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How to Choose the Perfect Wellness Incentive Provider

In today’s competitive post-pandemic world of work, HR and business leaders recognize that employee wellbeing is a must-have for a strong, successful organizational culture. This is why wellness incentives have emerged as a powerful tool to attract and retain top talent.

By enhancing employee morale and engagement, strong wellness incentives help boost retention and productivity. Ultimately, company performance improves, as well. What else should you consider about wellness incentives? Take a closer look:

Understanding the Power of Wellness Incentives

In recent years, the number of people struggling to manage mental, physical, and emotional health has risen dramatically. Naturally, these issues are spilling over into our professional lives. As a result, most employers no longer treat wellness programs as optional perks. Instead, many organizations now consider wellness programs a strategic investment that fosters employee wellbeing and organizational growth.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. Studies show that a healthy workforce is more engaged and productive. In fact, companies with carefully designed wellness programs experience lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism, and higher employee satisfaction levels.

What’s more, a holistic approach to wellness (integrating physical, mental, and emotional health), demonstrates that people are valued as individuals. This resonates deeply with employees, who increasingly place work-life balance and personal wellbeing above other priorities.

But all wellness solutions aren’t created equal. So what does it take to find a wellness incentive provider that meets your particular needs? Here are steps that lead to successful outcomes:

7 Steps to Find the Ideal Wellness Incentive Provider

1. Identify Your Organization’s Needs

As you embark on a journey to select a wellness incentive provider, it’s crucial to assess your organization’s specific challenges and requirements. Start by defining your wellness requirements based on factors such as company size, employee demographics, industry practices, and standard wellness program benchmarks.

However, it helps to dig deeper. You can pinpoint specific issues that need attention by gathering intelligence from multiple internal sources. For example, conducting surveys, analyzing health data, and gathering ongoing employee feedback, can provide the insights you need to better reflect employees’ concerns and interests.

Whether you focus on reducing stress, promoting physical activity, or supporting mental health, staff input can align your wellness initiatives with their priorities as well as your organization’s mission and values.

2. Evaluate Potential Providers

The market for wellness incentive providers has grown substantially in recent years, so the number of available choices may seem overwhelming. However, not all providers are created equal. You’ll want to thoroughly research potential partners to ensure your organization reaps all the benefits you want to gain from a wellness program.

Because first-hand experience can offer valuable insights, it’s a smart move to ask trusted peers and industry networks for recommendations. Once you have a reasonable shortlist, take the time to investigate each provider’s expertise, reputation, and track record in delivering effective employee wellness solutions.

It helps to develop a qualification scorecard mapped to your organization’s priorities. For example, consider factors such as the range of services each vendor offers, as well as their ability to customize programs, their technology capabilities, and the level of customer support they provide.

3. Tailor Your Program Offerings

Today’s workforce is increasingly diverse. Team members bring a variety of interests, backgrounds, and needs to the table. That’s why one size does not fit all when it comes to wellness incentives.

A successful program offers a menu of options that cater to these differences. For instance, while some employees might be motivated by fitness challenges and step competitions, others may benefit more from mindfulness workshops or nutrition seminars.

The right provider should be able to craft a program that resonates with your employees and encourages broad participation. By recognizing and responding to individual preferences, you create a more inclusive and effective wellness initiative that will appeal to a spectrum of employees.

4. Consider Technology and User Experience

In today’s digital age, technology plays a pivotal role in the success of wellness programs. In fact, a highly accessible, user-friendly platform can make or break program adoption, engagement, and momentum. The wellness incentive provider you choose should offer a seamless digital experience that simplifies program enrollment, participation, and progress tracking.

Whatever technologies are at the heart of your program — mobile apps, wearable devices, online platforms — should be intuitive and easy to navigate. This helps employees develop a sense of empowerment and motivates them to integrate wellness activities into their lives. A provider with robust, well-designed technology can ensure that wellness becomes an integral part of employees’ daily routine, rather than a chore.

5. Prioritize Culture Fit and Communication

A wellness incentive program should seamlessly integrate with your organizational culture and values. Look for a provider that understands your company’s ethos and is prepared to design initiatives that resonate with your workforce.

Effective communication is a linchpin of these programs. The provider you choose should help you craft compelling communication strategies to raise awareness, engage employees, and drive participation. Working hand-in-hand, you can develop and deliver regular updates, newsletters, and workshops that create a sense of community and enthusiasm around wellness, fostering an environment where people feel fully supported and valued.

6. Measure and Demonstrate ROI

To secure buy-in from stakeholders and justify your investment in wellness incentives, it’s imperative to measure and demonstrate return on investment (ROI). Establish clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your organization’s objectives.

Be prepared to track metrics such as increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, decreased absenteeism, and improved employee morale. The right wellness incentive provider will assist you in collecting and analyzing data, offering insights into the tangible benefits your organization reaps from the program. Effective data-driven reporting not only showcases your program’s success but also guides future adjustments for even better outcomes.

7. Don’t Forget Contract Terms and Pricing

When finalizing your partnership with any wellness solution provider, pay careful attention to the contract terms and pricing structure they offer. A fair, transparent contract ensures a fruitful relationship that benefits both parties. Focus on these factors:

  • Negotiate agreements that align with your budget and long-term goals. Inquire about any hidden costs that might arise during program implementation or expansion.
  • Also, keep scalability in mind. As your organization grows, your wellness program should have the flexibility to adapt and accommodate a larger workforce without disproportionately increasing costs.

A Final Note on Wellness Solution Providers

In the evolving landscape of workplace trends, wellness programs have become a cornerstone of employee satisfaction and organizational success. By understanding the power of wellness incentives, identifying your organization’s specific needs, and carefully evaluating potential partners, you set the stage for a program that will enhance employee wellbeing and elevate business performance.

Through tailored wellness programs that cater to diverse employee preferences and effectively leverage digital technology, you can create an environment where wellbeing is not just a buzzword but a shared commitment. In addition, by ensuring a strong cultural fit, incorporating ongoing communication, and measuring ROI, you will strengthen your program’s foundation, so your organization can successfully foster employee wellbeing now and in the future.

Grind Culture Isn’t Working. How Can Wellness Win?

TalentCulture Content Impact Award Winner - 2023

The Problem With Grind Culture

In recent years, “hustle” and “grind” culture have become equated with drive, ambition, and success. The logic is that if you are not incessantly working, you won’t meet your goals. Grind culture also ties a person’s worth to the product they produce. However, it comes at the expense of individual wellbeing.

The fact is, hustle and grind culture can seriously damage long-term physical and mental health. Often, people don’t even recognize how toxic grind culture can be until it directly erodes their own wellbeing.

Grind culture is especially prevalent in the corporate world. For example, a Deloitte study found that employees and C-suite executives, alike, feel exhausted and stressed. Specifically, about 1 in 3 people say they constantly struggle with fatigue and poor mental health.

Regardless, leaders are far more optimistic than employees about how their organizations are managing this challenge. For example, while only 56% of employees think executives care about their wellbeing, a whopping 91% of leaders say employees know they care.

This gap is causing companies to perpetuate grind culture at the expense of everyone’s health and wellbeing. Over time, overwhelming work-at-all-costs environments lead to multiple unwanted outcomes:

  • Increased stress, absenteeism, and burnout
  • Decreased productivity, quality, and job performance
  • Higher turnover rates

How can employers reverse this kind of toxic spiral — or avoid it altogether? First, let’s look at why workplace wellness is so powerful. Then, we’ll explore some ways that business and HR leaders can take proactive steps to squash toxic grind culture.

Benefits of Prioritizing Wellness

What is Wellness?

The terms wellbeing and wellness are often used interchangeably to describe a person’s overall physical, emotional, and mental health. But these concepts aren’t synonymous. Gallup explains the difference:

  • Wellness is “a healthy lifestyle beyond acute illness” that is shaped by cumulative lifestyle choices and habits.
  • Wellbeing, on the other hand, “encompasses the broader holistic dimensions of a well-lived life.” This includes physical, career, financial, social, and community wellbeing.

So, wellness is only one element of wellbeing — but it is a vital element. It’s also important to recognize that the various aspects of wellness are interconnected. In other words, if our mental, physical, or emotional health deteriorates in some way, other aspects of our health will be affected. Ultimately, this jeopardizes overall wellbeing.

The habits we adopt inside and outside of work directly influence our ability to feel good and perform at our best each day. And because most of us spend our waking hours on the job, employers need to prioritize workplace wellness and wellbeing.

The Business Case for Wellness

Employees who feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally are likely to have a positive attitude that fosters trust and collaboration – two hallmarks of a healthy work culture. But there are tangible benefits, as well. Primarily:

1. Decreased Health-Related Costs

Stress and burnout aren’t constant threats when you structure and manage work in a reasonable way. This helps employees find the necessary mental and physical energy to show up, concentrate, and contribute on a consistent basis. Certainly, it’s essential to offer healthcare support and personal time off. But happy, healthy, engaged employees don’t rely as heavily on these benefits. As a result, you’re likely to see fewer sick days, leaves of absence, and chronic conditions.

2. Increased Productivity

Employees who feel healthy, safe, and supported are significantly more productive. When people don’t feel overscheduled, overwhelmed, or micromanaged, they’re free to focus on doing their best during work hours. This improves efficiency, effectiveness, and quality — which together can elevate your bottom line.

3. Reduced Recruiting Costs

A healthier work culture leads to lower turnover. This translates into lower recruiting and training expenses that would otherwise be spent on replacing and onboarding lost talent. A culture of wellness also elevates your employer brand, which means you can attract and hire new talent more quickly, easily, and cost-effectively when the need arises.

How to Promote Workforce Wellness

Managers and HR leaders play a key role in guiding “grind culture” employees toward a culture of wellness. Whether your organization is big or small, everyone will need to be willing to help foster an environment where employees feel supported.

Here are 5 ways to replace grind culture with a healthier work environment:

1. Sufficient Paid Time Off

Taking time away from work is essential for mental rejuvenation. It promotes self-care and helps prevent burnout, which can be detrimental to individuals, teams, and the organization at large. Giving employees the autonomy to use their paid time off as they see fit demonstrates trust, which in turn, builds a strong employer-employee relationship and a healthy work culture.

To determine how much time off to provide, consider multiple scenarios: sick days, vacations, flexible days for caregiving or other personal needs, and an option for unpaid days when paid time off is depleted.

2. Flexible Schedules and Breaks

Although most businesses must operate during specific hours, the traditional 9-to-5 model is not for every employee. Consider scheduling that accommodates various personal responsibilities and lifestyles.

For example, you could let people choose their preferred daily start time — such as anytime between 8-10 a.m. — as long as they work the total required daily hours. By staggering start and end times, you can support different schedules and increase productivity. At the same time, your business can extend its hours of operation, which can improve your customer experience and top-line performance.

