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How The Best Employers Will Support Employee Health in 2021

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.

An Open Letter to You The Worker

Dear Hard and Dedicated Worker,

I am writing to you today as our data highlights that you have not been spending time taking care of yourself. While we acknowledge that you do good work, we also want you to remember that you need to rest and take time to treat yourself with tender loving care. In case you got too busy being an exceptional worker, we wanted to remind you that you need to make time for yourself every day to do what brings you joy. You should never wait for a vacation or retreat to take meticulous care of your body, mind and spirit. They need to be fuelled regularly.

We recognize that this is not an easy task as there has been no holistic wellness manual given to you, so we ask that you stop what you are doing right now–whether it is email, meetings, offsites, more meetings, PowerPoint decks, Excel spreadsheets, collaboration spaces, blogging, conferences, planning, strategizing, writing, feeling busy–and take a few minutes to breath and think. Please grant yourself time for you every day.

Please understand that work-life balance has always been a myth that is unattainable. You are one whole person who has a life and in it you get to work, play, learn and live. You have been born with free will, which grants you a choice, for example, to be a workaholic or lifeaholic. You can choose how to define your own success–whether it is pursuing work-life balance or seeing yourself as a whole person living a whole life, with its ups and downs. To be human is to feel deeply. Nature does not rush. Nature is fierce. And so are you when you give yourself the space to emerge.

To be fully human requires you to treat yourself with extreme gentleness and meticulous care. Your life is about the choices you make. Please grant yourself permission to play. Expose yourself to healthy food, people, thoughts, experiences and work that fuels you. When you take meticulous care of yourself, you set the bar not only for yourself but for everyone around you, about how you treat yourself.

You can choose to make excuses for why you can’t do it, or you can just do it! It’s always a choice.

What do you choose?

Much love to my fellow lifeaholics,


Sanity Dose #207: We have more choices than we can imagine and the ones you make matter deeply. Your state of mind is key to healthy living.

Creativity is conceived as a reproductive act with a tangible result–a child, a book, a monument–that has a physical life going beyond the life of its producer. Creativity, however, can be intangible in the form of a good life, or a beautiful act, or in other virtues of the soul such as freedom and openness, style and tact, humor, kindness.- James Hillman 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

4 Ways Leaders Inspire Employee Wellness

While today’s employers continue their steadfast commitment to improving employee health and productivity, top-level leadership support remains a key ingredient for successful employee participation.

According to results from the 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, 84 percent of employers say improving employee health is a core component of their organization’s health strategy, and nearly four in five plan to sharpen their focus on building workforce health and well-being in the coming years.

However, research also shows a number of factors are keeping employers’ health and well-being programs from being as successful as they could be. Near the top of this list: A lack of senior leadership support.

Managers are top motivators

According to recent survey results from Welltok and the National Business Group on Health, “Whispers from the Water Cooler: What motivates employees to improve their health and well-being,” 57 percent of employee respondents rank their manager as a top motivator to improving their overall health and well-being.

What I’ve seen over the years is that visible support from a company’s leadership, regardless of the level within the organization, sets the tone for employees—communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, participate in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.

Here are four ways I have observed that leaders at all levels of the company can support wellness program and engage employees in their health and well-being.

  1. Show, don’t tell
    Some of the most successful employee corporate wellness programs have visible leadership that can be called upon for support—whether it’s taking the first official step in a new walking program or approving strategic program decisions. Employees often listen to the words, but trust the behavior exhibited by senior leaders, such as when the CEO is first in line for a health screening.Where I work, at HealthFitness, our senior team has made a commitment to encouraging healthful behavior in the everyday routine of our employees. If you visit our Minneapolis headquarters, examples of this in action are easy to see. Employees have free access to treadmill workstations and an on-site fitness center—and senior leaders at all levels of the company regularly use both, opening the door for employees to do the same.
  2. Share success with employees
    Leaders at one large manufacturing company share health management program successes with employees, showing aggregate percentages of how many employees are at high, medium and low health risk, and how the company’s collective health is improving. Providing these results reminds everyone that their health choices affect the company’s health and demonstrates a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality.
  3. Ensure health is part of your core business strategy
    Express your company’s passion and direction for health and productivity in your mission, vision and goal statements. Put corporate leadership front and center in communications about the program. Use all the tools in the arsenal: videos to employees, all-employee correspondence, group meetings and blog posts, among others.
  4. Support healthy behaviors at the workplace
    Provide healthy vending and cafeteria options. Map out walking/running trails and ensure they are safe. Bring fitness equipment on-site for maximum employee access. Organize a monthly farmers market or a fruit and vegetable co-op at the worksite. At HealthFitness, every Friday, employees at our Minneapolis headquarters are treated to healthy breakfast items such as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and energy bars.

