the wellness of their people. Which, as we all know, should always be a top priority.

Our Guest: Jordan Smith, CEO, Jet Dental

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Jordan Smith, CEO of Jet Dental, an on-site provider of dental care for corporations nationwide. They offer pop-up clinics, which can be set up in the office. Jordan is a seasoned chief revenue officer with experience in the healthcare industry and growing call centers. Before joining Jet Dental, Jordan led a 400 person sales team with annual sales of $200 million.

Pre-pandemic, 45 percent of people with dental insurance were not going to the dentist annually, Jordan explains. This was due in part to it being difficult to get away from their busy work schedule. Now that people have more flexibility with hybrid work, I wanted to know: What’s the advantage of pop-up dental clinics for today’s employees?

Since COVID, a lot of people have delayed preventive care. A study by Business Group on Health is predicting a 5.3 percent increase in health plan costs for large employers because of delayed care brought on by the pandemic,” Jordan says. “As a result, individuals are delaying care, waiting until maybe it’s too late.”

A big incentive for employers to offer in-office services like dental care is to prioritize employee health. Not just to make sure employees are well, but to help cut unnecessary costs. Insurance carrier Cigna did a study of a million of their members over a five-year period and found that those who got regular preventive care saw a 31 percent decrease in costs in that period. People who didn’t get that care saw a 43 percent increase in costs.

“The healthier your workforce, the less likely it is for you to see increases in premiums,” Jordan says. “A simple thing like regular dental care check-ups, twice a year, can prevent a host of maladies.”

Bringing Dental Care to Employees: Motivating the Unmotivated

So what does in-office dental care really look like? How do employers motivate employees to walk down the hall to pop-up clinics and prioritize their health?

“The vast majority of the folks we’re seeing aren’t going to the dentist just because it’s one other item on their task list. So by making it convenient, we get those people to go down the hallway to get a cavity filled. We motivate the unmotivated,” Jordan says. “Also, in our experience, there are people who are afraid of the dentist, and by offering them the in-office option, we see those people on a daily basis.”

As employees continue to demand better benefits packages in the competitive job market, employers are looking for new ways to make benefits a top priority. On-site benefits and services like dental care will likely become the new normal, Jordan says. Perhaps even expected by employees.

“A lot of us have gained more empathy for one another due to the pandemic. Because of that, I think employers are looking even further into how they can help employees have a better experience at work and find a better work-life balance,” Jordan says. “Going forward, we’re going to continue to see more onsite health vendors. We’re going to see not savings for 401ks, but for travel and matching travel expenses to help people go have great experiences. Those competitive offerings are going to continue to evolve and improve and not just for white-collar businesses, but blue-collar as well. We’re starting to see that and will continue to see it.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Jet Dental. You can learn more about employee dental care by connecting with Jordan Smith on LinkedIn.

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.

Voluntary Benefits and Why Employers Should Offer Them

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated two recent and parallel trends in employee benefits. One is that more employers want to take a holistic approach to employee health and wellness. The other is that employees are increasingly looking to work for companies that show a culture of caring.

These trends, combined with other impacts of COVID-19 on the global workforce, have brought the value of so-called voluntary benefits to center stage. Employers should take note if they’re not already.

The Current State of Voluntary Benefits

Even before the pandemic, 41 percent of workers said they were likely to look for a new job with better benefits, according to Unum research. That percentage is even higher among the younger generations: 57 percent of millennials and 65 percent of Gen Z workers said they felt the same. Meanwhile, a recent employee benefits survey found that if employees had to choose between a high-paying job and a lower-paying one with quality health benefits, 88 percent would consider the lower-paying job. More telling, a majority (54 percent) of employees would “heavily consider” the tradeoff.

And employees are looking more closely at the benefits they’re being offered. During the last enrollment season, thanks to COVID-19, more than seven in 10 employees (71 percent) reported that they intended to spend more time reviewing their voluntary benefits. More than half (53 percent) planned to make changes to their benefits coverages.

No wonder 94 percent of employers now consider voluntary benefits part of their value proposition. That’s a massive increase from barely 33 percent of employers who felt the same way in 2018. When they were first introduced, voluntary benefits were considered icing on the cake. They were sweeteners to help close a deal with an employer buying basic medical (core) benefits. About a decade ago, the voluntary benefits market grew gradually, and then it exploded with a variety of supplemental benefit add-ons. Consider this: 63 percent of employers are adding child care benefits to their lineup this year.

Statistics to Consider

The subject of voluntary benefits has recently become a critical tool for employers to support employee mental health. It’s a topic that employers were just starting to focus on before the pandemic. This happened, coincidentally, when voluntary benefits were beginning to take off. The pandemic catapulted voluntary benefits into the spotlight. People everywhere were forced to work from home, social-distance, wear masks, and forgo most of their everyday social habits. Consider these telling statistics:

  • In early 2019, SHRM’s annual Employee Benefits Survey found “slow but steady increases” in on-site stress-management programs provided by employers, compared to five years prior. Stress management programs were up to 13 percent and meditation and mindfulness programs were at 11 percent.
  • Earlier this year, research by Randstad found that 41 percent of workers say their employers began offering new health- and wellness-focused benefits during COVID-19. Among those companies, “mental health assistance” was the third most commonly added benefit (13 percent). The number of companies adding benefits to support mental health was, in fact, statistically the same as for new “general health and wellness benefits” (14 percent). (At 20 percent, “flexible work hours” was the most prevalent new benefit.)

The increasing attention by employers to employee mental health is coming none too soon. Roughly two in five U.S. adults reported symptoms of either anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic—up significantly from one in 10 who reported these symptoms in the first half of 2019. The rate is even higher for essential workers (42 percent) versus nonessential workers (30 percent).

Developing an Effective Mental Health Initiative

These numbers shouldn’t alarm just HR and wellness professionals. All business leaders should take note. Why? Two reasons:

  1. The global cost of lost productivity, absences, and turnover caused by poor mental health is already estimated to be about $2.5 trillion annually.
  2. Employer investment in what one study called “effective mental health initiatives” can return an average of just over $4.00 for every $1.00.

So, where do you begin to find and implement an effective mental health initiative?

First, look for a solution that takes a four-part approach. You’ll need a solution that:

1) Takes a whole-person, whole-organization mindset

2. Includes tools and programs for all employees (not only those who are reporting mental health concerns)

3) Empowers employees and delivers practical insights to HR and wellbeing leaders

4) Has a human touch (support from experienced, dedicated service specialists) backed by solid science

To stay competitive in the new world of work, there really is no Plan B.

How to Build Employment Value with Better Benefits [Podcast]

Salary isn’t everything. As a matter of fact, eighty percent of employees say that they’d choose additional benefits over a raise. Sixty percent say that benefits are a huge deciding factor in whether candidates take a job at all. And HR professionals report that the benefits are what’s leveraged most often to retain top talent.

To put it another way: Employees are vocal about the swaying power of offering better benefits. And employers will want to listen.

With this in mind, to stay competitive, organizations need to know how to tailor benefits to both the employees they have and the candidates they want to attract.

Our Guest: Alexa Baggio, Employee Experience Expert 

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I had the pleasure of speaking with employee experience expert Alexa Baggio. She’s devoted to creating immersive experiences and encouraging thought-provoking interactions between employers and employees–with the aim of improving upon “traditional” HR practices.

For example, Alexa founded The PERKS Conventions (PERKS) to make employee-focused services easier to discover, access, and afford. Currently, PERKS has expanded to six cities across the U.S. and is the largest employee experience expo on Earth. This past year, PERKS also created Showcase™, an innovative virtual benefits fair platform that empowers employers to host live info sessions, eliminate hours of work wrangling vendors, and improve employee experience communications all year round.

With so many employees reporting that better benefits are extremely valuable to them, I asked Alexa how employers can use benefits to build and enhance their employee value proposition. Her answer? Offer personalized benefits to suit specific employees.

“You’ve got four generations in the workforce. Some people care about fertility. Others care about loans,” Alexa says. “Some people also care about debt. How are you going to make everybody happy? You personalize.” 

Employee “Experience” vs. Employee “Lifestyle”

So how do you personalize benefits to optimize for a better employee experience? Basically, says Alexa: You choose the lifestyle benefits that suit the employees you hired. In other words, don’t just get a foosball table as a perk because the rumor is that foosball is cool.

“Everybody heard that [foosball] was trendy, so they did it,” Alexa says. “That may be the right culture for the 75-person sales team with an average age of 23 in your office, but what if your culture isn’t that? What if you have a bunch of engineers, or researchers, or lab technicians?” 

After figuring out what core benefits fit the employee population, employers need to understand that perks offered also are a reflection of company culture. For example, if your organization values health and wellness, that needs to be articulated in the benefits. Communicate this by offering a gym membership or nutrition program.

