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Why Employees Need Leaders to Lead by Example

We bought mental health tools, but has everyone bought in? Many companies understand the importance of promoting mental health in the workplace. As a result, they have enacted programs and policies designed to put the well-being of their employees first. A recent MetLife survey found that at least 68% of respondents working at companies with more than 100 employees report having a wide range of programs designed to prevent mental health problems. 

To make the most significant impact, a sharper focus on support should become a key aspect of a company’s culture. But cultural values, and the effectiveness of any company initiative, can only be established with buy-in from all parts of the company – management especially. So now more than ever, employers seeking to improve employee mental health must first improve their understanding and involvement in mental health initiatives. 

This article will discuss the role managers play in employee well-being and how to lead by example. First, we’ll look at how employers can impact employees, both positively and negatively. Then we’ll examine how employers can maximize their positive impact as they lead by example.

Understand the Role Managers can Have on Employee Well-being

While most managers aim to support their employees, they may not be aware of how their managerial style can affect mental health. A 2020 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, & Health found that in workforces where leaders and managers whose “quality of leadership” has higher levels of traits perceived as fair, empowering, and supportive, employees have a lower risk of reporting mental distress. Similarly, teams that embody these same traits show a more “protective, prospective effect on employee mental health.” 

On the other hand, passive leadership predicts higher levels of role ambiguity, conflict, and overload – all of which lead to psychological work fatigue and have been shown to influence overall mental health negatively. 

Without a doubt, managers play a huge and direct role in the mental well-being of their employees. However, managers also play a more indirect role. The example they set for employees may increase – or inadvertently decrease – how likely they are to engage with mental health resources and initiatives. Employers that show little buy-in to health initiatives may unwittingly diminish the perceived importance of these programs, thereby limiting employee participation. The stigmas associated with mental health mean that many employees may not be initially willing to bring mental health conversations into their workplace. They may require the encouragement of their managers before they can do so. 

Support Your Employees and Lead by Example

HR professionals are acutely aware of leadership’s important role in bolstering workplace wellbeing. According to Unmind’s 2022 Mental Health Trends Report, 76% of HR professionals believe senior leadership needs to boost their well-being IQ. To drive real, long-lasting change, workplace leaders must work on supporting the policies they seek to implement. You can accomplish this by being seen modeling healthy behaviors, creating open channels of communication, and continuing to learn.

Model Healthy Behaviors

Modeling healthy behaviors can be one of the most effective ways to show your employees your commitment to mental health. Unfortunately, according to a recent MetLife survey, only 1 in 3 employees believed that their organizational leaders lead by example when it comes to mental health. This included sharing their difficulty with stress, burnout, depression, and other mental health problems. While it can be difficult to talk about personal mental health challenges, doing so is one of the best ways employers can continue to destigmatize mental wellbeing. 

Modeling healthy behaviors such as those described above, in conjunction with others such as establishing breaks, encouraging time off, and creating divisions between home and work can underscore leadership’s commitment to inclusivity and communication. Most importantly, doing so may give employees the push they need to open up about their issues, thereby allowing managers to help them or guide them to the resources they need. 

Create and Maintain Channels of Communication with Employees

Opening up about personal mental health is only one part of the solution. Managers must also strive to create and maintain open communication channels with their employees. This will help them feel comfortable sharing and ultimately resolving their challenges.

Encouraging discussion and openness is a critical component of supporting employees. But unfortunately, not everyone feels comfortable or has had a positive experience opening up.  A recent survey by Mind Share Partners found that less than 40% of employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work to other colleagues, their managers, and HR. Furthermore, only about half of the respondents (49%) described their experience as positive.

Managers must assure their employees that opening up about mental health will be met with support and care.. Letting them know that leadership is an ally in combating – rather than a contributing factor – to workplace stressors. The Mind Share report also found that employees who did feel supported by their employers were twice as likely to talk about their mental health at work. In addition, employees reported higher job satisfaction and were more likely to stay with their company. 

Keep Learning

Unfortunately, the ongoing shifts in workplace dynamics suggest that mental health in the workplace will only continue to garner importance. Despite this, most managers lack formal training on mental health issues, which means that even though employers might be willing to help and support employees, they may be unable to do so. 

Formal training sessions and making mental health support resources available to all levels of leadership will help employers deal with employee mental health more effectively. Training and support will also tell employees that their issues will be taken seriously.

