Photo by Tero Vesalainen
As 2021 begins, human resources professionals are well-positioned to consider the actions they can take this year to help employees stay healthy. Here are five excellent ways employers will support employee health in 2021…
1. Investigate Opportunities to Relieve Stress
Keeping stress levels down at work can go a long way in helping people stay healthy. Some of the go-to stress-relieving activities include having on-site yoga and meditation sessions. While those can be beneficial, experts clarify that such activities alone are not sufficient.
It’s time for an all-encompassing approach concerning managing organizational changes, ensuring employees have what they need to excel in their roles and that they can adequately handle their workloads. Such aspects can keep stress levels low without sacrificing output. As people feel less stressed, their productivity will often rise, too.
Creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to admit feeling stressed is equally vital. For example, in a workplace where managers value high performance, people may worry that speaking up about feeling stressed due to their workload may lead to accusations that they are falling behind compared to colleagues.
2. Show Support During Mental Health Struggles
The COVID-19 pandemic called more attention to mental health struggles. Even for those who didn’t contract the virus, the worry and extra responsibilities associated with the global health threat caused additional burdens. Women bore the brunt of these societal issues.
A recent global Deloitte poll of working women showed that 39% noticed worsened mental health during the pandemic. Moreover, 75% said they experienced increased caregiving responsibilities, and a third reported a heavier general workload.
Regardless of a person’s gender and situation, employers should strive to stay sensitive to and aware of any possible mental health difficulties. They can support employees by modeling good self-care and encouraging workers to take breaks when overwhelmed, for example. Educating employees about the diversity and prevalence of mental health difficulties also helps decrease associated stigmas.
3. Help Employees Understand the Specifics of Their Health Coverage
Usually, people who receive health insurance through their employees either participate in traditionally fully insured or self-funded plans. Research shows that, of the approximately 150 million Americans who receive health insurance through employers, 61% do so through self-funded or partially self-funded plans. One of the main differences in the types is that self-funded plans involve paying the employer for coverage instead of a carrier.
Regardless of how an employee receives coverage, they may not understand the extent of associated benefits — especially newly available perks. During the pandemic, AXA Asia — part of a global insurance brand — expanded its free telehealth service to help approximately 6.5 million people. Some providers also have specialty content that helps people learn more about diagnoses, treatments, and preventive measures.
Human resources professionals should consider sending weekly tips about policy features or suggestions to help them get more out of the coverage. A company-wide email could be one effective option.
4. Cultivate a Workplace Wellness Culture
Many company decision-makers mistakenly believe that implementing a few minor changes is enough to create and maintain a workplace wellness culture. However, getting genuine, lasting results requires a more concentrated effort that relies on employee input.
Asking employees what they need and want will likely get better results than providing them with packaged, one-size-fits-all health solutions. For example, giving a gym membership to someone who’s intensely uncomfortable with the thought of exercising in public. Aske what they need, and you will probably get the desired results.
People responsible for improving or starting an employee wellness program should explore ways to reach people where they are, which means understanding that everyone has different goals and definitions of wellness.
5. Teach Employees to Avoid Health Scams
Learning to spot phishing scams is often part of workplace cybersecurity training. It’s indispensable now, since many scammers ramped up their efforts to take advantage of the unusual circumstances caused by COVID-19. Most people living through the pandemic have never dealt with something like this before. The associated uncertainty, coupled with the desire to stay well during these challenging times, makes some people more likely to fall for health-related scams.
In one recent example, cybercriminals created a fake version of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service website. It explained that people had to provide bank details for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. To make matters worse, many older and vulnerable people living in the United Kingdom can get vaccinated soon and were likely not surprised to get emailed details about applying for a vaccination date. Health authorities confirmed they would never ask for residents’ bank details, however.
Employers should consider how incorporating health scam awareness into employee education could boost wellness. Suppose a person gets their bank account depleted after falling for a scam. In that case, they could go through extraordinary anxiety, periods of depression, and difficulties in getting essential items.
Employee Health: Input Must Guide Changes
These five tips encourage employers to think about how they can help employees stay healthier in 2021. However, it’s ideal if employee feedback shapes change to existing wellness efforts or entirely new initiatives.
Once employers see what workers need, want, and are likely to participate in, they increase their likelihood of bringing meaningful and sustainable results to support employee health. Moreover, workers will see organizational leaders consider their values. When that happens, they feel heard and appreciated, positively impacting morale and overall participation rates.