“As an employer, you have to decide: What are the cultural benefits you want to signal? Is it fitness? Wellness? Timeliness? Cost reduction? Financial education? Community giving?” Alexa says. “Give people the experience to get in there, and to explore, and show that you’ve got great systems set up to be a person that works there.”

Basically, to stay competitive as an employer, get to know the people you hire. Learn what’s important to them and offer better benefits to reflect that. It could increase the longevity of your hires and foster the company culture you desire.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by PERKS. You can learn more about how to optimize benefits for employee experience and lifestyle by connecting with our guest, Alexa Baggio, on LinkedIn.

Coping With Talent Shortages for On-Location Roles

As healthcare workers administer more vaccines, many companies are pushing employees to return to in-person work. However, not everyone wants to go back to hour-long commutes and drab little cubicles. In fact, some people would rather quit their jobs than give up remote work. And thousands of Americans are doing just that.

While their decision to work from home (or not work at all) may improve their well-being and work-life balance, it’s caused severe talent shortages in on-location roles across the country. Subsequently, countless businesses are struggling to fill their offices and retain skilled employees.

How to Attract Talent

Many of today’s workers have spent more than a year earning a paycheck at home. These same employees will likely expect similar perks when they return to the office. Thus, if businesses want to retain their current workforce and attract new talent, they must make on-location roles more appealing.

Here are a few ways modern businesses might rethink their benefits package, workflow, and office design to accommodate and welcome back a post-pandemic workforce.

1. Encourage Open Dialogue

After businesses laid off millions of workers, those who were left began to experience mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. They didn’t know if they’d have to pick up the slack or if they’d be sent home next. These same employees are now returning to the office with survivor guilt. Their co-workers’ desks sit empty and, to make matters worse, many supervisors are completely oblivious to the widespread survivor guilt wracking the team.

To move forward in a healthy way, employers must become aware and accepting of their team’s worries and frustrations. Allowing them to openly voice their thoughts and opinions can also help workers release some steam and discuss their needs. Companies should implement an ongoing feedback loop. This will ensure both current and future employees are satisfied and will help them understand why furloughs and firings are necessary.

2. Provide Child Care

One-third of the U.S. workforce has a child under 14 in their home, and nearly 20 percent of them must reduce their work hours due to a lack of child care. Meanwhile, 26 percent of women had to quit their jobs to raise their kids. Only 30 percent of working parents had backup child care, highlighting the disparities between low- and high-income families.

As of December 2020, more than 25 percent of child care providers remain closed. However, more businesses are requiring employees to return to the office. Employers will have to provide free or at least discounted childcare to these workers if they’re to avoid talent shortages in the post-pandemic era. Whether it be on-location or a few blocks away, this employee benefit will help retain working parents and entice new ones to submit a job application.

3. Invest in Ongoing Training

The increasing demand for remote jobs has affected practically every business. However, industries like healthcare, hospitality, financial services, and construction are experiencing the most severe talent shortages.

These professions often require on-location workers that train under an apprentice if need be. Thus, employers can attract new talent by improving training programs and investing in ongoing learning. This arrangement also contributes to current employees’ engagement to improve retention.

4. Offer Better Benefits

Employers looking to develop a hybrid workplace environment might consider offering better benefits to on-location workers. Contrary to popular belief, this method is completely legal, as there are no federal laws requiring plans to provide the same benefit coverage to all employees.

Thus, providing childcare, learning opportunities, health insurance, 401(k) plans and other perks to on-location employees may entice more workers to stay and others to apply for such positions. Adding amenities like a fitness center, coffee shop, and even sleep pods could also bring more workers into the office and help with talent shortages.

5. Plan for Flexibility

Regardless of how many benefits you offer, some employees will still prefer to work from home. If most of the team feels similarly, supervisors might consider a flexible schedule rather than a complete company overhaul. This approach will help them save money and adapt to the ever-changing workplace environment. More importantly, it will help retain and attract cream-of-the-crop workers.

Employers should collaborate with employees to determine a schedule that works best for them. Maybe they’ll work from home every other day or only come into the office for meetings. Whatever system they choose, team members are bound to be less stressed and even more productive if they spend at least part of their workweek at home.

Finding and Retaining Talent

Ironically, finding on-location workers will require many human resource professionals and talent acquisition specialists to work remotely and use online resources. By utilizing digital job fairs, experiential events, and artificial intelligence, businesses can effectively search for and vet potential job candidates. Emerging recruitment tactics like jobcasting and gamified skill tests can also attract talented employees who don’t mind working in an office.

While this process may be incredibly stressful and expensive, it won’t go on forever. This is especially true if businesses alter their hiring and retainment strategies. As long as they incorporate the tactics above, they shouldn’t have to face a talent shortage for a long while—or at least until the next pandemic.

 

Image from Lightspring

The Deeper Benefits of Employee Mental Health Programs

Rewind for a minute to the pre-pandemic state of your company culture. How did you measure up in terms of morale? Recruiting? Retention? How about employee engagement, productivity, presenteeism, and positivity? These are all critical attributes companies increasingly evaluate for their value on investment (VOI), a progressive alternative to ROI. In many organizations, the use of VOI is gradually changing the way employers assess the impact of their people programs, including employee mental health programs.

Of course, companies had begun to rethink their approach to employee mental health and well-being before COVID-19. Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly life was more about surviving than thriving.

There hadn’t been time (or much interest) before we all went into sheltering in place to call the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And there certainly wasn’t time during, what with homeschooling and back-to-back Zoom meetings. We all seemed awash instead in apps for meditation and calmness.

Measuring Employee Mental Health Programs: ROI or VOI?

But as the dust settles and work life finds its new sense of normal, HR, talent leaders, and the C-suite are all certain to return to putting a finer pencil to the cost of these programs and well-being initiatives. This begs the traditional question: Where is the ROI?

What HR and benefits will quickly learn is that the ROI of mental health programs is at best an elusive target. At worst, ROI is an impossible metric to nail down. But this is not the first time category leaders in a company have faced this quandary.

For example, learning and development has been buzzing with the need to hire and train for “soft skills” for at least two decades. But as important as those skills are for the way work gets done today, L&D leaders still struggle to prove the ROI of those traits. They also struggle to quantify the programs intended to build soft skills. Yes, learning has found ways to produce data that draws a line (if often indirect) from soft skills development to changes in productivity and ROI. But the objectivity of the data, and the authenticity of the reports based on that data, are often questioned.

Of course, connecting the dots and measuring the true ROI of employee benefits and programs that offer financial planning, better nutrition, mindfulness, and improved mental health faces similar challenges. So what if, instead of ROI, you shift your focus to a whole-person, whole-organization approach of employee mental health – and consider its value on investment (VOI).

Defining Employee Well-being and VOI

Consider a clinically-based approach that addresses mental health proactively from the standpoint of physical, social, and psychological well-being — the three spheres that psychologists and healthcare providers agree make up the whole person. It isn’t just about treating the 1 in 5 Americans who have mental health issues. It’s about proactively reaching and educating every employee about mental health. Because just as everyone is somewhere on the yardstick of physical health, we are all also somewhere on the continuum of mental health.

And what supports our mental, physical, and social well-being? What — speaking of VOI — can add value to our mental health?

Science says there are seven aspects of daily life to consider: happiness, sleep, fulfillment, coping, calmness, health, and connection all influence employee mental health. When one area is off-balance, an employee — and ultimately their coworkers and the company — are directly affected. Your company’s performance, culture, and reputation are all on the line. At the same time, studies show current programs to support mental health are under-utilized. EAPs, for example, are hugely underutilized with an average 3% to 4% engagement rate.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” mental health solution that can add value to your organization by optimizing the use of well-being programs you’re already paying for, improving employee performance, and positively affecting your company culture and brand.

Four Benefit Areas with Measurable Outcomes

You need a platform with expert guidance, scientifically-backed tools, and data-driven outcomes. And, you must take a proactive approach that inspires and empowers your employees to take matters into their own hands. You need a platform that speaks to the employee experience and adds value to the organization. You can prove that value by focusing on these four areas critical to any organization — and have measurable outcomes.

1. Strengthen existing well-being payout

Our first goal: Close the gap between an employee having a problem and the employee going to the EAP to solve that problem. For example, trouble sleeping doesn’t lead employees directly to their EAP. But with a better understanding of what mental health truly means, how a sleepless night might indicate a more significant issue exists, and with support to navigate them to existing programs and services — employees feel knowledgeable and safe. They’ll reach out to their EAP — and get the right care at the right time.

2. Improve performance

It’s no secret that a thriving workforce leads to better performance. Providing employees with the tools to manage their individual challenges equips them to make incremental changes in their well-being and job performance. With that comes fewer sick days, less presenteeism, and fewer accidents on the job. Once you empower employees to take mental health matters into their hands, understanding and measuring progress becomes natural.