In addition, consider flexible break times. Some employees want a 60-minute lunch break, while others may prefer multiple shorter breaks throughout the day. Letting people decide how to allocate their break time isn’t likely to hurt your business. Instead, this flexible approach can boost morale, improve productivity, and help employees feel trusted.

3. Appropriate Equipment

Providing employees with the right tools and equipment is important for wellness. Whether they are working in an office or from home, when people have everything they need to function smoothly, they’ll be more comfortable and efficient.

This can include ergonomic chairs, dual monitors, adjustable desks, specialized software, or tools. Regardless, ensuring that people have easy access to the right equipment can reduce physical strain and mental stress, while promoting productivity.

4. Embrace “Work From Anywhere” and Flexible Hours

The recent remote work trend demonstrates that many jobs can be performed from anywhere. Offering a “work from anywhere” policy can reduce commute-related stress and personal expenses while giving employees an opportunity to choose the work setting that best suits their goals and preferences.

Letting employees work from home is especially attractive for parents who want to stay close to their young children throughout the day. But this kind of flexibility appeals to others as well. Many employers are finding that it dramatically improves job satisfaction, work quality, productivity, and retention.

5. Regular 1-on-1 Check-ins

Mandated check-ins by supervisors can play a pivotal role in gauging employee wellbeing. Project updates and deliverables are important. But it’s also essential to gather feedback about employee mental and physical wellness and work concerns.

By ensuring that managers regularly communicate with team members in a relaxed setting, you can help them identify issues earlier and address concerns head-on. It’s helpful to let employees determine the meeting agenda and remind managers that their mission is to listen and follow up on a timely basis.

Embed Priorities In a Wellness Policy

To demonstrate your company’s commitment, you’ll want to document your workforce wellbeing agenda and procedures in a formal policy. This gives the HR team responsibility for enforcement, support, and guidance as managers and employees navigate things such as time off requests.

Also, when these recommendations are formally documented, it ensures that employees won’t be reprimanded by managers or leaders who may want to choose short-term project deadlines or deliverables over employee wellness.

Lead by Example

Above all, for a culture of wellness to take hold, managers at all levels of the organization need to lead by example. It sets a positive precedent if managers take vacations, take sick days when needed, and show compassion towards team members.

Also, understanding that employee wellness isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor, it’s important to remain open to suggestions. By welcoming novel ideas and exhibiting genuine interest in collaborating with team members, managers create an environment where wellness is not just encouraged but actively practiced.

By implementing clear policies and fostering open communication, you can ensure that your most valuable asset — your employees — are happier, healthier, and more engaged. It’s an investment that’s well worth the effort.

How to Boost Workforce Mental Health, Even on a Budget

In today’s fractured, post-pandemic world, workforce mental health has emerged as a critical concern for business and HR leaders — and with good reason. The urgency of this issue is reflected in staggering statistics from multiple sources. For instance:

  • Last year, 56% of global employees told Gallup they struggle with stress and wellbeing, while another 9% said they were suffering.
  • That same Gallup research reveals particularly troubling trends in the U.S. Since 2021, the proportion of those who are struggling increased from 38% to 45%, while suffering rose from 2% to 4%. At the same time, those are thriving dropped from 60% to 52%.
  • The business consequences of this malaise are significant. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays a year, at a cost to employers of $17 to $44 billion.

No wonder workforce mental health has become a pressing concern among business leaders. For instance, when Willis Towers Watson asked U.S. employers to identify their top priorities for the next three years, a whopping 67% replied, “Enhancing mental health and emotional wellbeing programs and solutions.” This means leaders are just as concerned about this as they are about the cost of managing their company’s healthcare plan!

Unfortunately, despite widespread interest in addressing this challenge, many organizations are operating on tighter budgets these days. As a result, it’s difficult for employers to offer effective workforce wellbeing solutions.

However, cost issues aren’t stopping resourceful HR teams from moving forward. In my role at HealthFitness, I work with a variety of companies that have developed budget-friendly strategies to address employee mental health challenges. To learn about some of the most successful approaches I’ve seen, read on…

5 Low-Cost Ways to Support Workforce Mental Health

1. Innovate to Avoid a High Price Tag

Some companies are relying on their creativity to support mental wellbeing without breaking the bank. For instance: One tech firm has introduced a “Days for Me” program that lets every employee choose four days a year to focus on self-care.

Another company in the biopharmaceutical industry has implemented a “Mental Health Ally Program.” The program features Mental Health First Aid training that helps employees recognize and respond to colleagues’ needs. Specficially, through scenarios and videos, this skills-based certification course teaches employees a 5-step action plan, so they can identify and address signs of mental health and substance use issues. The certification is valid for three years and can be renewed online. This makes it easy for people to develop important knowledge and skills they can continue to apply as they move forward in their careers.

2. Optimize Employee Assistance Programs

I also see organizations expanding existing employee assistance program (EAP) benefits so they can improve access to valuable mental health support. For example, some employers are shifting to on-site EAP services so access to help is more convenient.

Others are increasing the number of covered EAP appointments they offer each year. One energy company we work with has increased covered EAP appointments from 5 to 8 per year, per household. This simple step gives employees more options at a minimal additional cost to the company.

3. Sponsor Company-Wide Time Off for Wellness

Dedicating paid time off for all employees to focus on mental health is a particularly powerful way to encourage workforce wellbeing. Plus, when everyone is out of the office at the same time, people are less likely to become anxious about work piling up in their absence.

You may be familiar with some tech industry companies that have implemented variations on this concept, such as Global Wellness Days, Global Shutdowns, or No Meeting Fridays. The options are endless, but the point is to provide the entire workforce with designated opportunities to recharge and prioritize self-care. By encouraging this kind of behavior across the organization, employers are cultivating a culture that values work-life balance and mental wellbeing.

4. Design Stress-Reducing Spaces

Another low-cost idea — establish special areas in the workplace that help employees decompress and mitigate stress. For instance, some employers are setting up de-stress stations in common areas with puzzles, games, and mindfulness activities. These spaces offer employees a convenient place to relax and unwind when they need a break.

One company provides an on-site dog park for employees, so their trusty companions have room to roam during the workday. Other organizations offer designated meditation areas with comfortable seating, restful lighting, and minimal distractions, so people can take some time to calm their minds when they feel anxious or overwhelmed.

These simple measures are effective at enhancing employee wellbeing and productivity. Yet they don’t require a significant financial investment.

5. Lead by Example

Finally, it probably goes without saying, but HR and business leaders play a crucial role in championing workforce mental health. Of course, offering mental health benefits is important. But the most compelling way to advocate for wellbeing is to lead by example.

Increasingly, leaders are engaging people in honest discussions about mental health at work. By sharing their own stories, they can inspire employees to prevent, detect, manage, and resolve work-related stress, anxiety, burnout, and other challenges. And by making mental resilience and self-care a personal priority, they help others recognize how important these issues are.

Ultimately, by demonstrating a genuine commitment to wellbeing and fostering a supportive work environment, leaders can set the tone for the entire organization.

A Final Note on Workforce Mental Health

Addressing mental and emotional wellbeing on a limited budget is an ongoing challenge — there’s no doubt about it. However, smart organizations are seeing results by making the most of the resources they already have. It may involve something as simple as establishing spaces for stress reduction, adding a new course to educate employees about mental health support, or offering designated time off for self-care. Regardless, even small steps can help organizations make big strides.

Mental health challenges may be on the rise. But many organizations are discovering that it’s possible to develop a healthier, happier, more productive workplace, even when budgets are tight. Real progress starts when HR and business decision-makers take the lead in demonstrating a commitment to workforce mental health and building a supportive culture. How is your organization responding to this need?

More People are Tuning in to Music at Work. Why?

TalentCulture Content Impact Award Winner - 2023
Music is a great unifier. In our private lives, shared tunes always have a way of bringing people together to sing, dance, laugh and socialize. Now, we’re hearing more music at work, as well. Why? Multiple factors are driving this increasingly popular way of enhancing today’s work environments.

In the past, employees became accustomed to hunkering down at their desks and “Takin’ Care of Business,” as the 70’s song says. But things are different now. These days, employers are looking for fresh ways to draw employees back to the office, get them connected, and keep them engaged with work.

This is why we see growing interest in interactive jukebox music experiences like TouchTunes Unlimited. By offering easy access to a customized work soundtrack, employers can improve performance while simultaneously enhancing company culture.

Imagine how you could boost morale by inviting employees to collaborate on a digital jukebox playlist. And then think about how uplifting it would be when teams gather and connect around this modern workplace watercooler.

It’s a simple way to lighten the mood, while improving productivity throughout the workday. Here are the top ways music in the workplace can leave a lasting impact on your employees and your company culture:

Biggest Benefits of Music at Work

1. Music Boosts Productivity

With 8 hours in a traditional workday, 40 hours in a typical work week, and 52 weeks in each year, staying productive at work can sometimes feel like an uphill climb. Even with flexible work schedules and hybrid work models, many people are back in the office on a regular basis. But staying focused and on task for hours each day isn’t easy.

Interestingly, the 8-hour workday hasn’t always been a standard. In fact, similar to the current push for a 4-day workweek, the 8-hour workday started in the early 1900s as a way to make work more sustainable for factory employees who often worked 10-16 hours a day.

Of course, no matter how much time people spend at work, it’s important to make every hour as productive as possible. And sometimes, it takes extra creativity to keep teams energized and motivated. This is where it helps to play music at work..

For instance, pop songs not only spark a little toe-tapping, but they also motivate us to step up our work pace. In fact, research shows that 58% of data-entry team members work faster when listening to pop music.

Also, playing music in a shared workspace encourages more frequent breaks throughout the day. A quick dance break fills the moments between meetings. A certain song sparks a bit of chatter about fond memories. A brief discussion about which song the jukebox should play next. Then, people get back to business.

These “microbreak” moments aren’t a waste of time. They’re an easy way to boost productivity without disrupting work flow. In fact, research shows that our minds perform better when we switch between focused and unfocused mental states. This can actually spark more creativity and improve decision-making.

2. Music Reduces Stress

Creating a business environment where employees have a healthy work-life balance is crucial now. In the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic, millions of workers have walked away from jobs, searching for something different.

In response, employers are stepping up and focusing on workforce retention. Mental health has become a top priority because it directly influences employee wellbeing and job satisfaction. In fact, 78% of survey respondents told Mental Health America that work stress affects their mental health.

Music is proven to have a profound effect on mind and body. For example, Stanford researchers found that slow, soothing melodies and tempos reduce stress levels by quieting the mind. This kind of music also relaxes our muscles and shifts our mood away from feelings of anxiety.

3. Music Combats Isolation and Fosters Connection

We live in a world where digital tools, social media and instantaneous communication surround us. Yet, with many people still working remotely or on a hybrid schedule, employees are experiencing more loneliness than ever. In fact, one study found that 72% of workers feel lonely at least once a month, and 55% experience loneliness on a weekly basis.