These are just a few of the strategies I have seen be successful in the workplace. What about you? What innovative strategies have worked for you to help leaders support employee health and well-being in your workplace?

Photo Credit: anniejoubran1 via Compfight cc

Employee Rewards: Don't Feed To Please

Why Using Food For Employee Rewards And Recognition Is A Bad Idea

At one point in your work life, you’ve been offered food by your employer. Food is a go-to for recognizing and rewarding employees.

Whether it’s donuts in the morning, a pizza lunch, ice cream snacks or some other incarnation, food is one of the ways that many employers show appreciation for their employees. What many employers don’t realize, however, is that food as a reward backfires more often than it succeeds.

1. Food Excludes

Even in small companies, there will be employees with a myriad of food preferences and restrictions. Unless the employer is willing to provide a wide selection of food, someone is going to be left out.

Imagine how you might feel if everyone was gobbling down ice cream as a reward for their hard work, but you are lactose-intolerant or perhaps a vegan, and, therefore, can’t participate. Would you feel equally as rewarded as your peers? Would you be motivated to engage with your work when the rewards promised are unavailable to you?

2. Food Doesn’t Last

Rarely do we remember the food we’ve eaten. Unless it was an extraordinary meal, once we’ve finished swallowing the last morsel we forget all about it. The excitement is gone. For a reward to incentivise employees it needs to be something that leaves a lasting impression. In psychology terms, a reward needs to be compelling enough to trigger an employee’s internal desire to repeat an action in order to receive the reward.

So you have to ask yourself if I want my employees to hit their sales targets every week, will providing a pizza party be a big enough incentive? Can my employees get pizza any time they want or is providing pizza something extraordinary that they will want to work hard for?

3. Food Is A Habit

Eating is habitual, it’s something we do all the time. It’s expected that at some point during the day we’re going to consume food. When an employer provides the food it’s nice because we didn’t have to get the food ourselves, but some employers make a habit of bringing in donuts every Friday. In this case it’s no longer a surprise, it’s expected.

When we begin to expect something without having to do anything to earn it, it’s no longer a motivation.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t bring in donuts every Friday. It’s a very benevolent gesture, and one many employees probably appreciate, however, you shouldn’t expect it to motivate employees.

Employee recognition and rewards are essential to getting your employees to engage with their work. When you effectively recognize and reward employees for their efforts you motivate them to continue the desired behavior. However, motivating through food alone won’t produce the results most employers are looking for: increased productivity, improved efficiency, and great results.  To properly motivate employees, you need to consider their internal and external drivers. Food just isn’t a strong enough incentive to motivate these drivers.

If you’re looking for some effective ways to recognize your employees, check out Top 10 Ways to Recognize Employees, by Herd Wisdom.


Image: bigstock


5 Tips To Overcome Being Overwhelmed At Work

Work stresses people out. In fact, 1 million Americans call in sick over stress every day and 25% say work is the most stressful thing in their lives. The volume of work, urgency of quarter or year end, competing demands and the need to succeed can merge into a sensation of being overwhelmed. When we’re overwhelmed, we rarely do or deliver our best.

These five tips can help you reclaim control over your time and your experience so you achieve real results with less angst:

1. Organize for Lower-Stress Success

Eliminate stress and increase your odds of achieving your goals by 64% by writing down what you need to do to achieve goals. If you manage a team, insist on transparency on what each team member is doing, where their attention is focused and what their progress is. If you don’t have a tool to see progress on actions and goals yourself, do a morning check-in with the team to align scarce resources in the remaining days. With clarity and transparency, you’ll stop worrying about what isn’t getting done and have more time and the facts to use days efficiently and effectively.

2. Prioritize Ruthlessly

Not everything on your list or the team’s can — or even should — get done. Ruthlessly prioritize where your time and your team’s should go every morning for the rest of the year. Spend your energy on work that ties clearly and directly to your quarter or annual goals and metrics … in other words, those things that actually move the needle for you and your boss. Using the matrix below can help distinguish what matters and make it easier to stop doing and stressing about the rest.

3. Don’t Sacrifice Yourself

When you’re most busy and stressed out (and the weather is bad), it’s tempting to sacrifice exercise and other healthy habits — don’t. Exercise and healthy eating reduce stress and increase your productivity as well as your perceived happiness. In fact, 20 minutes of exercise several days a week improves your happiness and productivity every day of the week! So set aside time even if it’s indoor yoga, stretching or working your own stairwell.