3. Strengthen company culture

Mental health is not binary; it’s more than being OK or not OK. Move away from mental well-being programs that offer checklist or check-the-box approaches. Shift the mindset to where everyone’s on the spectrum — because we all have mental health. Forget “show up, be your best, and get rewarded.” It contradicts the culture of well-being and taking care of oneself. And it certainly isn’t a culture that supports openness about mental health (or much of anything else, for that matter).

4.    Enhance company reputation and brand

When it comes to the most in-demand traits of employers, a company’s mission, sense of values, and providing support for total well-being have surpassed compensation. Job seekers now look for companies ready to protect and care for people — including offering programs to support their mental health. Enhance your company’s reputation and brand by taking a proactive approach to  — and a vocal stand on — mental health.

Employee Mental Health Programs: Next Steps

Advocate for what matters. VOI does that and will help sell a whole-person, whole-organization approach to employee mental health up the ladder. Choose a vendor you trust. Invest in technology that delivers or optimizes what you have. Research, research, research. Then, ultimately, prioritize what truly matters.

 

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!

 

Image by Eva Blanco

Post-Pandemic Pet Care: What a Return to the Office Means for Our Pets

Returning to work soon? Ready for post-pandemic pet care? It’s time to take a look at your pet’s upcoming new normal…

The coronavirus pandemic left few areas of our lives untouched. Before March 2020, it was no big deal to head to work in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, or go out to lunch with work friends. These days, some of us only leave our homes to buy groceries or walk the dog.

It’s unclear when the pandemic will end or how the new normal will look and feel. But one thing is certain: many of us have turned to pets to help us cope. From Canada to India, demand for adoption or animal fostering has risen, especially for dogs. Between March 2020 and September 2020, foster pets in U.S. homes went up by 8%.

But as the world slowly re-opens, we’re faced with a reality we once took for granted: leaving our pets alone at home. There is no doubt: Our relationship with our pets will change – again.

Here’s what returning to the office means for our pets, what responsible pet owners can do to help their pets adjust, and how pet perks might become a new essential workplace benefit.

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

For many of us, our pet is our best friend. During the time of lockdown and COVID-19, when many of us were cut off from in-person interaction with our loved ones, our pets became – and still are – more important than ever.

A study of 6,000 people in lockdown in Britain, 90% of whom had at least one pet, found there are links between a person’s mental health and the emotional bond they form with their pet. Measures of the human-animal bond were stronger among those with lower mental health scores as a baseline. The strength of the bond – and the benefits derived from it – do not differ among the types of pets.

People have strong bonds with their animals, lockdown or not. But during shelter-in-place orders, those bonds help us pull through.

How Pets Help Us Cope During COVID-19

During shelter-in-place orders and months of lockdown, pets offer much-needed levity and solace. They counteract the two most significant pandemic pain points:

  1. The isolation brought on by social distancing.
  2. Worry and anxiety brought on by health fears.

Pets provide unconditional love and companionship, but they also prompt us to participate in everyday life beyond our own needs. They force us into a routine – while it would be easy to stay in bed all day if you live alone, you have to get up to feed your dog or cat. We prioritize their wellbeing and happiness, and the care given benefits us humans in the process.

Dogs get the most attention, and for good reason – they relieve stress, prod us out of our shells, and make us feel more friendly and trusting. Cats also provide much-needed resilience – one study found that cat owners were calmest during stressful tasks and made the fewest errors when their cat was present. Cats may get some grief for being more aloof than dogs, but by the same token, they offer a constant presence that can make our burdens and worries seem superfluous.

The Stress of COVID-19 for Pets

That said, while the pandemic has brought us closer to our pets, it’s also brought a lot of stress – on pets as well as humans.

On the one hand, pets love being able to spend every day with us. On the other hand, the pandemic turned their worlds upside down. Pets thrive on routine, and having their human home every day is a dramatic shift in that routine. All pets react differently, but the general shift represents a significant challenge for our four-legged friends.

Chances are, you’ve noticed the shift. Pets are needier than usual, constantly underfoot, constantly nosing us to pet them, or (in the case of dogs) barking incessantly to go outside. Once we upend their routines, pets have no clue what to expect, and so they look for our attention to relieve their own anxiety.

How to Manage Separation Anxiety When Returning to Work

The good news? Pets have had a year to get used to the new normal.

The bad news? Pets will have their routines upended all over again as re-opening picks up speed. The adjustment will be even worse for animals adopted during quarantine, who have no concept of what pre-pandemic life was like.

Here are a few ways to ease the adjustment as you prepare to go back to work.

Create a Routine

Pets thrive on a routine in much the same way kids do. The difference is that you can’t sit your dog down and explain to them that lockdown is lifting. You can’t rationalize the need to go back to work.

Instead, you have to ease them gradually into the new routine.

Think about what your routine will look like when you return to work. Then, implement the same schedule with your pet as you prepare to go back to work. That doesn’t mean you have to leave them alone for eight hours a day, but gradually easing them into the same mealtimes, playtimes, and bedtime each day will help them understand the new normal.

Practice Being Alone

A vital component of this process is to help your pet practice being alone.

This won’t be your favorite part of the process. But it’s the only way your pet will acclimate to being alone – and the idea that when you leave, you’re always going to come back. Start small. Even a trip to the grocery store for an hour is an excellent place to start. So, at least as you make this transition to post-pandemic pet care, view errands as an opportunity for pets to practice being away from you.

When you’re not around, make sure your pet has a safe haven. This is a spot in the room where your pet is most comfortable. Keep in mind that this spot may have changed in the course of the pandemic. A dog that adjusted to spending all day in the office with you, for example, will likely want to stay there while you’re gone.

Make Your Return Special

Pets – especially dogs – tend to celebrate the return of their humans. And not just because they now get to go outside or enjoy a meal. Take a few extra minutes with your pet. Let them know you’re as happy to see them as they are you. Your inbox and your cell phone will wait.

The extra time you give your pets once you’re home from work tells your pet you will return safely home each day. It also shows them that the bond established during the pandemic is real. Sure,  you are no longer spending all day with them. But they’ll understand that you need them as much as they need you.

Navigating the New World of Work and Post-Pandemic Pet Care

Navigating the world of work has been challenging – and not just for humans. We didn’t know how we’d adjust to lockdowns, and we made it work. We can do the same once the COVID crisis is finally behind us – with a little help from our pets, of course.

In anticipation of a return to the office, start planning your post-pandemic pet care plan today.

Image by AlohaFlaminggo

Financial Literacy: Current State and Impact on Post-Pandemic Workplaces

The pandemic has altered almost every aspect of our lives. It has exposed fault lines in our country, workplaces, and at home. Many of us didn’t realize one area would significantly impact us as it has: financial well-being. This is why it is more important than ever to talk about financial literacy: 

According to a survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education:

  • 88 percent of Americans say the COVID-19 crisis has caused stress on their personal finances
  • 89% believe that lack of financial education contributes to larger-scale social problems in America
  • And 83 percent of HR professionals report that personal finance worries had an enormous impact on overall employee performance

So, as we look ahead to what a post-pandemic workplace looks and feels — and because we know business leaders and HR professionals want to do everything possible to keep employees focused and productive — we at TalentCulture must ask a tough question:

What role should employers play in the financial literacy of their employees?

Our Guest: Personal Finance Expert and Mentor, Danny Kofke

Danny Kofke, a Motivational Mentor for Mentoro — a financial education company that provides a turn-key financial awareness solution — joined me on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends Conversations to help answer our question. Danny began our conversation by telling us what aspects of financial literacy have changed most since the pandemic started:

“Unfortunately, even before the pandemic hit, a lot of people weren’t doing well with their money. But the pandemic has definitely had a detrimental effect on many people’s finances. Many are not aware of their options; they are relying much more on debt.” After Danny, a former school teacher, explained that financial literacy is never taught in school, he emphasized that the sense of urgency for many employees is real; people are hurting now. He then answered our question about how employers can help:

“The pandemic is almost over. But for many, the next crisis a financial crisis is coming. That’s where a financial wellness program can definitely play a part.” 

Which is precisely the role employers can play as we co-create the post-pandemic workplace with our employees.

The Key to Financial Literacy: Employer-Driven Education

“The annual cost of financial stress to the employer,” Danny went on to say, “in lost productivity and absenteeism is over $2,000 a year per employee. An employer-driven financial wellness program not only help minimize that stress, but it also increases company loyalty.” Danny added that employees see this benefit as an example of their employer going above and beyond, providing education designed to help them with their finances and overall well-being.

During our conversation, Danny convinced me that employers are uniquely positioned to help their employees become financially literate — today and in the long-term. For employees struggling with their post-pandemic financial situations, employers can help right away by saying:

“I’m never going to allow my employees to face this alone again. We can help take this burden off them.”

To learn more about Danny and how he can help you help your employees, reach out to him on LinkedIn.