It’s time to encourage human connection and collaboration by using technology more creatively. This is especially important now, because many people are seeking more meaning from their work. For instance, McKinsey says 70% of employees believe their work should bring a significant sense of purpose to their lives.

Increasingly, people are turning to collaboration tools to stay more connected with others. In fact, Gartner found 80% of workers rely on collaboration tools, up 44% since 2019. But as your organization implements new software and systems to keep employees connected and engaged, consider looking beyond the computer screen.

Music at work has the power to bring people together in meaningful and memorable ways. The sound of favorite tunes from a blend of genres — rock, country, pop, Latin and hip hop — do more than stir our emotions. They create a common language that can define and reinforce any company culture for the better.

This is why I suggest that employers ditch the isolation of earbuds and hiding in cubicles for hours on end. Instead, invite teams to participate in selecting music that will motivate them throughout the day.

What better way to foster genuine human connection than a digital jukebox, available to all whenever the mood strikes? The fun of music at work can revitalize coffee breaks, lunch time and group meetings, when employees come together and bond over their favorite songs.

Final Thoughts on Music at Work

Music certainly has its place at work. It deserves to be shared, enjoyed and powered by employees who sometimes spend 40 hours (or more) each a week together in an office, warehouse, retail store, or other work environment.

Digital entertainment solutions are bringing the music people love to the modern workplace. The concept is simple. The impact is real. When you invite music into your workspace, everyone who listens can benefit.

Cognitive Decline at Work: Employers, Are You Prepared?

Cognitive decline is a tricky subject. It can be caused by a variety of factors – from natural aging to hypothyroidism to Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, the symptoms are treatable and reversible. But in other cases, cognitive struggles indicate the onset of a serious underlying illness that will eventually become debilitating. Either way, working alongside a person with cognitive issues can be difficult. It’s okay to admit that.

But what can you do to support someone who suffers from increased confusion, memory loss, a shorter attention span, or other cognitive challenges? And how can you minimize safety risks that could harm that individual or others on their team?

Putting People First

Let’s start with mindset. Sweeping generalizations and business rules aren’t helpful when addressing specific cases of cognitive decline. Mental capacity is a sensitive issue. Therefore, tact and prudence are of utmost importance when discussing this topic.

Every situation is complex and unique. It requires awareness of an individual’s industry, organization, job responsibilities, performance history, and work context. Therefore, it makes sense to respond in a personalized way.

Nevertheless, employers can’t deny broader societal factors that are making conversations about cognitive decline much more important and more commonplace.

Coming to Terms with our Aging Workforce

We’re all aging. It’s a fact of life. But now, significant generational shifts are beginning to shape the future workplace. For example, Americans are living longer, and more of us are working later in life.

Although I’m a fan of encouraging older people to participate in the workforce, it’s time for organizational leaders to address age-related cognitive decline. By becoming more educated and cautiously protecting all employees, employers will be better equipped to support our aging workforce.

Here’s why this is so important. Recently, the Harvard Law School Bill of Health newsletter published some staggering statistics in its article, “Managing Cognitive Decline Concerns in the Workplace:

  • By 2034, about 77 million U.S. residents will be senior citizens. That’s about 21% of our nation’s population.
  • After age 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years. And nearly one-third of people over 85 have this disease.

Of course, Alzheimer’s is only one cause of cognitive decline. However, because so many people are touched by its ripple effects — family, friends, and work colleagues — it illustrates how devastating cognitive decline is likely to be as Americans continue to age.

Soon, most of us will know, love or work with someone touched by Alzheimer’s or another form of cognitive decline. So, how can we prepare to handle this professionally, legally, and with grace?

The Impact of Cognitive Decline at Work

When cognitive changes impact reliability – and even trust – it becomes a larger issue for leaders and teammates. Memory loss, difficulty with multi-tasking or problem-solving, and even personality changes can upset and distract colleagues.

It’s important to treat this topic with compassion. But that means care and concern should also extend to co-workers who are directly experiencing these effects. Keep the door open for discreet conversations about their concerns, and invite input on how to improve the situation.

SHRM offers multiple recommendations in its article, “Coping with Cognitive Declines at Work.” These are some suggested priorities for employers:

  • Conduct a Safety Assessment. The need for this is more obvious in certain lines of work, where rapid response is critical. However, it can be a factor in other professions, as well. There are multiple ways to determine if a person is safe to work.
  • Engage Employees. Non-confrontational conversations about specific concerns are an opportunity to find out more about what’s going on and open lines of communication for future dialogue.
  • Keep Thorough Records. Take notes that detail your concerns. Repeated instances of missed deadlines, significant memory lapses, or behavior problems may be helpful down the line. Stick to the facts and steer clear of age-related commentary.

Legal Considerations

Let’s start at the top. There is no reason to draft a policy that defines workability or retirement readiness. Mandated retirement policies are illegal.

Larger organizations with legal counsel are well aware of The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. However, if you’re a leader at a new or smaller company, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the basics of this law.

Also, if you need a refresher, be sure to take the time to revisit these regulations. Understanding the legal parameters of hiring, firing, and pushing retirement based on age is a savvy business move. It’s worth your while because the business risks of acting outside the legal lines can be significant.

Cognitive testing is also dicey from an ethical and legal perspective. Harvard says, “Testing older employees who have no job performance deficits, but not testing younger ones, violates the core principles of the ADEA.”

And that’s not all. It also violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law permits employers to test employees only if the assessment is job-related and consistent with business necessity. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, testing is permitted only if it is “triggered by evidence of current performance problems.”

So, to avoid claims of age discrimination, will employers want to administer cognitive tests to all employees? Let’s not go there, either. It triggers a slew of concerns related to ADA, Title VII, and other discriminatory issues.

Lastly, it’s important to consider the tremendous medical advances that have led to predictive tests and markers associated with cognitive decline. However, it seems logical to leave those medical procedures to employees’ families. That said, if an employee brings these findings to your desk, be prepared to align your discussion with ADA regulations.

Solutions Start With Education

You may wonder why I’ve been investigating this topic. To be honest, it comes from a personal place. Someone dear to me was deeply concerned about a coworker’s cognitive decline.

I am sure I’m not alone. More and more of us are crossing paths with people who display cognitive changes or have been diagnosed with a related condition. Some of you have been caretakers for those who have experienced cognitive impairment.

This is a triggering and heart-wrenching topic. It’s delicate. But it’s important. And if you are an employer or people manager you’ll likely find yourself affected by it more frequently, going forward. My best advice? Educate yourself.

Upon exploring this topic – and then writing about it – I’ve felt some anxiety and dread. But knowledge is power. And fortunately, there is an abundance of reliable information at our fingertips.

It’s important to be curious and forward-thinking about a topic like this. It’s equally important to understand the law, as well as the needs of people who may be unsure and fearful about their own diminishing cognitive capabilities.

If this is new territory for you, don’t be afraid to ask questions, read up, take notes, and admit that you are learning. But watch your language, mind your approach, and make decisions carefully. Err on the side of caution and care. And remember that kindness is always a good move.

Resources

Alzheimer’s Association: This organization offers many resources, including:
10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

CDC:
Subjective Cognitive Decline: A Public Health Issue

Mayo Clinic:
Mild Cognitive Impairment

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Mental Health Provider’s Role in a Request for Reasonable Accommodation at Work

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health (via Canada Life):
Dementia Response for Leaders

Breaking the Workaholism Habit: Symptoms and Solutions

Every leader appreciates diligent team members who are engaged, reliable performers. However, there’s a fine line between people who take their work commitments seriously and those suffering from workaholism.

Engaged people are often highly productive, while workaholics tend to find themselves on a downward spiral. But how can you tell when someone is addicted to work? And what can you do about it?

This article looks at how to detect workaholism and how to break free from its toxic grip.

Defining Workaholism

Although being a workaholic may not sound like a cause for alarm, it is a legitimate mental health condition with real and dangerous consequences. And it’s probably more common than you may think. In fact, research estimates that nearly half of U.S. employees consider themselves workaholics, and 10% are truly addicted to work.

Workaholism in the U.S. - key statisticsPeople dealing with workaholism constantly struggle with the  uncontrollable urge to work excessively for prolonged periods. In other words, these people feel compelled to work all the time and they find it very difficult to detach from work situations.

As this problem progresses, it becomes all-consuming, eventually putting individual psychological and physical wellbeing at risk.

On the other hand, it’s important to understand that working long hours doesn’t necessarily mean you or anyone else is a workaholic. Sometimes, all of us need to work longer hours to meet a tight deadline, fix an urgent problem, or support a customer in need. The trick is to avoid making this kind of situation a habit.

Is it Workor Workaholism?

The following behaviors do not necessarily mean an individual is a workaholic:

1. Going Hard at Work

Working diligently can go a long way toward helping you achieve your professional goals and objectives. In fact, motivation, drive, and self-initiative are desirable traits among people who want to excel in the business world.

If you show up every day and strive to do your best, you’re not necessarily a workaholic. But problems start if you don’t know when to take a break or call it a day.

2. Strong Work Ethic

Your work ethic is a set of personal values that guide your professional behavior. This can determine how successful you’ll be in your career. Unfortunately, many of us mistake a strong work ethic for workaholism. They’re not the same.

For instance, punctuality and being proactive at work aren’t signs of workaholism. They’re simply principles that drive individual productivity. But if a commitment to work means neglecting other aspects of life, it’s time for a reality check.

3. Working Overtime

If you work overtime occasionally, you aren’t a workaholic. Putting in extra hours may be necessary to complete a particular project or to push through a peak work period. But it can be a slippery slope if you and your team are regularly working late or on weekends.

Using the right technology tools is one way to help reduce your work hours — even if it’s only the time you spend managing email messages. For example, you can create follow-up email templates and let automated tools handle the rest of the process.

Likewise, other digital productivity tools can help ease the burden of routine tasks like project management, note-taking, scheduling, and team communication.

4. Passion for Your Business

If you’re on a leadership path or you own your own business, you’re likely to be more invested in your work. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a workaholic. It may only mean you love what you do and you’re motivated to make an impact.

However, this kind of enthusiasm can open the door to unhealthy behavior. So it’s wise to step back periodically and assess your relationship with work.