In leading by example, employers are taking on a more dynamic and effective role in supporting employee wellbeing. While it may not always be easy, doing so is the best way to drive real change and create an open, healthy workplace where employees can thrive. 

How and Why to Honor Mental Health Awareness Month at Work

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

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

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

Connect the Great Resignation and Mental Health

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

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

Attrition and Unhappiness

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

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

Job Dissatisfaction Goes Deeper Than we Like to Admit

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

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

What Mental Health Really Means

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

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

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

Factoring in the Costs of Unhappiness

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

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

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

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

1. Invite full participation.

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

2. Make the month different.

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

3. Assess your mental health benefits.

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

4. Evaluate DEI in your work culture.

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

5. Check on the impacts of your workplace conditions.

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

6. Take the workforce’s pulse.

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

7. Check in with your managers.

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

8. Evaluate your recognition and rewards programs.

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

9. Bring in leadership for a workplace roundtable.

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

10. Track the results for the month.

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

Conclusion

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

10 Ideas To Make Mental Health Support More Accessible For Employees

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

Offer Mental Health Days

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

Annie Chopra, She TheQueen

Take Time to Communicate Benefits

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

Ben Eubanks, Lighthouse Research & Advisory

Provide Health Coaching Sessions

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

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

Ronel Kelmen, Attainable Transformation

Include Inspiring and Regenerating PTO Perks

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

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

Tina Hawk, GoodHire

Promote a Work-Life Balance

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

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

Mark Daoust, Quiet Light

Host Mental Health Fairs

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

Carly Hill, Virtual Holiday Party

Encourage the Use of Wellness Apps

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

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

Scott Lieberman, Touchdown Money

Foster a “Life Happens” Culture

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

Amrita Saigal, Kudos

Allow Flexible Work Schedules 

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

Breanne Millette, BISOULOVELY

Train Leaders to Create Inclusive Environments 

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

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

Dan Gissane, Huxo Creative

       

6 Employee Wellness Trends for 2020

We’re wrapping up 2019. It’s time to start planning for the New Year, and that means taking a close look at the issues around workforce wellness. Concepts of wellness, particularly employee wellness, are evolving, and in 2020 we’ll see a lot of organizations working to meet their employees’ needs better. Pay attention to these six employee wellness trends for 2020. I predict we will be hearing a lot about them.

The Concept of Wellness is Changing

The current multi-generational workforce is guiding the conversations around health and wellness in the workplace. Both Millennials and Generation Zs expect employers to invest in their health and wellbeing. According to research just published by ClassPass, “Seventy-five percent of professionals surveyed believe it is their employer’s responsibility to contribute to their health and wellbeing, ideally in part by providing wellness benefits to employees.”

But there’s a disparity between how employers and employees view access to health and wellness benefits. According to a study published by Aetna, 70% of employers believe they provide reasonable access to health and wellness benefits, while only 23% of employees agree. Additionally, the study found that 82% of workers across the globe are concerned that mental health issues could impact their ability to work. But only 25% of employees feel their organizations provide enough support for mental health conditions.

I’ve been writing in the HR space for years about the importance of a healthy workforce — and that means revising health and wellness programs to better meet new workforce realities. Let’s take a closer look at what some of these are:

1. Holistic benefits: Holistic benefits plans will become more readily available. Holistic benefits plans are constructed to address all aspects of care, including mind and body components. Managing mental health conditions such as stress and depression will be increasingly commonplace, extending, in some plans, to assistance with financial stressors such as college loan payments.

More companies will approach health insurance and employee benefits with an eye toward investing in both benefits and people. Those who take this direction will be focusing on the impact this has on metrics, including employee retention, productivity, workforce attraction, and company culture. “High-value options and technologies are increasingly defining and shaping holistic employee benefit programs,” according to Workforce.com.

Employees want health and wellness benefits options that fit their needs and lives, and statistics bear that out. In MetLife’s 2019 Employee Benefit Trends Study, 55% of those surveyed said they would be more interested in working for a company offering holistic benefits. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they would be more loyal to a company providing those benefits, while 52% stated they believed they would be more successful in both work and life with access to holistic benefits. Generation Z and Millennial employees rated holistic benefits as slightly more important (57% versus 52%) in their responses.

2. Equal benefits for alternative families and identities: Ensuring that alternative families have access to equal benefits will be a significant shift moving into 2020. Examples of this may include people who are caring for extended family members or elderly parents, have blended families, or are part of an LGBTQ+ community. We will see organizations begin to explore the feasibility of expanding family leave policies to provide new parents of both sexes access to flex-time policies.