And, of course, as you consider a financial wellness program as part of your comprehensive employee benefits package, check out Mentoro and be sure to thank them for sponsoring this episode of #WorkTrends Conversations!

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[#WorkTrends] How to Provide Better Long-term Flexibility for Employees

According to people operations platform Zenefits, and global provider of human capital management solutions, ADP, there are many solutions to choose from when creating a long-term flexibility strategy for employees. Among them: Job sharing, more-permanent remote work, 4-day work weeks, freelancing opportunities, and much more. 

So how do employers and HR teams know which options might work best for their workforce? 

Especially as we look ahead to a post-pandemic world, how do we best provide the best possible flexible work environment for our employees?

Our Guest: Suzanne Brown, Work-Life Balance Expert

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Suzanne Brown a strategic marketing and business consultant, award-winning author, and work-life balance expert — joined us to discuss how employers can learn to value the importance of flexible working conditions. And perhaps more critical to companies today, why flexible work schedules are a must-offer benefit for nearly everyone in the workforce today.

I started our conversation by asking what it means when employees say they want more flexibility. Suzanne’s answer showed us there are two sides to the flexibility coin:

“Employees talk about an informal side maybe you have a sick child, and you want to stay home that day. And they talk about a more formal side, where companies include flexibility in actual company policy. That’s where working from home happens even when you’re not dealing with a pandemic. It is when you have part-time opportunities, a job share, or perhaps a split-shift. Or maybe it is where you can shift your schedule to accommodate life’s other demands — and start earlier and end earlier or start later and end later.” Regardless of the structure, Suzanne said, employers must build flexibility into a company’s culture: 

“Flexibility is more than just taking an afternoon off once in a while. Flexibility is how you treat employees in the long-term.”

Long-Term Flexibility: Co-creating a Culture-Driven Solution

Suzanne went on to say that most companies are now facing post-pandemic realities: “We now realize that we aren’t going back to a formalized structure where everyone is in the office. Companies have to start thinking this through and make critical decisions. They must be able to say:  ‘Okay, this is the strategic, long-term approach we’re taking on flexible work conditions in our workplace.’”

And in what has become a prevailing trend here at TalentCulture, Suzanne says the best way to learn what works best for your company is to ask employees what they need and then actively listen to the answer.

“You need to ask the questions. Maybe the input will be based on anonymous feedback or a conversation employees have with a manager or mentor. Maybe it’s through an ERG, an Employee Resource Group, where senior leadership talks to employees. Regardless of how we ask, we have to ask.” Suzanne then quickly advised, “Then you have to take the next step; you must act. And you can’t just say, ‘That was great, we heard you… but we’re going to do this instead.’” Suzanne added, “That is absolutely not what you want.”

“Because people will stick around now. But as soon as the economy starts to strengthen, and if you haven’t already built flexibility into your culture, you’ll start to lose people quickly.”

I’m sure you’ll agree this conversation with Suzanne was timely. And I know you’ll want to listen to the entire episode. Once you do, I’m confident you’ll be ready to start the right conversations with your employees.

To learn more about Suzanne’s work, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit her website.

 

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60 Percent of U.S. Companies Still Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

A recent study revealed that roughly 40% of U.S. companies offer paid parental leave for both parents. Many publications, including the survey itself, highlighted this figure as a positive, citing lower numbers in the past. While any improvement is welcome, these results imply that 60% of organizations in the nation still don’t offer paid paternity leave.

The lack of paid leave for both fathers and mothers can intensify workplace inequality and damage businesses. Here’s a closer look.

Why Companies Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

To understand this issue fully, it helps to look at why so many companies don’t offer paid leave. Perhaps the most significant factor behind this choice is that it’s not a requirement. There is no national legislation that says businesses have to offer paid leave to either parent, much less both.

There are, however, paid parental leave requirements in five states and Washington, D.C., with varying provisions. At least five other states are currently considering paid leave laws, but that leaves most of the U.S. with no such legislation. When businesses don’t have to offer these benefits, many won’t — primarily because of the expense.

At first, paying an employee while they aren’t adding value to the company can seem like a financial risk. While it may seem that not offering paid leave can save a company money, it’s destructive in the long run — both employees and the companies they work for suffer.

How These Policies Impact Different Demographics

Although 40% of U.S. companies offer paid leave to both parents, that doesn’t mean 40% of workers experience those benefits. The businesses that provide these programs don’t employ a proportional amount of the workforce, so surveys show that just 20% of private-sector employees had access to such benefits in 2020.

There is a sharp economic divide between workers who do and do not receive paid parental leave, too. Only 8% of workers in the bottom wage quartile have access to these programs. Low-wage workers, who would suffer tremendously from weeks of unpaid leave, are far less likely to get paid leave.

Years of racial bias and oppression in America mean this divide is a racial one, too. Black and Hispanic workers, coming from historically disenfranchised families and neighborhoods, are less likely to receive paid leave for either parent.

How Businesses Benefit from Paid Paternity Leave

These disparities in paid parental leave programs worsen the economic and racial divides that already plague the nation. The impacts of a lack of paid leave don’t end with creating more division, though; they have economic effects as well. And yet, when businesses offer paid leave for both parents, they often see positive productivity gains.

Caring for a newborn child is stressful, and having to do so without a reliable income exacerbates that stress. Studies show that unexpected absenteeism, which can cost companies $3.5 million a year, is more often than not the result of stress. After all, stressed employees are far more likely to miss work and be less productive in the workplace.

Offering paid leave to only one parent fails to mitigate these issues effectively. The parent at home may feel more stressed from shouldering the burden of childcare alone, potentially harming their productivity when they return. The parent at work may have trouble focusing from spending time away from their newborn, impacting their productivity as well.

Providing both paternity and maternity leave ensures both parents can raise their newborn without economic difficulty. In return, their morale will improve, leading to less stress and higher productivity when they return.

How Paid Paternity Leave Supports Women in the Workforce

It’s impossible to discuss the impacts of parental leave without mentioning gender inequality in the workplace. Lack of paid parental leave for women doesn’t just widen the gender wage gap; it drives women out of the workforce. While it may not seem unrelated at first, paternity leave also impacts women’s work experiences.

When fathers can take time off as well as mothers, it reduces the stress of childcare. Fathers can take over raising children for a time, giving mothers a chance to get back to work. Paid paternity leave means women don’t have to bear the entire burden of raising a newborn, helping them retain their vital place in the workforce.

Past studies have indicated that paid paternity leave also reduces absenteeism among mothers, helping keep women satisfactorily employed. Similarly, countries with mandated paternity leave show higher rates of female employment in private companies. The bottom line: Paid paternity leave improves equality at home, and leads to more equity in the workplace.

Gender Equality: U.S. Companies Still Have a Way to Go

This Women’s History Month, companies should consider how their policies affect their female workers. Even paternity leave can impact women’s involvement in the workplace. Businesses that don’t provide equitable policies hinder gender equality among their employees and in their communities.

For years, women have had to bear most of the burden of child-rearing, limiting their professional careers. Equitable policies like paid leave for all parents lighten this burden, enabling women to achieve their full professional potential. The U.S. has made some tremendous strides in the pursuit of workplace gender equality, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

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2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends: What Employers Must Know [Podcast]

The tsunami of turmoil that started in 2020 has continued wreaking havoc in 2021. Over the past year, the accompanying stress and uncertainty have taken a toll on employees. As a result, those employees now expect their employers to step up and be supportive in ways unfamiliar to them. This demand has forced entire organizations to take a fresh look at 2021 workplace healthcare trends and re-evaluate their current wellness benefits.

How do employers keep up with those trends? What must they know to help employees better deal with physical and mental wellness issues?

Our Guest: Richa Gupta, Veteran HR Executive

Joining me on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is a well-respected HR executive, Richa Gupta. Richa has had a front-row seat as 2021 workplace healthcare trends have developed, so I have been looking forward to this critical conversation. First, I asked Richa how the pandemic has forced companies to shift their healthcare and wellness priorities this year. Her answer showcased three distinct elements of this worldwide conversation:

  • The different ways employees work today; how and where we get our work done
  • The evolution of leadership; specifically, how we lead our workforce out of the pandemic
  • Health and wellbeing strategies; how employers are helping care for employees

“Employers play a very vital role in employee health in 2021,” Richa said. “Specifically, given their extensive reach into the workforce, midsize and large employers play a critical leadership role in health advocacy.” 

“Employers are a trusted resource for healthcare, so they must realize they are at the core of today’s wellness issues.”

An Insider Look at Understanding 2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends

In large part because of the pandemic, Richa said the most significant workplace trend is that as the pandemic maintains its grip on the workplace and presents ongoing health and wellbeing challenges, many companies are changing their wellness-related priorities. And that starts with personalizing the benefits offered to employees.

“CHROs in particular need to more deeply understand their employee population. So they’re starting to ask questions that we didn’t before. How do we serve them differently? How do we cater to their specific healthcare and well-being needs?”