How to Detect Workaholism

When exactly should you be concerned that hard work has taken a negative turn? Here are some common signs of workaholism:

  • Refusing to take breaks, even lunch breaks
  • Being the first to arrive at work and the last to leave, every day
  • Taking work home each day
  • Never going on vacations
  • Choosing not to lose sleep in order to meet work commitments
  • A lack of hobbies, activities or relationships outside of a work context
  • Unwillingness to step away from a workspace when working from home
  • Working when sick
  • Experiencing stress symptoms when away from work

Overcoming Workaholism: 5 Tips

A hardcore obsession with work not only harms your health and your relationships. It also erodes your effectiveness on the job. That’s why it’s important to take action when warning signs appear in your behavior or in others. These tips can help:

1. Acknowledge the Problem

Most people who work compulsively find all kinds of excuses to justify their behavior. Some even expect praise for their sacrifice. But left unchecked, it will only get worse. People who suffer from workaholism need to recognize that it’s a problem and that they need help. This is where managers can assist with careful intervention.

2. Identify the Cause

Unless you understand why workaholism surfaces, it will be difficult to manage. But pinpointing the underlying problem can be easier said than done. Some researchers say workaholism is a response to stress, anxiety, or depression. Others say workaholics are driven by perfectionism or an overwhelming desire to feel competent.

Whatever the cause, the desire to work hard sometimes morphs into a counter-productive prison. And those affected often don’t recognize what’s happening until it’s too late.

3. Develop an Action Plan

Once you determine what’s behind this work compulsion, it’s important to establish guidelines that support healthier habits. Make sure this roadmap is practical and doesn’t add even more pressure. For example, consider these ideas:

  • Agree to appropriate daily work “windows.”
  • Establish clear break times for every work day.
  • Create a list of work priorities and update it periodically.
  • Allocate sufficient resources to support key projects and goals. This should include team members, budget and tools.
  • Employ task management software to improve scheduling, time tracking and efficiency.
  • Outsource whenever you can. For instance, a virtual assistant can free-up time for more valuable activities.

4. Practice Setting Reasonable Limits

A common trait among workaholics is the inability to say “no” to more work, even when it’s inconvenient, irrelevant, or unimportant. But recovery depends on boundaries. With healthy work hours in place, it’s essential to practice the art of saying “no.”

Remember that redirection can be an effective option. For example, turn off work-related distractions like email notifications while away from work. Also, during these times you can transfer calls to another staff member or delegate meeting attendance to a colleague.

5. Seek Professional Guidance

Even with these ideas in place, sticking to the process may be difficult. So don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you or a team member are struggling to break free from a work obsession.

Summary

Many people call workaholism the addiction of this century, and they are not exactly wrong. Unfortunately, remote work and flexible hours have compounded the problem. Thankfully, people are now becoming more aware of the reality of workaholism and the danger it poses. Hopefully, this article will help you recognize if you or someone in your circle is facing this problem and help you move toward recovery.

Is Quiet Quitting a Symptom of Poor Mental Health?

One workplace buzzword many people are eager to leave behind is “quiet quitting.” The phrase dominated headlines this year, especially when a Gallup poll revealed that at least half of U.S. workers are disengaged.

Although this term is quickly running its course, the underlying problem remains. In fact, work engagement continues to slide, indicating a growing disconnect between employees and employers. No doubt, the quiet quitting phenomenon is a symptom of ongoing workplace upheaval. But I suspect it also reflects the need for better mental health support at work.

What Research Says About Workforce Wellbeing

Even as post-pandemic work engagement is dropping, countless studies reveal that depression and anxiety are on the rise. And the uptick in layoffs and economic uncertainty creates even more stress. Let’s look closer.

Nearly three-quarters of employees (72% ) say they’re concerned about finances – up from 65% last year – according to a recent report from financial wellness solution provider, Brightplan. And PWC research indicates that declining financial health impacts employee mental health and work productivity. Specifically, PWC found that 69% of employees who are financially stressed are less likely to feel valued at work – and therefore, they are becoming less engaged. 

Depression and anxiety are also leading reasons why people take time off from work. In fact, employers lose an estimated 12 billion workdays annually as a result of employee depression and anxiety. According to The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization, this costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion a year. Both organizations acknowledge the need for concrete action to address workplace mental health.

How Can Employers Respond?

Some employers may ignore these disturbing trends. But others are taking action by creating an environment where workers feel more valued and supported.

For example, if you notice that “quiet quitting” is spreading among your ranks, it’s likely that these employees  feel under-appreciated. By offering professionally managed support groups as a benefit, you can send a much-needed message that tells people, “We see you, we care about your wellbeing, and you are valued here.”

This kind of benefit extends assistance to people who might hesitate to pursue individual therapy — which has historically been costly and difficult to access. And the pandemic has only made it worse. For example, at the height of the Covid outbreak, the U.S. average wait time to see a therapist ranged from 29-66 days.

The Benefits of Group Support

Multiple studies underscore how support group participation leads to improved employee mental health and job performance. In fact, our own research found that when employees attended group sessions, 50% became more productive and 100% experienced improved attitude and outlook.

Why are these results so striking? When employees have access to a clinically-backed support group program, their social connectedness and mood tend to improve. This, in turn, alleviates depression and anxiety. And group support not only helps reduce anxiety and stress. It can also play a central role in preventive care strategies designed to avoid employee burnout.

Why Group Support Helps

Depression and anxiety can fuel feelings of isolation and loneliness – two key reasons why people seek group support in their personal lives. Providing a safe space where employees discuss meaningful issues and concerns can increase their positive feelings about work and improve overall job satisfaction.

Because group support encourages dialogue among people with different perspectives, it can help participants build trust, empathy and openness that carries over into the workplace. However, it’s important not to require colleagues to join the same group. Also, it’s important to respect participants’ privacy by preserving their anonymity.

While the benefits of peer counseling are well known, new studies demonstrate how digital group support can extend mental health services access to more diverse populations. For example, some people have limited mobility or are located in rural communities where trained mental health providers aren’t unavailable.

Video-based group support is an excellent alternative, because it is affordable and accessible online from nearly anywhere on any digital device. This encourages connections and therapeutic conversations without requiring participants to wait for weeks or travel long distances.

Tips to Improve Group Support

When offering this kind of mental health benefit to your employees, keep this advice in mind:

1. Emphasize Voluntary Participation

Everyone comes to the table with a unique background and point of view. This is why the group model can be a particularly powerful tool. So, although encouraging individuals to take advantage of this benefit can be helpful, avoid pressuring anyone or threatening them with repercussions. The goal is to destigmatize mental health and make pathways to wellbeing more accessible and affordable.

2. Prepare to Overcome Fears

Group support is a highly misunderstood term. Too often, people associate group settings only with treatment centers. In the workplace, many people who need support fear they’ll be perceived as “weak” and their careers will be damaged if they join a group. For anyone concerned about this, you can share positive use case data demonstrating how helpful and healing group support can be. Employers can leverage this information as a reference tool and assure concerned employees that their identity will be protected.

3. Insist on Anonymity

Video-based group support should provide access to online sessions on any day and time that works best for each member, while also protecting their identity. Solutions like Sesh, which is 100% HIPAA-compliant, let every user select a pseudonym. Individual data is never shared, and employees are notified when anyone within the same organization registers for their group.

My Perspective

I discovered the value of group sessions while in treatment for an eating disorder. Being part of a group was the catalyst that catapulted my recovery to the next level. This experience led me to launch Sesh

Typically, therapist-led support is difficult to access, difficult to pay for and designed for monolithic audiences. That’s why I’m committed to extending therapist-led group support to people from all communities, circumstances and identities.

With an affordable, accessible group support experience through their employer, people can finally receive the high-quality mental health support they need and deserve. This helps individuals cope with challenging personal issues, while helping businesses create a more harmonious, productive workplace. And in the process, it may also silence quiet quitting. That is my hope.

Celebrating Movember: Men’s Health at Work

EDITOR’S NOTE: At TalentCulture, we recognize a healthy workforce is a more engaged and productive workforce. That’s why we’re spreading the word about the importance of “Movember” men’s health awareness in this article.


The holiday season is upon us! As the days get shorter and colder, schedules are getting busier and more packed with activities. It’s common for us to let some things slide — including taking care of our health and wellbeing. We’ve all been there. But health should never take the backburner. That’s why we’d like to talk about the Movember movement.

What exactly is Movember? What does it mean for men’s health? And more specifically, how can employers leverage this opportunity to encourage discussions around important workplace health issues? We’ll even touch on how you can start a Movember event with friends and coworkers. 

What Is Movember? 

Two friends kickstarted Movember as a grassroots effort to promote men’s health in Australia. It began in 2003, at a time when the mustache had all but disappeared from popular culture.

That’s when Travis Garone and Luke Slattery first convinced 30 friends to take up the challenge of growing out their facial hair in solidarity with men’s health issues during the month of November.

This simple challenge grew faster than anyone imagined. In fact, by the time it reached the U.S, in 2008, the Movember charity had raised more than $46 million, in partnership with global charities dedicated to raising awareness around important men’s health issues.

Over the years, this movement has continued to gain traction across the globe. Now, nearly 7 million men and women contribute to the cause by funding more than 1200 men’s health projects. The Movember project and its enthusiastic supporters (known as “Mo bros” and “Mo sisters”) have addressed many worthy health causes around the world. 

Why Movember Matters

The importance of raising awareness and encouraging communication around men’s health can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, men are still statistically far less likely to take care of their health. That’s not an opinion, but a well-documented fact.

For instance, a 2021 study found that less than half of men (47%) had a routine medical checkup in the previous 12 months. Embarrassment and perceived stigmas are the primary reasons.

Our culture of stoicism means that when men experience pain, many feel societal pressure to simply push through it. And although women tend to become familiar with healthcare from a young age — seeing gynecologists and being encouraged to schedule annual checkups — men generally don’t develop the same kind of connection.

Simply put, conversations about men’s health aren’t common. In fact, they’re often stigmatized. Ultimately, this leads to poorer health outcomes. 

The Movember Mission

The Movember movement celebrates men’s health in all its forms, but emphasizes mental health and cancer prevention, in particular. Here’s why:

1. Preventing Cancer

For men, two key health concerns are prostate and testicular cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men. Fortunately, testicular cancer is less frequent. However, it still affects about 7 out of every 100 men.

Both cancers are considered highly treatable if caught early. However, when left untreated, they can be very difficult to cure, and the statistics are less promising.

Most experts recommend starting prostate exams around the age of 45 and getting an exam every 3-5 years. Doctors often perform what’s called a PSA test. A PSA is a reliable metric that helps determine the risk of prostate cancer.

Similarly, to help detect testicular cancer, men should perform self-exams, looking for signs like lumps, swelling, or dull aching pain. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms needs to see a doctor immediately.

Bottom line: Routine checkups are crucial for effective cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. That’s one of the most important messages behind the Movember movement.  

2. Communicating About Mental Health

Although mental health is extremely important, it is also perhaps the most stigmatized men’s health issue. Statistics show that although mental health challenges are relatively common among men, less than half will seek treatment.

This problem is especially important to recognize in the workplace, where burnout and stress are common. People often don’t realize how stressed they are until the symptoms become unavoidable.