3. A focus on mental health and stress reduction benefits: Stress harms overall mental health and employee engagement, so we’ll see more organizations build stress-reduction activities into their employee wellness programming. Many companies are already offering on-site, face-to-face wellness coaching, mindfulness courses, and individual therapy.

As the ClassPass survey findings illustrate, people believe their employers should contribute to their health and wellbeing. Eighty-eight percent of the survey’s respondents stated they would be more likely to recommend an employer who supports their wellbeing efforts.

4. Adventure and social good programs: Companies are adding programs like these to their employee wellness programs, which allow employees to give back by volunteering time and services. Salesforce has a fantastic program, offering its “citizen philanthropists” seven days of paid Volunteer Time Off, among other social good options. This type of initiative appeals to younger workers, and we’ll see an increase in the implementation of adventure and social good programming.

5. Expanding financial wellness programs for all employees: Going beyond the lunchtime seminars and offering in-house financial counseling and programs targeted to individual employees’ needs. Most firms will have employees ranging in age from those just entering the workforce to a cohort facing retirement. Financial wellness program possibilities are endless, from payday loans using alternative “currencies” like hours or vacation time, tuition reimbursement and student loan pay-down assistance, to credit counselors and financial concierge services. Financial stress takes a massive toll on productivity in the workplace. Savvy employers understand that whatever costs they incur expanding financial wellness programs, they will reap back two-fold.

6. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict evolving employee needs and benefits investments better: AI is already creating more personalized experiences for employees. Its use is allowing companies to leverage data to tweak and adjust their wellness programs, resulting in a better user experience based on the employees’ preferences and wellness goals, as well as reduced overall corporate costs through fine-tuning. You’ll see more of this in the coming year. Watch for AI that monitors the use of emojis in internal messaging systems such as Slack, allowing organizations to gauge employee satisfaction and handle issues before they get out of hand.

Evaluating Your Own Workplace Wellness Culture

Employers need to keep pace with these changes. I’d suggest we commit to conducting a yearly review of our workplace wellness cultures. Annual reviews are essential to help organizations stay abreast of changing technology, societal conditions, and worker satisfaction levels. Your review should factor in metrics like productivity and employee engagement. Afterward, plan to adjust your programs in response to the results. You might even try experimenting with corporate culture shifts such as flex-time or remote-work options — which are certainly related to wellness, as more of us are starting to find out.

Here’s looking at a healthy and happy 2020. Cheers!

Addressing Burnout: Protecting Employees for the Future

Although some believe new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) will push humans out of the workforce in the future, the fact remains that humans are working more now than they ever have—due, in large part, to technology itself. With the rise of mobility comes the rise of accessibility—an “always-on” and “always-connected” culture that is pushing many Americans over the edge when it comes to work/life balance. In fact, Harvard Business Review recently published an article showing that psychological and physical conditions of burned out employees cost between $125 billion and $190 billion in healthcare spending each year. Nearly half of human resources (HR) professionals attribute up to 50 percent of employee turnover to burnout. In business terms, that’s not just a problem—it’s an epidemic.

I remember the first time—long ago—that I was given a business cell phone. Although it made me feel pretty important at the time, I later learned just how invasive it was to have anyone from work call me anywhere, at any time. That’s nothing compared to what employees in the digital landscape are experiencing.

Although mobility is offering an increasing number of employees the flexibility to work remotely, it’s also increasing expectations of how accessible employees need to be. Reports show that more than 80 percentof employees have responded to work emails while on vacation, and nearly 90 percent believe it’s OK to call or text someone outside of work hours. If your company is drowning in burnout and overwhelm, you’re not alone. But you’d do well to follow the recommendations below to reverse the trend before turnover and stress-related illness start robbing you of productivity and talent.

Evaluate Your Culture

I could argue that almost every issue in the digital workplace today is first and foremost an issue of culture. That is absolutely the case where burnout is concerned. Are there lots of last-minute, harried deadlines? Extensive approval processes? Do executives often work late hours and contact employees during the evenings and weekends? Would an employee feel awkward leaving work at a normal time—even though they weren’t specifically warned against it? If so, you’ve got a definite culture problem.

Model Healthful Behavior

Perhaps the easiest way to alleviate burn-out: stop burning out yourself. Employees will generally seek to model the behavior of those who lead them. If they see their bosses working all weekend or through the evening, they will often feel compelled to do it, too—even just for fear of losing their position. Help ease their concerns by taking regular breaks throughout the day, communicating hours of unavailability, and communicating about the importance of your own hobbies, family, and personal experiences in your own life.