4. Change Perspective If You Can’t Change Circumstances

Examine the root causes of stress and the sensation of being overwhelmed. Which are self-inflicted, which are external and which are your reaction to internal and external conditions? If you can change the circumstances, then set out a plan to effect those changes to create long-term improvement. If you can’t change the circumstances and situation, consider changing how you relate to them. Ask a trusted advisor to give you a candid assessment of where you could revamp your response and reaction to the situation and be open to what you hear. In more entrenched situations, consider a professional coach to help increase your capacity to execute and achieve under duress.

5. Lighten Up

When you find your anxiety or anger rising, stop what you’re doing to stop what you’re thinking. Take a short walk or stand, stretch and take a few deep breaths. Try a few “compassion breaths” to relax and lighten your perceived load:

  • Focus your attention on the sensation of anger, anxiety or stress — is it anxiety about lack of time, fear of failing or forgetting something critical?
  • Rather than shifting away from the sensation, hold it in your attention.
  • Now think about all the millions of people in the world you don’t know that have that same anxiety or worry.
  • Take a long inhale, imaging that you are breathing in the collective anxiety, anger or stress of those millions of people.
  • Exhale, imagining that you are breathing out calm, peace, success or the antidote to those worries to all who experience it, including yourself.
  • Repeat three times, deepening your breath and holding it in longer each time and being more genuine in the compassion you convey with each out breath.

At the end, your sense of being alone with pressure will be replaced with more compassion for yourself and others — and your load will be lighter.

Unfortunately, when you are overwhelmed is the most difficult time to break the cycle – but shifting to and building the habits of success is infinitely better than staying mired in overwhelm:

  • Set and share clear goals aligned with organization objectives
  • Allocate your efforts to achieving your goals above all else
  • Ensure you have the capacity to achieve goals operationally, emotionally, and physically

With more professional and personal capacity, you’ll feel and do great!

About the Author: Deidre Paknad is currently the CEO of Workboard, Inc. Workboard provides apps for managers and their teams to share goals, action items, status and feedback and to automate status reports and dashboards.

photo credit: adrian.coto via photopin cc

Why I Stopped Eating Lunch At My Desk

Let me start by saying I can be a bit of a workaholic. I’ve been known to check my work email at 10 p.m., stay late at work on a Friday, and even put in extra hours over the weekend. So, it comes as no surprise that I’ve taken many of my lunch hours sitting at my desk, working while I eat. I’m not alone in this either, as nearly 3/4 of Americans eat lunch at their desks. However, while I may still work overtime, I won’t eat lunch in my cubicle ever again. Here’s why:

1. Unhealthy Choices

If you have a lot of work on your plate, it often seems like eating while tackling your to-do list is the only option. However, eating while working often leads to making poor food choices, like eating snack foods left in the office kitchen, or ordering in an unhealthy lunch.

2. Productivity

While it may seem like sitting at your desk all day to work will help you accomplish more than you would taking a lunch break, the opposite is actually true. Working all day without taking any breaks can actually make you less creative and less productive and inevitably hit a rut. In order to be the most efficient, your mind needs to take breaks to recharge in the middle of your workday. While quick bathroom and water-cooler breaks can give your brain some time to relax, eating lunch away from your desk will definitely help you be more productive.

3. The Physical Effects

By now it’s no surprise how bad it is to sit at a desk all day. As being sedentary without pause for eight hours or more each day can wreak havoc on your body, taking a lunch break is absolutely vital. Taking this time in the middle of the day to walk around, stretch and just get away from your desk will no doubt improve your health.

4. Social Life

One of the many perks of taking a lunch break at work is being able to socialize with your colleagues. If you’re stuck behind your computer screen all day, chances are you won’t be able to talk with your co-workers (unless it’s via email). This can definitely cause unhappiness at work. Bortek Industries encourages its employees to take breaks together and often has team lunches to help people get to know each other. Taking the time to eat and socialize with your colleagues outside of the office, even if it’s once a week, can boost your mood and make the rest of your workday more bearable.

5. Eating Mindlessly

If you’ve ever watched a movie with a bowl of popcorn close by, you’ve likely eaten the entire bowl without even realizing it. The same phenomenon often happens at work when you feel forced to eat at your desk. Instead of portioning your bag of chips, you end up eating them all, creating poor food habits.

When it comes right down to it, there’s noting productive, healthy or helpful about eating lunch at the office. In fact, it’s purely a sacrifice of health and happiness, with zero gain. Knowing this, I may still hold onto my workaholic ways, but I definitely will never eat lunch at my desk again.

photo credit: MBK (Marjie) via photopin cc