Left unchecked, stress or burnout can not only affect your mental and emotional wellbeing but also wreak havoc on your body. Fatigue, anxiety, and depressed mood — even changes in weight and thinning hair — all can occur.

Of course, it’s important to see your doctor to make sure you’re not dealing with underlying medical issues like hypothyroidism or male pattern balding. But these symptoms can also be a response to physiological changes caused by stress.

How Employers Can Get Involved

Encouraging your workforce to be part of the Movember trend can be an excellent way to raise awareness around these important men’s health issues. For example, you can set up a Movember fundraiser, either in person or virtually. This can foster teamwork and solidarity in the workplace, while also encouraging people to take charge of their health. 

If you decide to start a Movember campaign, you don’t have to focus on only one topic. It’s an opportunity to help men feel more comfortable talking about a variety of issues that affect their health.

Conversation Starters:

  • Are you getting enough exercise
  • Are you sleeping well?
  • Do you feel overloaded with work lately?
  • How healthy is your diet?
  • Do you schedule regular check-ups? 
  • Have you talked to your doctor about things like prostate screening? 

Talk to your coworkers, talk to your friends, and bring the Movember movement to your professional and social circles. It’s not just for men either. It’s for anyone with a man in their life they care about — a significant other, a family member, or a friend. Every man matters. Encourage open conversations, show your support, and get involved!

The Real Girl in Red and What It Means for Employee Mental Health

“Do you listen to the girl in red?”

It’s a good question for anyone whose job it is to understand workplace culture and employee mental health. The question has become a coded way for women on social media to ask each other if they’re queer. But for HR and talent leaders, the question carries significance beyond gender identity.

The hashtag #doyoulistentogirlinred was created in April 2020. The tag was the outgrowth of Girl in Red, a pop music project of Marie Ulven. She is a 22-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter and record producer. Ulven shot to prominence between 2018 and 2019 with homemade bedroom-pop songs about queer romance and (here’s the connection for employers everywhere) mental health.

In a recent interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition, Ulven discussed fame, sexuality, her new album, and her battles with mental ill-health.

She specifically talked about the continuing stigma that prevents so many people from speaking out or seeking support for their mental health challenges. Even the name of her new album, “If I Could Make It Go Quiet,” speaks to a challenge that many people face: undesired intrusive thoughts they can’t control.

The stigma is real. Are you listening?

Another song on Ulven’s album called “Serotonin” is even more direct about Ulven’s struggle with mental illness.

“I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts my entire life, and I’m just mentioning a couple in this song,” Ulven told NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

When asked what she hoped people would take away from this song and her experiences with mental ill-health, Ulven replied, “I really hope that people feel less crazy.”

“I think it’s so important to just hear that a lot of people have these thoughts,“ Ulven continued. “I’ve been scared about jumping in front of trains, been really scared of being at train stations. And I’ve had so many people message me about that, like ‘I relate so much to this song.’”

Her audience is your workforce

In general, Ulven might just as well be speaking on behalf of a huge percentage of today’s workforce. For example, one estimate says more than six million people in the United States may experience intrusive, worrying thoughts. Amid the stress and upheaval caused by COVID-19 and so many social and political events in the last year, a growing number of employees are:

  • Urging employers to be proactive and provide preventive programs and tools to help them navigate their mental health
  • Increasingly saying they want to work for companies that have a culture of caring for the whole employee—including physical, social, and mental aspects

Even before the pandemic, in 2019, one study investigating the attitudes of employee mental health found that:

  • 86 percent of survey participants thought a company’s culture should support mental health.
  • 75 percent of Gen Z employees (like Ulven, currently between the ages of six and 24) and half of millennials left roles in the past for mental health reasons (voluntarily and involuntarily), compared with 34 percent of respondents overall.

Unfortunately, too many employers aren’t getting the message. A recent study by Unmind and WELCOA found that:

  • Barely one in three employers (37 percent) feel they have a strong understanding of the mental health and well-being of their people.
  • Only 64 percent of employers have a strategy in place for specifically managing employee mental health and well-being.

The light at the end of the tunnel: the mental health train headed in your direction

Yes, Americans are starting to return to the workplace, returning to the rituals of after-work drinks and lunching together at nearby restaurants. But the fallout of COVID-19 will be felt in the workplace for quite a long while. With this in mind, a year of living in fear, isolation, and sorrow may have taken a toll on the mental and emotional health of your employees.

“We’re seeing pretty alarming numbers,” says Vaile Wright, senior director of healthcare innovation at the American Psychological Association (APA), who oversees its Stress in America survey. “People’s bodies and minds just aren’t in quite the fit place they were in a year ago.”

At the same time, most employees are afraid to talk about being stressed out and possibly burned out. According to a recent survey by Joblist, almost 48 percent of employees fear negative consequences. Namely, they’re concerned they may be denied a raise or promotion if they talk about work stress.

What can you do? Chiefly, Unmind argues that the answer lies in embracing the new vision of workplace mental health. The first step is to understand the four foundational elements needed to help manifest a  proactive, prevention-based approach to employee mental health.

Those four pillars are:

1. The whole-person, whole-organization mindset

Basically, this should be the north star for any employee mental health solution. It aims to do more than respond with a treatment to mental health issues. Or simply ease employee stress and anxiety.

2. No employee left behind 

Too many mental well-being platforms and apps simply fail to empower everyone to navigate their own situation. With this in mind, instead of offering treatment options only for the one in five U.S. employees who report having mental health concerns, solutions should offer programs and tools for everyone.

3. Empowerment for employees and insight for HR and well-being leaders

An optimal mental health platform will only succeed if it can deliver on three critical drivers of its value. These include 1) measurement of outcomes, 2) variety of programs and tools, and 3) accessibility for everyone. It will empower employees with a variety of tools. These can include self-guided programs, in-the-moment exercises, daily diaries, and the receiving of gratitude and praise.

4. Human touch and solid science

The new vision of workplace mental health demands the right support for you and your employees. The science and software behind even the best-planned solution will be next to useless without proper vendor support.

With those pillars to build upon, you would have a proactive workplace mental health platform. Also, you would have an authoritative and trusted partner to help deliver better well-being, improved employee performance, and enriched company culture, and a stronger brand.

In addition, far fewer of your employees would feel alone and disenfranchised. As you create a new beginning for workplace mental health, you’ll be offering your employees something positive as they enter a  post-pandemic world.

 

Image from Stokkete

Loneliness and Isolation: Fighting New Forms of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is real. According to a Gallup poll, a staggering 76% of employees experience some form of burnout in their careers. In a survey conducted here at TalentCulture, only 5% said they had not experienced any feelings of burnout since the pandemic began.

So, what’s causing this? The usual suspects like heavy workloads are, unreasonable deadlines exist, of course. The absence of direction and feedback from supervisors and lack of upward mobility remain near the top of the list.  But two other reasons for employee burnout surfaced during the pandemic: Isolation and loneliness. And here’s the thing: Feelings of loneliness and isolation can affect one’s health in the same way that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can. In a separate study, researcher Juliane Holt-Lundstad found that loneliness is worse for you than obesity.

It doesn’t get any more real than that. Let’s discuss…

Our Guest: Amy Durham, Certified Executive Coach and Corporate Mystic

This week, Amy Durham joined me on the #WorkTrends podcast. Amy is a U.C. Berkeley Certified Executive Coach, an Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, and is the author of Create Magic at Work. Amy has been studying the impact of loneliness and isolation in the pandemic workplace, and she’s here to understand how leadership and employees can work together towards a plan to overcome the overwhelming effects these factors have on the body and mind. When I asked Amy what is causing burnout today, she got right to the root cause and the solution:

“Harvard Business Review came out with an article about ‘America’s loneliest workers.’ What they found was that the lack of workplace social support had negative business outcomes. And what’s cool is that if you bring people together, even on Zoom, it increases job satisfaction and reduces burnout.”

“Bringing people together providing social support is so important. And it’s a win-win because it improves profitability and productivity, keeps retention high and helps employees stay engaged.”

Combating Employee Burnout Through Connections

I asked Amy what leaders can do to help eliminate the feelings of loneliness and isolation as they worked from home — or anywhere else — where social support wasn’t readily available or apparent. 

“I encourage every leader to take responsibility — to have the courage to facilitate a connecting activity. For example, ask a meaningful question to kick off a meeting like ‘When was the last time something gave you goosebumps?’ and then listen, really listen, to the answer.”

“People never forget that because you actually connect with someone,” Amy added as she stressed how important that social connection is to preventing, or defeating, loneliness and isolation.

Yes, employee burnout is real. And as we identify new forms and new causes, we must pay attention. As Amy says, we must have the courage to take responsibility. And we, as business leaders and HR professionals, must act. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends and I hope it inspires you to make meaningful connections and provide the social support that helps combat this new form of employee burnout. I also hope you’ll learn more about this issue by connecting with our guest, Amy Durham, on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

 

An Unexpected COVID-19 Side Effect: Survivor Guilt for the Employed

The pandemic has brought significant physical and mental health concerns to people around the world. With business closings, reductions in force, and forced isolation for those who kept their jobs and careers uninterrupted, the pandemic has also brought an unexpected side effect — survivor guilt.

Traditionally, survivor guilt occurs when a person has survived something traumatic that others have not made it through. In the recent workplace, we have used this term to describe co-workers being laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic’s impact and adverse effects on the economy. The employees who still have their jobs may now feel guilty that they survived the layoffs, whereas their co-workers did not.

This feeling comes alongside the general anxiety that comes from everyday life and the pandemic. It’s a stressful time, with negativity and frustration felt across many industries. Seeing co-workers lose their jobs can add to those mental health concerns. At work, sharing these feelings with people who have similar experiences has been a resource for some.

According to a survey, 61% of respondents feel comfortable discussing mental health with their co-workers. As trusted co-workers get laid-off, employees may, in turn, bottle their anxiety or depression along with the new survivor guilt. This cycle creates an ongoing mental health crisis in the workplace.

Mental Health During the Pandemic

Survivor guilt speaks to the overall mental health crisis during the pandemic. With isolation and social distancing comes loneliness, depression and anxiety. These feelings can affect how people handle everyday tasks and their jobs. If an employer sees an individual’s performance dwindling, there’s a chance it’s due to a mental health concern.

In fact, 41% of adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders during the pandemic. Since it’s unclear how long the pandemic will ultimately last, bringing up the conversation is the best way to move forward.

Thus, to best help their employees, it’s now critical for the workplace to acknowledge these concerns. Through the support and discussions enabled by an effective mental health program, employees can obtain the tools they need to cope with survivor guilt and other existing mental health issues.

According to a study, 91% of employees believe the workplace should assist with mental health issues. However, in that same study, 73% of respondents stated that their job does not discuss mental health. As stress, guilt, grief, anxiety, and depression fluctuate through the pandemic, workplaces must incorporate these discussions into their culture. After all, if employees hold on to negative feelings with no outlet or resources, their mental health will continue to deteriorate, as will their performance at work.

