Organizations have long considered employee wellness a priority. But in the wake of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever. Here’s why: 99% of organizations are facing talent challenges. And after years of disruption, workforce wellbeing is on especially shaky ground. Investing in wellness could go a long way to restore employee confidence and commitment.
Indeed, even before Covid, research found that when employers made workforce wellbeing a priority, they could significantly boost productivity and other key business metrics.
That’s why we asked HR and business leaders to answer the question: “What are some effective strategies to prioritize employee wellness?” From simple in-the-moment exercises to formal, ongoing programs, the answers are as diverse as the individuals who responded. Here are 12 of the best ideas we received:
- Involve Employees in Wellness Program Design
- Hire a Chief Wellbeing Officer
- Promote Integrative Breathing Practices
- Empower People to Embrace Healthy Eating Habits
- Suggest Simple Mental Fitness Routines
- Cultivate Better Communication Skills
- Encourage 5-Minute Clarity Breaks
- Check-in to Understand Wellness Needs
- Schedule Regular Health Screenings
- Train Managers in Soft Skills
- Conduct Employee Wellness Challenges
- Include Financial Wellness
To learn more about how your organization can make the most of these ideas, read the full responses below…
12 Ways to Make Employee Wellness a Priority
1. Involve Employees in Wellness Program Design
The most successful employee wellness programs address individual needs while supporting overall workforce health goals. Programs designed without employee input lead to low commitment and participation.
To avoid this, assess employee needs upfront to identify factors that influence their health. This helps you prioritize offerings that employees are likely to find worthwhile. It can also open the door to innovative ideas you might not otherwise consider.
As a baseline, conduct an anonymous organization-wide intake survey that asks employees to identify key wellness issues and objectives, as well as tools and resources they think can help them achieve their goals. If possible, also arrange face-to-face conversations or online public forums so people can discuss ideas with others if they choose.
Then use this input as a guide to define, develop, implement, promote and manage your initiatives. Continue to seek regular feedback. Also, be prepared to make modifications. This collaborative “continuous improvement” approach can lead to a more robust, effective program that both employees and management take pride in.
2. Hire a Chief Wellbeing Officer
Many companies are building more robust, healthy corporate cultures where employees feel valued and respected. But true corporate resilience requires an intentional, integrated effort. It starts with leadership’s commitment to improving and sustaining employee performance and wellbeing. And increasingly, we’re seeing this agenda as the primary responsibility of an emerging role: Chief Wellbeing Officer (CWO).
CWOs are not only the go-to person for all employee wellness issues. They also work in concert with other executive officers across the organization to lead by example, supporting an environment of openness, advocacy, shared values, and collective purpose.
In the wake of the pandemic, many CWOs are focusing heavily on burnout and its effects on individual wellness and performance. To address this complex issue, initiatives often integrate multiple elements, such as adjusted work policies, targeted educational workshops, 1:1 health/resilience coaching, enhanced mental health resources, break rooms, workout facilities, and more.
3. Promote Integrative Breathing Practices
Excessive stress has a negative impact on every functional system in the human body. So, for organizations to help employees achieve maximum health benefits, wellness efforts should be accessible to all and easy to integrate into daily habits. A thoughtful workforce breathing program can offer that kind of benefit.
Proper breathing techniques can improve physical health as well as productivity, creativity, and mental acuity. A holistic breathing program can improve employee health outcomes on an individual and team level while elevating overall workforce wellbeing. For lasting results, design, implement and maintain this program with a top-down, inside-out approach.
What does this look like? Make a lasting commitment to promoting effective breathing practices. And be sure to share progress so employees will want to continue this habit.
4. Empower People to Embrace Healthy Eating Habits
Everyone needs to eat, but some of us make better food choices than others. Educating employees about how to nourish themselves with smart nutritional habits can help them prevent chronic health conditions. It also improves work productivity, performance, and wellbeing.
Here’s a strategy for motivating employees to incorporate a healthy diet into their daily lives: Offer live cooking sessions with a health coach. Participants can taste nutritious alternative foods and learn how easy it can be to cook healthy meals. They can also find out how some foods reverse chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease in as little as eight weeks.
And here are bonus benefits: Research says that employees who eat together feel better, have more sustained energy, and are more engaged and productive at work.
5. Suggest Simple Mental Fitness Routines
Negative thought patterns can increase stress, which in turn, causes attention, engagement and productivity to decrease. But through education, you can help employees intercept these troubling thoughts, and shift to a positive mindset. People who consistently apply these techniques can strengthen their focus, improve their health and achieve peak performance.