Richa added: “How we ensure a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have — and then catering to them by offering benefits in a very personalized way.”

I couldn’t agree more; the reality is one-size-fits-all healthcare plans just don’t work now. Maybe they never have.

I gained valuable insight from Richa during this conversation — and I know you will too. Enjoy the listen, then incorporate Richa’s sage advice into your company’s inevitable transformation.

To learn more about Richa and her work, connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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2021 HR Best Practices: What Business Needs Most from HR This Year

In January 2021, Tiger Recruitment hosted a webinar for HR professionals looking for guidance on 2021 HR best practices. Tiger’s Managing Director, Rebecca Siciliano, was joined by four expert speakers:

  • Mark Stelzner from IA
  • Robert Hicks from Reward Gateway
  • Marcus Thornley from Play Consulting
  • Saskia Donald, an HR professional with over 20 years experience

Together, they shared some critical insights to help human resources specialists in 2021. Over the course of the hour, the expert panel covered everything from rewards and benefits, to building remote business cultures.

Below, we highlight their 2021 HR best practices…

Take Stock

As a first priority, HR should take stock of each individuals’ circumstances. Whether through surveys or other data collection tools, the aim is to learn what the team is experiencing. Suppose a business expects to someday return to the office. In that case, HR should find out how this might work for individual workers’ changed circumstances. For example, would they prefer to come into the office every day or on an ad-hoc basis?

It’s likely the office won’t play the same role it once did for many businesses. So it’s a good idea for HR to broach this topic with leaders and begin to work out where the office will fit in future business plans.

Go Back to Basics

Start by looking at three key elements: communication, recognition, and rewards. These basic culture elements likely evolved in response to the first lockdown in March 2020, and perhaps we haven’t examined them since.

If this is the case, analyze what is and isn’t working. Use snap polls/surveys of employees and conversations with management, for example. Then develop a solution that better fits the way the business is planning to operate, post-pandemic. If the company is likely to move towards a hybrid-working model, ask:

  • How will communication work between employees working from home and those in the office?

If the business continues working remotely by default, ask:

  • How will employee recognition and rewards change to reflect that?

According to our experts, businesses should also get back to the basics of looking to their workers’ unique skills and expertise to unlock hidden talent. Mark asked the question: “Have we really created a space in this moment to ask everyone about the skills that they have?” Perhaps it’s identifying someone who has fantastic sales skills and can present a seminar on creating leads, for example. Or maybe it is an individual with great project management who can organize a task force to tackle an internal issue. In either case, HR can facilitate these sessions to help management teams better manage the challenges they’re facing.

Be Honest When Dealing with Uncertainty

In 2020, HR was relied upon to know the answers to a number of unprecedented questions, even when they may have been uncertain themselves. In looking at 2021 HR best practices, however, the experts believe HR should own their uncertainty! During the webinar, Robert said that he believes that “leaders [who] embrace [vulnerability] by saying ‘I don’t know, I’ll get back to you,’ [are] so empowering.” This transparency will contribute to a positive learning environment (as HR can work with the team to find the answer together). It will also better alleviate feelings of unease or doubt from employees.

Digital Platforms are Key to Remotely Building Business Cultures

While an effective digital platform is essential to rebuilding a remote business culture, HR needs to ensure it is inclusive, non-hierarchical, and places workers front and center. This is important as employees need to feel invested in the technology to truly harness its potential as a culture tool.

By taking the culture of the business online, an opportunity to rebuild in a much more inclusive way presents itself. For example, taking away the office and using an online platform will mean everyone has an equal opportunity to contact and be visible to managers and their teams.

HR tech is key to solving many challenges moving forward, but, the data needs to be interpreted through a human lens, and issues of accessibility also should be taken into account.

HR Needs to Facilitate Communication While Working Remotely

Internal communication must be consistent, timely, and easily accessible. If HR is unsure whether their current methods are effective, liaise with staff directly for feedback.

While video meeting software has become absolutely integral to business operations as we work remotely, as Marcus put it: “[It] isn’t the only way to communicate.” While video meetings are largely scheduled, they don’t allow much scope or flexibility for those working more ad-hoc hours. Instead, consider adopting methods of unscheduled or asynchronous communication that will work for the business. This will allow employees to continue ‘water cooler’ style conversations with colleagues.

Benefits in a Post-flexible Working Era

Many of us see flexible work as an expectation rather than a benefit, so businesses should look to other options when attracting and retaining talent. According to the experts, the most popular benefits in 2021 will center around wellbeing, learning and development, and remote working. Offering a competitive benefits package is essential to attracting top talent, as candidates may be hesitant to leave their current role if they’re concerned about job security or loyal to their current employer.

The Biggest of 2021 HR Best Practices: Look After Our Wellbeing

In our webinar, Saskia explained: “HR must put on their own life mask before helping others.” This is the perfect encapsulation of the feeling of extreme stress HR professionals have faced over the past 12 months as they’ve helped their teams through perplexing times. As 2021 is likely to be another challenging year, they may need time to rest and recover. If you’re working in HR, check on your team members and give one another space to share anxieties and decompress. If the business doesn’t provide HR these opportunities, they can’t help those around them – and may ultimately suffer from burnout.

The resilience of exceptional HR professionals will play a key role in helping businesses in 2021. From tailoring employee benefits to supporting on with strategic, people-led decisions, one thing’s for sure…

Human resources professionals have never been more crucial to business success.

 

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[#WorkTrends] Elder Caregiving: A Growing Employee Crisis

Many members of the 70 million-strong Baby Boomer generation are at prime caregiving age, and soon many will become care recipients themselves. While they will live longer than previous generations, they will also be fighting many battles with age-related health issues. And with hospital stays becoming shorter, this means many employees will soon be fighting a crisis new to them: in-home elder caregiving.

How can employers help their team members through this inevitable crisis? And why should they care?

Our Guest: Larry Nisenson from CareScout

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Larry Nisenson of Genworth U.S. Life Insurance Segment and CareScout® Caregiver Support Services joins us to discuss how employers can anticipate the growing need for eldercare. We jumped right into the conversation by learning just how extensive the eldercare crisis will become:

“There exists today, in just in the US, over 40 million unpaid family caregivers,” Larry said. “Over the next decade, we expect that number to balloon up to 80 million. As the US economy ages and more folks must pitch in to help parents and loved ones, there is a dramatic impact on the US economy and workplace productivity. That puts incredible pressure on folks like you and me trying to work and take care of those we care about.” 

Larry added that the situation often forces people to choose: “Do they take this burden on alone? Or so they can focus on work-life balance, or perhaps take care of younger family members, do they bring in help?”

This is where employers can step in and relieve some of this pressure.

Elder Caregiving: The Role of Employers

I asked Larry what employers can do to support the growing need for in-home caregivers. Larry’s response was both practical and insightful. Rather than assume what would help caregivers most, he says:

“We too often hear from employers: ‘The vast majority of my employees don’t need eldercare benefits.’” After demonstrating their employees soon will, Larry advised them: “First and foremost, survey your employees. Don’t assume you know. You’ve got to ask them what they need in terms of support!” Because caregiving is a unique, isolating incident, he adds there is another benefit to asking these questions:

“Caregivers need to know their employer is interested in helping.”

Once you have input from your employees, Larry says, consider offering employees an elder caregiving benefit: “Care advocacy benefits — where you call an 800 number, and they provide all of the advice, expertise that you need to make decisions for your elderly loved ones — is one of the hottest benefits out there.”

To learn more about how your company can help employees through the coming elder caregiving crisis, be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Larry. You, and your loved ones, will appreciate his expertise!

 

Have more questions about this topic? Find Larry on LinkedIn.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?

 

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2021 Work Trends: Should We Continue to Be Surprised?

Over the last ten months, the entire workplace changed, as did the expectations of employees and contractors. But not everything that happened last year was a total shock — so why should we allow 2021 work trends to surprise us?

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about the workplace trends we would most likely see in 2020. Of course, when that post went live no one could have predicted the impact a global pandemic would have on the future of work. Still, as you’ll see below, we shouldn’t have been too surprised by how much the workplace changed.

In fact, maybe we should be proud of our ability to anticipate, accept, and adapt…

The Death of the Office

Our 2020 Prediction:

“It’s official: the office is dead. The office your parents knew, that is.

2020 will build on a trend that’s been on the rise in 2018 and 2019. More employees rely on technology to do their jobs and keep up with their teams. This means that more employees know they can do their jobs from anywhere–and they’re not afraid to ask the boss for that benefit. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 69% of organizations allow their employees to work from home at least some of the time, and 27% of organizations allowed full-time remote work arrangements.”

Our 2020 Reality:

In our “now normal,” far more than 69% of organizations allow their employees to work from home.

The real question is: How many of those companies — once we start to put the pandemic behind us — will let the majority of their employees continue to work from home? And how many will want business environments to revert to our “old normal”?