Plus, destigmatizing mental health conversations at work fosters a more efficient, healthier environment for everyone.

Solutions for Survivor Guilt

To move forward within the workplace in a healthy way, communication is going to be critical. Feedback and dialogue are tools for bringing up what concerns people have been suppressing, like survivor guilt. Along the way, employers must be in tune with what their employees feel, then listen fully before acting or responding.

Supervisors can open up the dialogue about why the layoffs were necessary and encourage employees to voice how the firings themselves, and the departure of colleagues, has affected them. They should also discuss their needs from the work and company perspective. For instance, employers often ask survivors to work longer hours, yet they have to balance caregiving and home responsibilities on top of their professional lives.

It’s likely best to avoid congratulating anyone for keeping their job while others have lost theirs. Even as a response to their endurance and dedication to the company, employees may focus on the emotional aspect rather than the business side should any form of “congratulations” (let alone “your lucky to still have your job) come into a conversation.

Finally, consider feedback an ongoing conversation – not a one-time thing. Feedback can be as open or as anonymous as people want; regardless of the format, it facilitates more open discussions and, ultimately, more change. With the information collected during feedback sessions, the employer can provide a more transparent plan on the post-layoff direction the company is taking. Simultaneously, employees can voice their opinions on the layoffs and receive resources for mental health counseling. Through effective dialogue, they can also feel secure in their own jobs and benefits.

Making It Through the Pandemic

The pandemic poses countless challenges for people in and out of the workplace.

For those experiencing survivor guilt, it’s essential to speak up and reach out to helpful resources. Don’t go it alone. As many have already learned, issues that affect mental wellness don’t often just go away. Time does not heal all wounds.

For HR professionals, it’s critical to shift the company culture to be more open. We must be honest about the wide range of feelings that come with layoffs and the pandemic in general. Only then can employees move forward and overcome survivor guilt and other obstacles that negatively impact their mental well-being.

 

Image by Gary Weber

Worker Resilience: The Ultimate Truth About This Hot HR Topic

It seems like worker resilience has become the HR topic of the day. The pandemic suddenly forced people to work from home last year. Soon after, videoconferencing tore the curtain off the reality of everyone’s daily lives. So we shouldn’t be surprised that resilience is a key theme in 2021.

But what exactly is resilience? Does worker resilience really matter? And if it does, why has resilience been such an elusive employee trait for companies to help develop?

What Exactly is Resilience?

In a nutshell, resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. The global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice, and controversial and seemingly never-ending U.S. presidential election was a lot for people to cope with in the last year. And we’ve all experienced the videoconferences where this all came to a head.

The calls in which a coworker’s connection freezes every time they try to share their screen because fiber internet isn’t available in their neighborhood. The times when a parent needs to cut a meeting short because their infant is having a meltdown and is in desperate need of attention. Or even the ones when someone confides in you that they simply cannot hit a deadline because they’re struggling to focus on the task at hand. From having the technician at the house to fix their unreliable internet. Or perhaps needing to run to the store for another round of curbside pickup. Or maybe the stress of wrapping up deliverables that were due yesterday — before they lost internet. Worse yet, they just learned a spouse or child tested positive for COVID-19. Each scenario has tested our patience, if not our resilience — perhaps more than once.

Simply put, these are situations in which resilient employees are more able to cope in a safe and healthy way. At the same time, they present a challenge for less resilient employees. Resilient people are more able to wrestle life’s upheavals — large and small, day in and day out, on the job and home. And they do so in ways that they can still stay productive and more on track. Perhaps most important, they stay healthier in all three spheres of our lives: psychologically/mentally, socially/emotionally, and physically.

That, in layperson’s terms, is “resilience.”

Does Resilience Really Matter — or Is This a Tempest in a Teapot?

Considering all this, it only stands to reason that if your employees can cope with new and demanding situations in safe and healthy ways, they’ll benefit. Additionally, the people they love and work with will benefit, and your company will benefit. But an individual failing to cope is more than a personal health problem. It’s a business problem. Not just due to the increasing rates of absenteeism that represent considerable costs to companies now, but because a fragile workforce will cost exponentially more in the future.

A recent report by Cigna shows that resilience is at risk in 3 in 5 Americans — and that businesses are feeling the impact. The report says 63% of full-time workers have low to moderate resilience levels that put them at risk of being unable to overcome immediate challenges and adversity. Cigna connected low resilience to low job satisfaction and performance, a higher likelihood of turnover, and an inability to cope.

The Impact of Low to Moderate Resilience

Looking more closely, we see an interesting thing about resilience: it’s highest when we’re very young and very old. This inverted ‘U’ of our resilience levels means we’re at our greatest risk of low potential and inability to cope with change in our teens and 20s. Then our resilience — and specifically our worker resilience — starts to build as we acclimate to the workforce and life after school.

In adults, resilience tends to be lowest among isolated or lonely people who feel a lack of connection to family or work or feel unsupported. For all employees, inclusion and connection are vital for resilience.

“If you don’t have friends, coworkers, or groups to build yourself up, you’re more at risk to not have the resilience to overcome things like the COVID-19 pandemic or furloughs,” Robert Hamilton, a medical executive for Cigna, said in commenting on the report.

Here’s what low resilience can lead to:

  • As recently as October, 1 in 4 U.S. workers had considered quitting their jobs because worries related to the pandemic were getting to them, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in collaboration with the software company SAP.
  • In the same poll, nearly 7 in 10 workers said that managing the responsibilities of their jobs and home life was absolutely a primary stressor.
  • The risk of depression among employees is 71% higher now than before the pandemic, according to the latest Mental Health Index by Total Brain and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.
  • Employee attention span is 27% worse than before the pandemic, according to the same report.

So, yes. Resilience among your workers matters.

Resilience: An Elusive Employee Trait for Companies to Help Develop

While it’s difficult to broadly minimize stress factors across any organization, it is possible to effectively cultivate company-wide strategies for resilience. The three reasons most employer strategies, solutions, and apps haven’t worked so far is that they:

  • Are mental wellbeing or mindfulness solutions with no underpinning in clinical psychology
  • Focus solely on reactive treatment rather than offering prevention
  • Fail to treat the whole employee — to embrace mental health as part of everyone’s daily life and total wellbeing

A different and proven model for building resilience and overall employee mental health would take constant, consistent preventive action that:

  • Helps every employee monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of things that might be going wrong
  • Provides appropriate referrals to other employer-sponsored programs (such as your EAP) or outside expert counseling when it’s needed

After all, we are all on some spectrum of mental health (and test our resilience) every day.

Developing Resilience:  Start by Focusing on Improving Overall Mental Health

The ultimate truth about work resilience?

Any company can take a major step forward in improving resilience. If, that is, they have a means for improving mental health overall, for every employee. That would demand an employee mental health platform supported by four foundational pillars:

A whole-person, whole-organization approach to mental health

It’s time to remove the stigma around mental health. It’s time to make it OK to enable employees to talk about stress. We must make it okay to also talk about depression, financial concerns, and other factors that lead to mental ill-health. It is time to equally nourish all three spheres that make up every individual’s life: psychological, social, and physical. This is the best way, in fact, to enhance the investment already made in on EAP programs.

Leave no employee behind

The right employee mental health platform will engage every employee to leverage preventive tools and resources. That platform will not just provide the costly and invasive reactive mental health treatment for 1 in 5 employees who report having mental health issues today.

Empowerment for employees and insight for employers

An employee mental health platform will only succeed if it can deliver three critical drivers of its value: measurement and assessment; variety and personalization; and accessibility. (For example, are the tools and insights accessible on any device at any time?)

A human touch and solid science

With today’s optimal employee mental health platform, employers can depend on customized support to drive more-human engagement with employees. That approach better helps employers interpret the insights gleaned from employee data the platform generates.

Worker Resilience: Time for a New Approach

In short, it’s time to move beyond the traditional, treatment-focused mental health solutions. It’s time to go deeper and broader than you can with mindfulness-type solutions that don’t truly address mental health.

If we want to further develop worker resilience in our employees, it’s time to support the whole person — and the whole organization.

Image by Photographer London

6 Trends Hammering Today’s Workplace (And How Employee Surveys Help)

Today’s workplace trends continue to cause a dramatic shift for organizations, employees, customers, and suppliers. Paraphrasing the cliché, “The only real known is that change is a constant.” That’s why constant awareness of what’s going on — and adjusting appropriately — is critical.

We may not be certain of what lies ahead, but we know that six workplace trends mark the early 2020s. And we know we’d better be all over them now in preparation for what’s to come.

Agility

Three-quarters of 2,500 surveyed business leaders rank agility as a top-three priority.

Employees have their ears to the ground through their own networks, contacts with customers, experiences with processes, procedures, and management. What are they seeing and hearing? What gaps in expectations exist? Where are the opportunities for improvement?

Being able to spot patterns and shifts quickly gives leaders the agility to change tack better than less nimble competitors. And a workforce invited to share insights regularly augments the ability to act with agility.

Enabling Remote Work

Remote work stats are as trendy these days as witty memes. Studies indicate 52% of global employees work remotely once a week, and 68% do so at least once per month. Work from Home (WFM) models are relatively new. There’s the physical environment — ensuring people have the tools and resources. And there’s the mental side — specifically, providing support and resources that can help with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

We often get caught up in ensuring everyone has access to the ‘same’ or ‘equal’ opportunities. However, diverse employee populations have different experiences and different needs. While the glass ceiling impedes women and members of minorities, ‘virtual’ walls have now been added into the mix, threatening the progress of current and aspiring employees.

Are remote workers being enabled in a way that works for them — and you? The only way to know is to ask.

Prioritizing Mental Health in the Workplace

Remote workers exposed to the stress of isolation, and on-site employees faced with potential virus exposure, are projected to trigger behavioral health conditions of pandemic proportions. Exhausted, anxious, and often sleep-deprived, many people show up at work — virtually or in-person — despite mental or physical ailments. For many organizations, the result is immense productivity losses and increasing risks.

Today, employers are facing a potential mental health crisis. They need a window into employees’ hearts and minds, especially those absent from the physical work world. At the same time, it’s vital to recognize specific employee populations need more support in dealing with their personal life circumstances than others. For instance, anxiety and depression figures reported in December 2020 are higher for Latinx (46.3%) and Black respondents (48%) than the overall 42.4%average.

How do we know who needs what support? And whether it’s effective?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

Employees have become more outspoken about the discriminatory treatment they’ve observed or experienced in the workplace. Creating a safe environment for people to speak up and feel like they belong is a hot topic among executive leaders.

Employees are your compass when navigating matters of DEI. Their insights point a way forward and help keep your organization informed and on track. But change has never been as fast and as furious — nor as forcefully dominant — as it is today. And employee sentiment is far from immune to this tide of transformation.