Engage Employees in the Process

If you want a happy and engaged workforce, you need to actually engage them in the policies and processes that create your work environment. Talk to them about how deadlines are set, collaboration is performed, and the number of meetings and calls they have throughout the day. Those things are easy to fix, and are far easier to remedy than health issues or a mass employee exodus. Further, rather than assuming that 24/7 “on-time” is the norm, encourage employees to post “off times” when they will be completely unavailable—including vacation.

Know How Many is Too Many

One of my friends worked for a large electricity provider that was filled to the gills with collaborative projects, lengthy and complex review process, and a general issue of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Once, she noted that a boss had asked five employees to work on a draft of one single email—an email that could have been handled in less than an hour if delegation and trust had been properly placed. As a manager, know how many employees, meetings—and opinions—are too many, and establish a culture of trust so that you can delegate effectively.

Making Health and Well-being Part of Your Daily To-Do List

It is a leader’s responsibility to make sure that employees know how to balance work and life. At one Fortune 500 company, employees engage in “homeroom meetings” every morning to gauge the individual work levels, discuss who needs help for the day, and discuss any other issues, including personal overwhelm. Getting those issues out in the open—and knowing employees will be supporting when expressing them—will go a long way in preventing burnout for your team.

Technology is here to help us—not hurt us. But we are the only ones that can set our own healthy limits to ensure that it is used safely. “Always on” isn’t always good—and it’s time we all start recognizing it.

Additional Articles on This Topic:
How Data is Driving Employee Burnout—And What to Do About It
Enterprise Mobility: Eliminating the Need for Traditional Offices
Tackling Collaborative Overload in Your Organization

Photo Credit: ericwilson2214 Flickr via Compfight cc

This article originally appeared on Future of Work.

The Road to Well-Being Begins With “Getting” Your Employees

New research from the National Business Group on Health reinforces what we’ve been observing for quite some time—that a growing number of employers are broadening their definition of wellness to include dimensions of well-being beyond physical health. Employers are increasingly looking at employee health from a whole-person view, recognizing its physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions.

Recognizing that the definition of employee health has expanded, we must look at all dimensions when we consider the health of an employee. For example, people might be facing a challenge in a part of their life that is preventing them from regularly exercising or eating well.

At HealthFitness, we adapt the way we work with each participant and client community, which leads to sustainable healthy actions for more of our clients’ employee populations. We refer to this as Well-doingsm for more people.

We don’t limit ourselves to the physical dimensions of health. When we develop a health management program, we do it so we can engage individuals where they want support—whether it’s social, emotional, environmental and/or the financial dimensions. And we recognize that while the dimensions of well-being are critical, a key component is the delivery—how you empower employees to pay attention and ultimately take action.

Demonstrating the engagement value

The Consumer Health Mindset Report also notes the emphasis employees place on the engagement value. This is when an employee feels respected and appreciated by their employer. The employees think to themselves—and hopefully say to their colleagues—“this place gets me.”

Yet, when it comes to engaging employees in their health—actually “getting” them—employers still need help and must recognize the obstacles in engaging employees. The reality is that exercise is hard and we need to acknowledge this upfront. You can design a great wellness program—foster what we refer to as a culture of health—but at the end of the day the employees will be the ones who need to lace up their sneakers and take that first step.

When we partner with our clients, we ask them to consider the following questions about their employees: What drives them? What are their risk factors?

Then we start digging deeper, looking at specific risk factors and how this varies within the employee population. Having this information enables us to develop a wellness program with the aim of keeping employees healthy.

Tips for increasing employee education and communication

The best thing you as an employer can do to maintain a healthy workforce is to increase education and communication efforts with your employees about your wellness program. For example:

  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Time and resources are limited. Focus on where you can make an impact.
  • Be flexible; be willing to adjust an approach if it isn’t generating the results you want.
  • Remember that lasting change takes time and requires people, tools and processes working in concert.
  • Take a strategic approach—begin with the end in mind.

It’s ultimately very rewarding to think that our work can have a positive impact on employees—not just on their physical health, but their emotional health and how they interact with their co-workers, family and friends.

We can essentially help change how employees go about their lives. But we first need to gain a sense of where the employees want to go, so we can show them the most effective way to get there.

A version of this post was first published on the HealthFitness blog.

Image credit: StockSnap.io