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

As Mark S. Babbitt says, “‘We know we gave you all that freedom, but now we’re taking it back — said no good employer, ever.'” Companies that want to retain the best of their talent will work hard to co-create a “new normal” that keeps the good aspects of the pandemic workplace. That most certainly includes working from home.

The Rise of Employee Activism

Our 2020 Prediction:

“Nothing seems to be holding employees back from pursuing what matters to them, even if it means speaking up against their own employer.

Half of all millennial employees have spoken out about employer actions about a controversial societal issue. The same Bloomberg study found that younger employees are more likely to be activists, though millennials are the biggest activist generation. In 2019, we saw countless examples of employee activism instigated by a sensational (and divisive) political climate. For example, hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out after learning that the company sold furniture to a Texas detention center for migrant children.”

Our 2020 Reality:

Like the pandemic, no one could have predicted the intensity demonstrated during the Black Lives Matter protests and — on the far other ends of the spectrum — the MAGA rallies that took place in 2020 and early 2021. Along the way, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and many other companies faced employee walk-outs in 2021.

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

One would like to think companies would go into 2021 with eyes (and minds) wide open. However, already this year, we’ve seen employees take a stand against the positions of their employers, including insisting that corporations suspend donations to certain politicians, political parties, and PACs.

A Workplace That Stands for Something

Our 2020 Prediction:

“Millennials need to work for a purpose, not just money or a career.

A CNBC survey found that 69% of employees want to work for a company with clearly-stated values, and 35% stated that the most critical factor in their workplace happiness was the feeling that their work is meaningful. And these days, employees are willing to trade money for a purpose, with 9 in 10 employees stating that they would take a pay cut if it meant they could do meaningful work. In fact, when employees were asked to rank what matters most to them in their work, money was a distant second to workplace purpose.”

Our 2020 Reality

The only aspect of this prediction that changed? We need to add Gen Z to the discussion. For younger generations in the workforce, the concept of trading work hours for dollars and going home feeling fulfilled is now completely outdated. And employers are best served by seeing the writing on the wall.

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

Employers will have no choice in 2021: In large part, performance and profits will be determined by an employees’ alignment to the company’s purpose.

The Changing Definition of Benefits

Our 2020 Prediction:

“Employees (especially millennials) won’t turn their nose up at decent benefits.

Millennials are the job-hopping generation, with half of all millennials (compared to 60% of all non-millennials) stating that they plan to be working at a different company than their current one by next year. But for the few years you do have your employees, they want that time to be worth their while. Younger workers are pushing back against the idea of work as a constant obsession. More of them demand increasing flexibility and benefits that reflect it, such as more paid leave after having a baby, the ability to work remotely, or allowances for breaks during the day.”

Our 2020 Reality

Bingo! The pandemic forced employers to consider not-so-common benefits like in-home child care, elderly parent care, mental health and wellness, virtual therapy, and so much more. In addition, the “always-on” aspect of working from home made the setting of boundaries — and taking real breaks from work — a real issue for remote workers.

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

As we said just a moment ago: “Companies… will work hard to co-create a ‘new normal’ that takes into consideration all the good aspects of the pandemic workplace.” Like our freedom, employers can’t give us something that makes our lives better and then take it back. Right?

What Surprises Will 2021 Bring?

Experts like to say the workplace trends of 2020 caught us by surprise. But did they? Did they really?

Keep a close eye on 2021 work trends and surprises. And see how many of them — just like the trends and “surprises” of 2020 did  — will make work, and our lives, better.

 

Photo by Taylor Deas-Melesh

Employee Mental Health Needs: Everyone Loses with A Reactive Approach

It’s now starkly obvious that the coronavirus pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives — not the least of which is the mental health of our employees. Rates of anxiety, stress, and depression are all up. The good news is that many companies have responded by increasing investments in their existing well-being programs.

A recent survey of 256 companies by the nonprofit National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that 53% now provide special emotional and mental health programs for their employees.

Some of these programs have garnered media attention:

  • Starbucks began providing access to 20 free counseling or coaching sessions, which can also be accessed by family members, at no cost.
  • Unilever launched a 14-day mental well-being resilience program for its employees.
  • Professional services firm EY now offers live daily workouts online to help reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Goldman Sachs now gives employees an extra ten days of family leave annually to take care of personal needs.

Missing the Mental Well-being Mark

Offered by four very employee-empathetic brands, those types of initiatives are valuable — as far as they go. But here’s the unfortunate reality: Most of today’s mental well-being solutions:

  • Have no underpinning in clinical psychology
  • Often focus solely on treatment
  • Fail to be proactive or treat the whole employee

In other words, the common wisdom around employee mental well-being is both backward and ineffective. In the end, these programs are band-aids. They don’t help sustain and nourish every employee’s total well-being — including their mental health. These programs also fail to help build your company culture and employer brand.

Why don’t they work?  Because they don’t empower employees to proactively identify and prevent mental distress and ill health. You see, it’s not enough to give employees the kinds of tools and programs that will support and potentially help them mend when the going gets tough, and their mental health suffers. You need to get ahead of the game.

Mental Health Needs: The Bigger Picture

Step back and consider this: Everyone has mental health all the time. Everyone, every day, is somewhere on the spectrum of mental health wellness.

Yet, our current mental health programs are nearly exclusively treatment-based. They’re designed and built to support the 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. who annually experience some form of mental health illness. Workplace mental health programs are no different.

The mental health of those 1 in 5 shouldn’t be the only ones considered during a pandemic — or at any other time.

After all, you don’t expect your employees to wait until their teeth are rotten to start brushing or getting regular cleanings, do you? To avoid developing severe problems down the road, they brush every day (you hope!). You also hope they see the dentist at least now and then.

It’s time to start treating your employees’ mental health the same as their dental health — proactively, holistically, and with tools and wisdom from trained professionals.

The Best Approach to Mental Health Needs

To fully support mental health, you, of course, first need an approach that mitigates the stress and anxiety we see today. But, going forward, you also need a proactive approach to supporting well-being. (By the way, only 6% of workers use the employee assistance programs provided to them, so there’s not much help there.)

Next, you must realize that employee health isn’t one-dimensional, and successful well-being programs can’t be one-size-fits-all. The answer is a whole-person, whole-organization approach that:

  • Applies preventive mental health strategies that affect change in any individual’s psychological, physical, and social well-being (the three spheres of the human condition)
  • Is individualized for each employee

The Wrong Approach to Mental Well-Being

Let’s face it: Perks like a limited number of coaching sessions, more flexible work schedules, and mindfulness apps can be helpful. But they assume your employees know precisely what they need at any given moment. They also believe employees understand where they are on their mental health journey.

Lastly, it’s essential to understand that most of today’s mental well-being solutions didn’t start from a clinically proven mindset. This means they don’t address the whole person — psychological, physical, social (maybe you’ve heard this as “mind, body, heart,” or similar). Neither do they address the seven aspects of daily life that nourish and support mental well-being:

  1. Happiness
  2. Sleep
  3. Coping
  4. Calmness
  5. Health
  6. Connection
  7. Fulfillment

You can take significant steps to prevent mental unwellness by nourishing those seven aspects of daily life. You’ll also improve your company culture and improve your employer brand. After all, employee mental health is out in front of everyone today.

Today’s Mental Health Reality

Compared to the start of the pandemic, a recent Qualtrics and SAP study of over 2,700 employees across more than ten industries found:

  • 75% feel more socially isolated
  • 67% report higher stress
  • 57% have greater anxiety
  • 53% feel more emotionally exhausted

The effects of 2020 will undoubtedly continue to impact the mental health of your employees. It’s cold comfort to note that the pandemic has opened employers’ eyes to what has been silently occurring below the surface for a long time: Their employees’ mental health, just like their physical health, is always in need of support. It can’t be ignored, and it certainly shouldn’t be. Unless, of course, you want to see the financial impacts of a workforce that’s left entirely to its own devices and is wholly unsupported.

Seek out a proactive, preventive, and clinically based mental health platform that addresses the whole employee. Don’t settle for one that can’t ensure the health and well-being of the whole person and your whole organization.

You can improve employee mental health. Start now by focusing on ways to help employees be healthier, more resilient, and more productive for whatever the uncertain future brings. 

 

Clayton Cardinalli

Employee Retention: 5 Ways to Keep Your Team So Satisfied They Stay

There are many reasons employee retention should be a top priority for any business. Of course, you want to keep your top employees satisfied, so they continue their inspired work and help your company thrive. Plus, good employees who like their employer more often refer top-notch professionals to your organization.

But employee retention is more than that. Between putting out job listings, juggling paperwork, interviewing, and onboarding, there is a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into hiring new employees. All that distracts you from getting other work done.

So how do you improve employee retention in these crazy times?

The answer is easier than you may think. And much of it revolves around putting your employees first.