Reaching an intended DEI destination depends on continuously checking coordinates — the voice of employees — and making adjustments as the winds change.

Frequent Surveys

Frequently monitoring the pulse of employees is helping more leaders make the right kinds of decisions across issues like agility, mental health, DEI, and more. Here at WorkTango, more than half of the organizations we support that weren’t already offering pulse surveys or using the active listening model have started to shift how they collect input from employees. Those companies now see higher participation than ever, with many receiving upward of 85% to 90% response rates. Why? When surveys are contextually relevant to an employee’s experience, they want to give feedback.

The themes associated with frequent pulsing can be around anything – whatever’s important in the moment. It’s an ongoing process to gather and understand sentiments around all the moving parts of your organization.

The bottom line: Pulsing is a diagnostics tool that gives leaders something they can focus on—and ignites a shift from measurement to action.

Heightened Accountability

Regularly checking in to get employee feedback gives leaders a quick snapshot of whether the actions they’ve taken are working. We then inextricably link accountability with these quantitative and qualitative insights.

With more frequent measurement, leaders tend to listen more. They take steps, actively review progress, make tweaks, and cycle through the process — fine-tuning as they go. The data collected and shared puts the onus on functional leaders and hiring managers. Because seeing their survey score — how they’re trending and their own personal management results (and knowing that data is public to the executive team) — creates built-in accountability.

The thread that links these six trends?

Actively listening to the voice of employees and using scientifically validated data to guide meaningful actions.

Centralized Survey Structures in Today’s Workplace

A centralized survey tool helps your organization measure and adapt to the needs of your human capital throughout the employee lifecycle.  Whether your approach is to gather employee engagement insights annually or to run more frequent pulse surveys, a single survey platform is where the real power of data can be found.

Plus, whether giving feedback or for reporting, it’s easier for employees to use and get comfortable with one platform. So when choosing a survey tool, look for a single platform that eliminates the need for multiple vendors and the time involved to learn and support various platforms.

We’ve been going through more disruptive shifts in the last 15 months than we have in the past 15 years. To paraphrase Charles Darwin this time: “It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but the ones most responsive to change.”

For organizations, that responsiveness comes from listening to employees frequently and attentively. Using a centralized survey platform to obtain real-time insights into workplace issues that matter now — or point to potential trends and taking pre-emptive action to keep a step ahead — helps make active listening a critical element of your company culture.

 

Want to know more about WorkTango? Listen to our own Cyndy Trivella’s thoughts on this 2021 TalentCulture HR Tech Award winner:

Frank McKenna

[#WorkTrends] Unmute Yourself! How Remote Workers Can Self-Advocate

As an isolated team member, how do you sustain an effective communication chain, stay productive, and get what you need out of your employer? How do you unmute yourself?

For many, the coronavirus crisis has meant working conditions they could not have anticipated. Now, collaboration and face-to-face contact — once common practice — are non-existent. We can no longer lean over the cubicle to ask a quick question. An experienced co-worker, assistance from a trusted colleague, and feedback from a manager can be hard to find. Today, we go it alone, working from home. 

Which means we must put ourselves in a position to get what we need from our employer. We need to find a way to be seen — and heard. For that to happen, we must first hone and then leverage finely tuned communication skills. Skills we may not have previously mastered.

I wonder: How many of us are genuinely comfortable advocating for ourselves? 

Our Guest: Rachel Druckenmiller, Wellbeing Expert at UnmutedLife

Our guest on this week’s episode of WorkTrends is Rachel Druckenmiller, a wellbeing expert recognized as the No. 1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. and a national thought leader in the field of employee engagement. When I asked why more people aren’t speaking up and advocating for themselves during these trying times, we jumped right into this timely topic. Rachel’s answer was enlightening:

“We thought this was all going to be over by now. Then we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll have Easter. Then Thanksgiving.’ Now we’re realizing, ‘No, this is gonna be a long haul.’”

“So the important thing is to step back and recognize that we’ve been in chronic fight or flight mode — an acute response that puts us in a reactive part of our brain. And we stay there. Not just because of pandemic fatigue, but because of the climate crisis, political, social, and racial injustice, and work demands and homeschooling.” Rachel went on to add for people working from home, the timing couldn’t have been worse: “We lost our outlets and social connections. We lost a method of release.” 

“We stopped speaking up.”

Combined with the prolonged trauma many of us are experiencing, this form of self-silencing, Rachel told us, can have a negative impact on each of us. “It ends up being a host for emotional, relational, mental health challenges like depression and loneliness, marital problems, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and more.”

Learning How to Unmute Yourself

Rachel used an interesting analogy to help us learn how to unmute ourselves…

“In the wild, a gazelle is getting chased by a tiger. The gazelle gets caught. So now, it will play dead. The gazelle will go limp; it will try to trick the tiger into thinking that they’re already dead. Often, the tiger will leave. The gazelle will get up and shake it off. And when they do, they release all that negative energy. They feel new again.”

Rachel went on to say: “Animals in the wild release energy, and humans don’t. We compound it. We have one stress, and we never resolve it. Then we take on another stress, and we never resolve that one. Eventually, the body has to do something with all that stress. We need the release. We need to speak up!”

I mentioned to Rachel that leaders also need to help with this release. They must step up in an emotionally intelligent way and intentionally interact with their people. Leaders must serve as, or provide, a form of release. Rachel agreed, “In times of crisis, what followers need most from leaders is trust, compassion, stability, and hope. To do that, they must ask for feedback, then act on what was said.”

Leaders as Release

Rachel went on to say the leaders who provide this form of release — that enable us to unmute — are highly valued. We rate them as the most likable, approachable, and trustworthy.

Our conversation only got better from there. We discussed practical methods of releasing unwanted energy, increasing self-awareness, and how to be your own advocate by taking action. 

I thank Rachel Druckenmiller for joining me on the #WorkTrends podcast this week. I enjoyed every minute… and you will too. Listen in!

 

Find Rachel on LinkedIn.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our FAQ page and also our #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Take a look!

Tim Mossholder

[#WorkTrends] How to Support the Workforce by Protecting Mental Health

Today’s best employers are focusing on how to best support and protect their employee’s mental health. Is your company?

What started as an exercise in temporary adjustments has become a more long-term reality. Now, as the pandemic strengthens its grip on the world, many employees realize that teleworking full-time has become a long-term necessity. 

Sure, we pulled together the technology necessary to pull off this workforce transition. Yes, we were nimble enough to handle any physical and workspace challenges that came along. And our people quickly rallied around this new reality. But what is the long-term impact of all this change? From an emotional and mental health perspective, how are your people doing? 

If they are like many of us, they feel stressed. Fatigue is setting in, and the anxiety that comes with not knowing what comes next is creeping up on them. Hard data support these feelings. In fact, a tracking poll by Kaiser Family Foundation in July found that 53% of adults in the United States reported that pandemic-related issues have negatively impacted their mental health. That number is up dramatically from 32% in March when the pandemic began.

So, in what has become an unexpectedly long-term transition, and with the realization the coronavirus will continue knocking on our doors for the foreseeable future, the question must be:

How do companies help remote employees tackle mental health challenges?

Our Guest: Dawn Mitchell, Vice President, HR at Appian

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Dawn Mitchell of Appian joins us. In one day, Dawn’s organization of 1,400 employees went from a very on-site, hands-on culture to one that shifted successfully to remote work. Now, Appian focuses on how best to help employees deal with the emotional and mental health issues that come with remote work and COVID-19’s extended threat. As you’ve probably already figured out, this experience makes Dawn the perfect person to answer our question!

“At first,” Dawn said, “We saw a huge spike in productivity. We were in fight or flight mode. Our employees are fantastic, so they chose ‘fight.’ But we soon learned this wasn’t a typical remote work. For example, we had to work and parent at the same time. Plus, we had the isolation issue. So we knew we couldn’t sustain this forever.”

Dawn shared with us some of Appian’s focus points: “We put a heavy emphasis around our parent community. We also developed empathy tool kits for managers. We wanted them to get more comfortable talking to their teams, to understand their home dynamics. So we pushed on their soft skills. And, we wanted them to be flexible, yet acknowledge we still have work to do.” 

Combating Mental Health Issues Through Over-Communication

Dawn added: “To inspire big ideas, we placed a heavy emphasis on communication. As a leadership team, we knew we needed to be more connected. So at the initial start, our CEO was communicating with our workforce bi-weekly. We also launched a podcast. With a workforce that averages 27yo, we updated our internet to ensure that employees working at home with kids were getting the most relevant information when they needed it. Most importantly, we sought to understand how employees were thinking and feeling.”

Of course, I had to ask about outcomes. I wanted to know precisely how Appian’s approach helped. In response, Dawn was quick to point out employees are even more engaged now: “We’ve had about a 6% increase in our employee response rates. At the same time, our employees’ satisfaction (despite all the change and stress) only dropped a percentage point. Overall, we were about 2% over the previous benchmark. It was great to see employees felt supported by their managers. They felt satisfied. And they felt that Appian was a place they wanted to tell their peers about; that we were their employer of choice.”

High praise, indeed. And from the people who matter most: The very employees asked to make such a huge transition during a global crisis.

Please take 20 minutes or so to listen to my conversation with Dawn. I learned so much about how Appian supports the mental health of their remote team members. And I’m sure you’ll hear several emulation-worthy tactics to protect the mental well-being of your employees! 

 

Find Dawn on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Appian sponsored this episode of #WorkTrends!

 

Editor’s note: Our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages are new and improved. Check them out, and let us know how we’re doing!

 

Millennials: Helping the “Workaholic” Generation

We live in a world that is constantly in “on” mode. Smart phones, computers, emails, and phone calls; even after you clock off from work, it’s so easy to forget to actually “check out.”

This is especially true for the millennial generation. Despite common misconceptions, millennials appear to be more workaholics rather than lazy youngsters. Their relationship with technology often means they are constantly checking work emails after they’ve clocked off, or first thing when they wake up in the morning.

This raises a new question: is the lack of work-life balance a healthy transition? Could millennials’ work ethic be hurting themselves? In order to mitigate this imbalance, there are a couple of ways that Human Resources (and company leaders) can adjust the unequal lifestyle habits of millennials without taking away from their autonomy.

Why They Can’t Stop Working

There are a couple of theories as to why millennials are always working. Some say it is due to their upbringing, where children were constantly working on a schedule: soccer practice, piano practice, school, dinner, and sleep.

However, others think it is due to their delay in building a family. In fact, many millennials are still living with their parents well into their late 20s. This is at no fault of their own, as the economy is thrusting young workers into lower paying jobs than what their parents had when they first started. Not to mention the insurmountable student debt much of them carry after leaving college; it’s a wonder that millennials are able to make money at all.