When employees feel triggered by a conversation or stressed about a challenging workload, they can take a mental time-out and engage their senses for 10-15 seconds. Anyone can activate this mental “reset” process by focusing intently on a nearby object. Pay attention to its color, shape, texture and small defining details. Then shift focus away to a distant sound, such as a conversation, a ringing phone, or a passing car. Another helpful exercise is to slowly rub two fingers together for several seconds. Notice the temperature and texture of your skin as you move your fingertips.
These micro-meditations help shift your focus away from negative thought patterns and reduce unwanted stress.
6. Cultivate Better Communication Skills
As kids, we all learn how to talk. But sadly, very few of us are taught to communicate well. So as adults, we bring bad habits and patterns from those early years into our work lives. Even when we’re aware of these issues, many of us aren’t sure what we can do to achieve better results.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is one of the best toolkits for improving communication. By investing time to understand NLP, people can begin to recognize why they respond to situations the way they do. It also helps them listen to teammates to improve understanding, rather than listening to reply.
Everyone wants to be heard and understood. That’s why building these skills can work miracles for organizations that want to encourage better relationships among employees. By strengthening communication, teams can work effectively to grow a happier, more profitable organization.
7. Encourage 5-Minute Clarity Breaks
Here’s a simple strategy. Recommend that employees replace a daily coffee break with 5 minutes of meditation. This can reduce stress and anxiety while increasing focus, clarity, and productivity.
The process is simple to teach. Ask participants to set a timer, close their eyes, sit up straight, and keep both feet on the ground. Inhale deeply through the nose, hold that breath, and count to 7. Then exhale slowly through the mouth, relaxing the shoulders, belly, and hips. Keep your attention focused on your breath and repeat this cycle at least 5 times.
Simple, but not easy. The mind may wander, but when it does, just return to focusing on the rhythm of your breath. People who rely on this routine will soon look forward to these relaxing brakes. There is always time to grab coffee later!
8. Check-in to Understand Wellness Needs
Do you have a finger on the pulse of wellness in your organization? Take time to survey employees, so you can get a realistic sense of challenges that affect their health and wellbeing, and the kind of support they would appreciate. Even if your organization doesn’t have a large budget, this process can provide information that will help you focus your efforts where you can make the biggest impact.
If you don’t have resources to conduct a formal survey, start by integrating questions into existing processes, such as team meetings or performance reviews. The more you engage people in conversations about this, the more effective you can be.
9. Schedule Regular Health Screenings
With access to periodic onsite health screenings, employees can easily monitor their health and catch potential issues early on. Screenings can cover a range of health metrics, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Establishing this kind of baseline for each employee provides the information they need to define reasonable health goals.
Regular check-ins can also help motivate individuals to work toward positive change and remain accountable for managing their habits on an ongoing basis. Ultimately, prioritizing employee wellness through annual health screenings can lead to a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.
10. Train Managers in Soft Skills
Managers play a key role in ensuring that teams have a healthy work environment and access to resources that help them stay healthy and thrive. Organizations can help by ensuring that managers develop the soft skills needed to help employees manage their wellbeing.
Training managers in areas such as empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, collaboration, and adaptability helps them better understand team members and help them in their individual wellness journeys. Managers with effective soft skills are able to proactively support employees and provide a sense of belonging — both of which are important components of overall wellbeing.
11. Conduct Employee Wellness Challenges
Time-based activity routines can help individuals develop their fitness capabilities and create opportunities for friendly competition. For example, you can set-up step tracking tools and challenge employees to walk at least 10,000 steps a day for at least 15 days a month.
Reward participants who achieve this goal with a small perk. For instance, let “winners” leave work an hour early on any day they choose. Create a Wall of Fame to celebrate all monthly achievers. Over time, you can also recognize those who consistently meet challenge objectives.
Because these challenges are time-based, they can help employees structure their schedule more efficiently. They can even lead to improved efficiency and discipline in other aspects of their lives.
12. Include Financial Wellness
Few people enter the workforce with a robust financial education. Currently, four out of five workers live paycheck to paycheck. In fact, 76% of workers told PwC that financial worries negatively impact their productivity. And 55% of these employees spend 3 or more hours a week focusing on finances while at work.
For a happier, healthier, more productive workforce, smart employers are adding personalized financial education tools and resources to their overall wellness agenda. An emergency savings program can help. This makes it possible for employees to contribute a portion of their monthly income to a separate account designated for emergency funds. This not only relieves some money management concerns, but also can be a creative recruitment incentive that attracts higher-quality talent to your organization.