Employee Retention Starts on the First Day

Employee retention starts on day one. Fail to show new employees you care about them (and their career) from the start, and many will already have one foot out of the door. The human resources and management teams must promote the fact that they are there to help the employee thrive and that their door is always open for questions and concerns.

From the first morning on the job, show them they are more than just cogs in the machine. Occasionally remind them why their job is essential to the company. Help them co-create a career plan. Or, even better, as they learn the ropes help lay out a trajectory for their career. By setting up a path for success, the employee will stick around longer. After all, they know future growth opportunities await.

Once they have the hang of their initial job, introduce a few new responsibilities included in the job descriptions of potential future positions. That way, the employee knows you are serious about executing the career plan.

Once orientation is complete, don’t just throw them in the water, sink-or-swim style. Instead, pair the employee up with a dedicated associate so the new employee can turn to them when they have questions. Mentoring programs can be powerful benefits for both the new employee and their mentor. At consulting firm Bain & Company, an increased push in mentoring has resulted in all 8,000 consultants having a mentor.

This mentoring program has led to significant and tangible advantages for Bain. Among them, Bain has doubled the number of women in leadership positions.

Benefits Matter

Even in “normal” times, many employees choose their employer-based mostly on the benefits offered. This decision-making process is especially prevalent during the pandemic when people live what sometimes seems like upside-down lives.

But benefits don’t stop at healthcare.

For example, allowing flexible schedules can do wonders for employees. If practical, suggest a later start time to get their children ready for school or assist with home-schooling. Also, allow time for doctor’s visits and care of an extended member of the family. Not only do you show you care about them as people, you encourage a healthy work-life balance.

Of course, a lot of people still count on their job for health insurance. So, have a comprehensive plan that protects them and their income if they are hurt or sick. Again, if practical, offer dental and vision insurance too. Perhaps most important in these difficult times, promote preventive healthcare by offering wellness programs. Include gym memberships, stress-relief management classes, and incentives for a healthy lifestyle (which could include a discount on their insurance deductible).

Paid time off can often be challenging to manage in work at home situations. And yet that paid time off is earned and necessary for many reasons, including mental health. In response to that challenge, Airbnb offers travel credits in addition to significant time off. These perks, and others, helped the company become a 2016 best place to work in CareerBliss’s annual survey.

Compensation and Perks

Compensation is also crucial for employee retention. If we don’t pay fairly and equitably, employees will find a different company that provides what they need. Use outside resources like Salary.com to see the average pay for similar positions in your area of the world. If you can afford to pay them the same, so they aren’t tempted to go elsewhere, make that effort.

Finally, don’t forget the perks. These are the unwritten benefits that employees tell their families about at the end of the day. These perks could be extra paid time off for a job well done or discounted tickets to an amusement park. For employees of Treehouse, an education technology company, one major perk is a four-day workweek. Treehouse shortened the workweek in 2006. The company reports employees have been happier and more productive ever since.

Even the smallest perks will motivate them to do their best work. So, make it a point to buy them a coffee on a random Thursday or take them out to lunch after completing a big project.

Culture and Communication

In the end, the best way to retain employees is to create a workplace they are excited to return to day after day. Specifically, it is about having a safe, warm, and welcoming company culture that encourages growth. It is also about living, rather than just stating, positive values you act upon every day.

A caring culture also requires active communication from management to employees on a personal level. Don’t wait until the annual review to see how your staff is doing. Instead, practice regular check-ins. Review their work; offer praise and validation at every opportunity. Take the time necessary to answer any questions. And see where they are on their career plan and make modifications if necessary. Keep an open mind during these check-ins and actively listen to what the employees have to say.

Yes, employee retention is incredibly important. Luckily, retention efforts are not overly difficult for a company that chooses to make an intentional effort.

Make an employee’s day today – and avoid the hassle of unneeded turnover tomorrow.

Edu Carvalho

The Forgotten (Yet Costly) Employee Crisis: Elder Care

Figuratively speaking, the number of articles dedicated to discussing the COVID-caused childcare crisis could fill a school library. But little has been written regarding the other side of the generational spectrum: Elder care.

When it became evident the remote learning arrangements imposed at the tail end of the 2019-20 school year would continue well into the current one, the full weight of what this would mean for working parents was expressed in headlines across the country. The Associated Press reported on the distressingly common instance of mothers being forced from the workforce, for example. Meanwhile The Atlantic analyzed the rock-and-a-hard place scenario that parents deemed essential workers have regarding childcare – including the fact that 15 states lack free childcare options.

So, it is entirely logical that the most pressing caregiving topic would surround the struggles faced by employed parents. Whether those parents were working from home or not – attention would be paid to those balancing careers with child caregiving. However, this understandable emphasis on our children has diverted attention from a problem that was looming long before iPads became de facto classrooms: the challenges employees face providing care for elderly loved ones.

Comprehending the Employee Elder Care Crisis

Not surprisingly, the impact on elder caregivers has been profound. According to the Genworth Caring in COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Survey, 1 in 3 respondents unexpectedly became caregivers overnight. The average time investment was an onerous nine hours per week, a typical work shift, to provide care for an older and/or vulnerable loved one.

Many, of course, may have already been providing unpaid caregiving to a loved one, meaning the pandemic simply exacerbated an already time- and energy-consuming situation. Caregiving during COVID-19 can also be very emotionally taxing: 49% of those polled in the same survey felt more anxiety and 53% felt more stress due to the added emotional toll of COVID-19.

Fortunately, the COVID crisis may make some employers more aware of—and sympathetic to—their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. This awakening can’t come quickly enough: Research conducted before the COVID-19 crisis shows that many employers were unaware of their employees’ caregiving responsibilities. Seventy percent of employees reported having missed work due to caregiving duties. And, 32% of caregiving employees had voluntarily left a job during their career due to caregiving responsibilities. Further, companies face increased health care costs incurred by employers for employees with caregiving responsibilities exceeds $13 billion a year.

Despite all this, employer-sponsored caregiving resources are typically limited in scope. They often, for example, take the form of an employee assistance program (EAP) that may provide a limited range of services, such as referrals and access to potential providers via phone and/or online portal.

Bolstering Caregiver Work-Life Balance

The harsh reality is: COVID-19 has made the Employee Caregiving Crisis more urgent than ever. For their own sake, it is time for employers to forge pathways to relief. With 54% of caregivers juggling their caregiving responsibilities and a full- or part-time job, employers need to understand and meet the needs of their caregiving employees.

To help their caregiving employees – and their company – here are five tips for employers that can help elder caregivers thrive during these challenging times:

Communicate and Create a Culture of Collaboration

Seek a better understanding of everyone’s individual situations. It is impossible to understand the breadth or depth of employees’ caregiving responsibilities without an open, honest discussion about their challenges. It is also important for employers to initiate this dialogue. After all, employees may be hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons.

Enable Flexible Schedules to Strike a Better Balance

With new or added workloads, many employees may be juggling caregiving duties and work responsibilities. To help them find a balance their competing roles, offer flexible scheduling options. For example: Flexible work hours, the ability to work from home, etc.

Expect the Unexpected

Build in extra time for important projects, and set clear expectations around deadlines, team communication and client support. COVID-19 has given many employers crash courses in disruption adaptation. We can lean upon these lessons to improve business flexibility—without sacrificing overall job performances

Offer a Strong Support System

To ease their responsibilities, many elder caregivers are now looking for more support from their employers. An easy way to help is by providing guidance and personal support to those struggling. For example, share trusted links to information on support groups and related webinars. And post articles that provide solutions to caregiving problems. Self-care tools like wellness videos or meditation apps can be valuable. Also considered valuable: Financial planning classes offered by employers or third-party specialists.

Assess Your Policy Options

To adequately adapt to the workforce’s evolving caregiving needs, employers may want to reexamine company policies and benefits. With COVID-19 creating a new normal, and so they can focus on their work, employees may need benefits that can help them find care for their aging loved ones. Offering attractive benefits that meet employee caregiving needs can help set a company apart—a tool to help attract and retain top talent, lower absenteeism, increase productivity, and reduce turnover.

Easing the Burden Placed on Elder Care Providers

Just as important for many, such specialist-driven caregiving employee benefits allow employees to stop playing professional caregiving coordinator. For example, identifying and assessing provider options is a caregiving issue in which experience and specialization are highly advantageous. This specialty helps determine provider availability but while negotiating rates based on knowledge of typical care costs.

With specialist-driven caregiving benefits, employees no longer need mastermind a highly complex, multi-factor caregiving regimen.

COVID-19 has pushed employers toward a number of new norms. One of those should be taking better care of employee elder caregivers. And we can do that through increased employer awareness, systemic support, and customized benefit offerings.

Companies are currently repositioning themselves for optimal success now, and into the future. That makes this the perfect time to re-assess exactly what employees need to thrive within their very personal new normal, including employee benefits that cover the cost of elder care.

 

Andrea Piacquadio

The Age-Inclusive Benefits Your Employees Need During the Pandemic

This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what we offer to employees and why, including age-inclusive benefits and eldercare.

Few events have affected the fabric of our daily lives on such an impactful scale as COVID-19. With about one-third of Americans are working from home for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus, many offices often sit completely empty. The space we perhaps painstakingly designed or adapted to bring out the best in our teams? That is no longer a recruiting, retention, or productivity asset.

We haven’t always connected a physical office space with corporate culture. It’s remarkable to think about how two young founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, started a technology and office culture revolution when they founded Google in 1998. That was the beginning of open office spaces and laid-back casual dress in the office. It came with the idyllic imagery of collaborating while sitting on a bean bag, jotting the next big Google idea on a white board with coworkers before hopping onto a Razor scooter to make your next meeting. Hard to believe, but the open-office trend has been persistent in the workplace for over twenty years now.

Office Spaces Continue to Evolve

Over those twenty years, our office spaces have continued to evolve and iterate. They’ve been upgraded with each new innovative perk and deliberate decision. For HR partners and leaders, their responsibilities have expanded to providing free lunch and snacks – whether fun and indulgent or nutritious and vegan-friendly. HR has also been tasked with finding space for employees to decompress, discovering ever-inspired caffeine choices, and inventing ways to encourage collaboration, productivity, and a sense of belonging. In fact:

  • 31 percent of employers now offer free snacks
  • 95 percent have kitchenettes
  • 78 percent have free coffee
  • 13 percent have partially or fully subsidized cafeterias

But what happens when no one is in the office?

And furthermore, when we are able to all safely return to our office spaces, what happens to our snack stations? Our collaboration areas? The completely open office plans and other clever details to encourage people to brainstorm and connect? These sources of innovation and employee bonding are now potential liabilities: Virus-spreaders that, for the time being, sit mostly lonely.

Benefits Were Never About Nap Pods

The reality is, though, benefits were never really about nap pods, energy bars, and canned caffeine.

COVID-19 has laid bare what employee benefits are truly about. If your employees can no longer get free lunch or catch up over a free cup of coffee, how connected do they feel with each other? If employees no longer step foot into an office designed to inspire them and help them do their best work, how connected do they feel about working for your company? Perhaps most importantly, what kind of employee benefits do they want?

Is enduring this pandemic bringing to light that our employees want benefits that can positively impact their quality of life on a deeper level? And not just unlimited espresso?

Our office space here at Homethrive is no different. While staying in a practical budget for a growing company, we tried as best as we could to make it fun and appealing. No, we don’t have free lunches. But we tried our best to make it comfortable and memorable. We wanted to be a place where young talent feels excited about coming to work every day. A place so inspiring everyone had every intention of doing their best work.

“You’re on Mute!”

And my workdays are probably the same as yours now. I’m fortunate enough to have a home office that I’m taking Zoom call after Zoom call in. It’s been “connecting” – for lack of a better term – to see my colleagues and employees in their apartments and homes. And its’ been fun, every once in a while, to see a furry friend or roommate walking by in the background. Over the past several months, we’ve been finding surprising ways to bond over how our lives have changed in this new normal. And I’ve learned more about the unique family and living situations of my employees. One team member with a nurse roommate, for example, has been staying somewhere else; a senior leader moved her father out of his nursing home into her home to care for him.

We all look silly wearing headphones. We all still fumble when sharing our screens on Zoom. And, like everyone else, we repeatedly say, “You’re on mute!”

Prioritizing Age-Inclusive Benefits

Throughout this very human transition, we’ve realized that so many of the employee benefits we’ve been focusing on are centered around a physical space and tangible offerings. We considered other perks that encourage health and wellness such as discounted gym memberships most important. For example:

  • 13 percent have onsite massage therapy services
  • 21 percent of employers have quiet rooms in their offices
  • 32 percent offer a fitness center membership
  • 60 percent provide or subsidize the cost of a standing desk

And yet, fewer than 10% of employers offer eldercare benefits.

So many of these perks are also age-specific. But are not age-inclusive benefits. Sure, collaboration spaces are great. But someone in their mid-50s is not going to comfortably chat in many of the chairs that these spaces feature; they may fear getting back up once they sit in a bean bag chair. The foosball table is fun. But how many team members not in their 20’s use it? How many team members use it period?

Time to Re-think Benefits Budgets

This is a tremendous opportunity for all of us. As leaders and advocates for our teams and employees, we can take a step back. We can realize our employees bond with each other and feel connected to our companies on deeper levels than the sum of the benefits and perks we previously offered. And now that a stunning office space is no longer on the table? This is the time to be creative with how we compete for the best talent. We can and should make a play for the best talent in more meaningful ways, including age-inclusive benefits and eldercare.

It’s also a time to reevaluate where we are spending our benefits budgets. A time to expand to new and innovative benefits that reflect the ways that our lives are changing. Providing support for the new stressors in our lives like caregiving for aging partners or parents, for example.

Our urgent need, really, is to help our employees be productive, happy, balanced and satisfied. Life is stressful in new ways, but we’re also grateful and focused in new ways. So, within their new normal, let’s find new ways to help our employees live better.

By the way, those “young founders” Sergey Brin and Larry Page? They are now both in their late 40’s. And they aren’t getting any younger.

I’ll leave you with that.

 

Fauxels

[#WorkTrends] Employee Experience 2020: Digitization, Flexibility, Benefits

What is the correlation between the employee benefits offered and employee experience?

Your organization probably invests a lot of time, energy and also money to retain your top employees. And yet, at least occasionally, you still wind up losing them to competitors. 

How do you put an end to that unproductive cycle? What can you offer your employees that means enough for them to stay? As an employer, what’s your real value proposition? A beautiful office? No, not when we’re working remotely. Free gym memberships or great retreats? Soon, hopefully, but not now. 

To retain your top talent in today’s work environment, it’s not about perks. Retention is about what employees really need.

Our Guest: Chris Wakely of Benify

To get to the heart of this matter, I invited Chris Wakely, Executive Vice President of Global Sales at Benify, to join me on #WorkTrends this week. First, I was very interested to learn more about the big picture takeaways from Benify’s new report: The Benefits and Engagement Report: A European Employer’s Guide to Employee Experience for the 2020s. Chris quickly gave me the scoop.

“It’s been quite an interesting journey for us. When we planned this survey, who had any idea the world would turn out how it has?” Chris asked. He told us the survey was conducted in April, near the beginning of the global pandemic. “Despite all the craziness, about 5,000 people took the survey. We asked them what they think about their employer? What benefits, other than salary, do they want? It was a really interesting time to be asking these questions as people dug into their new reality. We really got an understanding of how employees think and act in the middle of change.”

More Than Ever: People Care About Benefits

Chris said the survey — for many respondents, even those concerned about job loss — revealed that people cared deeply about their benefits. They saw those benefits as security in an uncertain time. “Those benefits beyond salary, for many, were and are more important than ever before,” Chris said. He added: “It surprised me: Despite everything going on, this is still an employee’s market. People still demand more. And employers can’t afford to underestimate how important those things are to their people, especially now.”

When I asked Chris about the biggest myth the survey debunked, he didn’t hesitate. “There’s this idea that we should just be grateful we have a job. But the report shows that even during this pandemic, the show just goes on. After all this, recruiting goes on.”

Benefits Tied Directly to Employee Experience

During our conversation, one point really hit home: “9 out of 10 employees aged under 30 say they would consider changing employers to receive better employee benefits,” Chris said. Can you imagine? Even during a horrific pandemic, 90 percent of employees under 30 would leave for better benefits… and better employee experience!

Chris and I went on to talk about several topics. Those included which area of wellness employers should be giving the most attention, the correlation between engagement and an employee’s satisfaction with the benefits offered, the troubles companies are having with digital onboarding, and so much more. Make sure you dedicate enough time to listen to the entire conversation… it is worth every minute.

Continue the Conversation on Twitter

We’re sure you’ll want to hear more about how benefits improve employee experience from the good people at Benify. So, please join us next Wednesday, October 14th at 1:30pm ET for our next #WorkTrends Twitter chat. Chris will be there to help us answer these questions: 

  • Q1: Why do organizations struggle with providing the right benefits?
  • Q2: What strategies can promote a better benefits experience for employees?
  • Q3. Why is a total rewards experience a valuable hiring and retention tool?

We thank the Benify team in advance for spending more time with the TalentCulture community. And we’ll thank you for joining us on Twitter, next Wednesday, 10-14!

 

Find Chris on LinkedIn.

 

This podcast was sponsored by Benify.

 

Editor’s note: Have you noticed? #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats have evolved to better meet your needs! For details, check the new FAQ page. And to see upcoming event topics and guests, check the calendar listing on the #WorkTrends Podcast page.