But due to this delay in leaving their parents’ homes, millennials find they have more time on their hands to work. Plus, they are not going out and buying homes or starting their own families, which might otherwise limit the amount of time they would like to spend in the office.

Thus, millennials find themselves in this vortex: a lack of financial freedom, more personal freedom due to a lack of dependents, and technology that allows us instant access to emails, work servers, and messages from clients or coworkers. So, it comes as no surprise that they never quite “clock out” at the end of the day.

Health Concerns

It is widely known that burnout at work can be damaging to both employee’s personal health and the health of a business. Burnout normally results in overexposure to stress and lack of personal time.

Yet there is a rising concern among health educators that the younger generations, from millennials to current teens, are experiencing far more stress and anxiety than their parents.

“This April marks the 24th anniversary of Stress Awareness Month,” says Christine Carter, in a post for forbes.com. “…It’s no secret that the millennial age group, in particular, reports higher stress levels than any other generation and they appear to be having a difficult time coping with it,” she states.

Carter attributes an increase in millennial stress levels to increased responsibilities in the workplace, major purchasing decisions, issues with marriage, and parenting, or planning to parent. “According to the American Psychological Association, millennials rely on more sedentary stress management techniques than other generations. Given their fluency and comfort with technology, it’s not surprising that millennials are turning to less active solutions such as gadgets to cope with stress.”

This creates a unique dilemma for the “workaholic” generation: turning to technology to help manage stress and overexposure to stress and tech at work. Over time, burnout is sure to create problems for businesses and millennial employees. For the employees, this increased exposure to stress can lead to serious health issues down the road: everything from neurological issues like cluster headaches, GERD and other intestinal illnesses, to heart conditions. For businesses, this might cause increased sick days and lack of engagement, as well as turnover, all of which contribute to a huge loss in profits.

If you see this behavior pop up at work — where employees are admitting to checking emails constantly or staying late, and burnout is starting to affect your team — how can you create a healthier culture for them? How can managers and HR leaders make a positive adjustment to the lives of their workers?

What Can HR Leaders Do?

Although every company has different aspirations for success and company culture, there are some real tried-and-true ways that company leaders can build up healthy environments for their employees. One such way is to promote the 3Ps: play, purpose, and potential.

Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management suggests the 3Ps as a best practice method for building up company culture. Employees, especially millennials, want to work for companies that promote fun and creativity (play); that prove they are making a positive impact on the company, community, and world (purpose); and that keep them feeling motivated for achieving better standards and positions (potential). Pepperdine University also suggests providing employee activities — such as yoga, company outings, or educational lessons — to help promote healthy lifestyles and to help employees realize that the business is invested in their overall wellbeing.

Providing an environment for activities or relaxing work spaces is an easy way to subtly de-stress your millennial employees. Experts also suggest increasing autonomy for employees. This can be done through flexible work schedules and flexible or abundant vacation times. Millennials are already pioneering the flexible work schedule, so allowing them the freedom to work when they want to, and for as long as they would like, can cultivate an excellent work ethic and a positive work-life balance.

However, not every business will have the freedom to choose flexibility. In those cases, show your employees through example. Leave on time to prevent employees from feeling like they need to work late, or create special days that promise your employees a bit of a more relaxed atmosphere. One list suggests such days as “No Meeting Monday” or “Late Start Friday.” However, cultivating this culture takes more than just creating suggestions; it also requires accountability. Through example, you can show your employees that you will hold yourself accountable, and you will be able to more thoroughly hold your employees accountable too.

Millennials may be a new challenge for business leaders, and they are certainly challenging their limits, but creating a culture that meets their needs isn’t impossible. In fact, their blend of work-life balance could simply be a new form of workplace culture: making your work into a fun environment that enhances your life.

Through accountability practices, as well as a new twist on office activities, you could create a business that not only works for millennials, but for every generation that precedes them or follows them. A healthier work-life balance is in your hands.

Photo Credit: Christoph Scholz Flickr via Compfight cc

Your Digital Domain: Who's The Boss? #TChat Recap

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Voltaire

Do you suppose this is what it felt like back in 1967, during the “Summer of Love?” Our country was weary from years of war and civil unrest, and people were searching to reconnect with their humanity. That’s when “peace” took on new meaning as a symbol of promise for individuals and a new world order.

Flash-forward to today, when many among us are weary and searching to rediscover our humanity — but in a different way. This time, it’s fueled by the digital revolution. Why? We’ve been deeply engaged for so long with so many forms of networked communication that it seems we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Even the most intrepid “wired” geeks openly yearn for a certain kind of peace. And now, that discomfort is leading many to pursue serenity — either by dialing back on social channels or temporarily unplugging altogether.

Defining A Digital Destiny: To Each His Own

Grand as it may be, today’s “always on” social business experiment is taking a toll. And if this week’s #TChat forums are any indicator, workplace leaders are just starting to understand and respond to the consequences of an over-extended 24×7 workforce.

When do the productivity benefits of digital connections cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous? When does hyper-connectivity become a drain on employee engagement and performance? How can workers maintain a healthy mindset in a world of nonstop demands? And how can leaders develop and sustain a healthy “connected” organization?

The TalentCulture community has only begun to crack the code on this issue. However, this week’s discussions revealed three key considerations:

1) Employers can no longer afford to ignore the cultural aspects of unrelenting hyper-connectivity. It’s actually a big-ticket business issue with implications that reach far beyond obvious security and privacy risks. Employee health costs, productivity and turnover are all expensive factors in this complex equation.

2) There are no single silver-bullet answers. However, there are a multitude of choices. The best solution for each organization will be different. But to find that solution, decision makers must take a mindful, active part in the process. As the digital realm unfolds before us, and choices expand, that responsibility becomes increasingly important.

3) This isn’t just about employers. Certainly companies must create processes and policies that address business interests and respect employee well-being. But at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own productivity, performance and peace of mind. The fundamental question rests with every individual: When and how should I leverage digital connectivity to improve my professional and personal life?

With so much at stake, #TChat-ters were grateful to welcome two work-life management experts to lead the way this week:

Their insights helped us frame the issues and expose new ideas, as we engaged the community in our weekly “world of work” dialogue. Below, we’ve captured event highlights (including a tweet-by-tweet Storify slideshow from Twitter) and other resource links.

We hope this inspires further discussion within your organization and professional circles. As ideas emerge, don’t be shy! Let us know what’s on your mind. For those at the forefront of work-life integration, the responsibilities may be great — but together, this journey of digital discovery is always better!

#TChat Week in Review: Connected Work-Life Reality Check

SAT 7/6

JudyMartin2JPG

Watch the G+ Hangout with Judy Martin

#TChat Preview: On the eve of his own one-week digital sabbatical, Community Manager, Tim McDonald, asked Judy Martin to frame this week’s topic in a G+ Hangout. See “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

SUN 7/7

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, opened up about her own attempt to disconnect. Read “The Digital Realities Of Work/Life Blending.”

MON 7/8

Related Post: While preparing for her #TChat appearance, Judy offered helpful guidance about how to frame this work-life integration issue and gain a sense of control. Read “Digital Detox vs Digital Redux in the Work-Life Merge.”

WED 7/10

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: 30 minutes prior to #TChat Twitter, radio hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman sat down with Judy and Heidi for a lively discussion about work-life integration — what it means for individuals, as well as employers, in today’s digitally dependent world. Fascinating stuff! If you missed the session, listen now to the recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community came together on the Twitter stream to share ideas in real-time about the pros and cons of digital connections at the core of professional and personal life. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas! To review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-digital-breaks-rethinking-connecti.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Judy and Heidi for helping our community think more carefully about how to manage the demands of digital life in more productive and personally satisfying ways. Your passion and perspectives are inspiring!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about work/life integration issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat events, we’ll continue our summer “professional reality check,” as personal branding expert and author, Dorie Clark, helps us look at how to “Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Your Digital Domain: Who’s The Boss? #TChat Recap

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Voltaire

Do you suppose this is what it felt like back in 1967, during the “Summer of Love?” Our country was weary from years of war and civil unrest, and people were searching to reconnect with their humanity. That’s when “peace” took on new meaning as a symbol of promise for individuals and a new world order.

Flash-forward to today, when many among us are weary and searching to rediscover our humanity — but in a different way. This time, it’s fueled by the digital revolution. Why? We’ve been deeply engaged for so long with so many forms of networked communication that it seems we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Even the most intrepid “wired” geeks openly yearn for a certain kind of peace. And now, that discomfort is leading many to pursue serenity — either by dialing back on social channels or temporarily unplugging altogether.

Defining A Digital Destiny: To Each His Own

Grand as it may be, today’s “always on” social business experiment is taking a toll. And if this week’s #TChat forums are any indicator, workplace leaders are just starting to understand and respond to the consequences of an over-extended 24×7 workforce.

When do the productivity benefits of digital connections cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous? When does hyper-connectivity become a drain on employee engagement and performance? How can workers maintain a healthy mindset in a world of nonstop demands? And how can leaders develop and sustain a healthy “connected” organization?

The TalentCulture community has only begun to crack the code on this issue. However, this week’s discussions revealed three key considerations:

1) Employers can no longer afford to ignore the cultural aspects of unrelenting hyper-connectivity. It’s actually a big-ticket business issue with implications that reach far beyond obvious security and privacy risks. Employee health costs, productivity and turnover are all expensive factors in this complex equation.

2) There are no single silver-bullet answers. However, there are a multitude of choices. The best solution for each organization will be different. But to find that solution, decision makers must take a mindful, active part in the process. As the digital realm unfolds before us, and choices expand, that responsibility becomes increasingly important.

3) This isn’t just about employers. Certainly companies must create processes and policies that address business interests and respect employee well-being. But at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own productivity, performance and peace of mind. The fundamental question rests with every individual: When and how should I leverage digital connectivity to improve my professional and personal life?

With so much at stake, #TChat-ters were grateful to welcome two work-life management experts to lead the way this week:

Their insights helped us frame the issues and expose new ideas, as we engaged the community in our weekly “world of work” dialogue. Below, we’ve captured event highlights (including a tweet-by-tweet Storify slideshow from Twitter) and other resource links.

We hope this inspires further discussion within your organization and professional circles. As ideas emerge, don’t be shy! Let us know what’s on your mind. For those at the forefront of work-life integration, the responsibilities may be great — but together, this journey of digital discovery is always better!

#TChat Week in Review: Connected Work-Life Reality Check

SAT 7/6

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Watch the G+ Hangout with Judy Martin

#TChat Preview: On the eve of his own one-week digital sabbatical, Community Manager, Tim McDonald, asked Judy Martin to frame this week’s topic in a G+ Hangout. See “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

SUN 7/7

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, opened up about her own attempt to disconnect. Read “The Digital Realities Of Work/Life Blending.”

MON 7/8

Related Post: While preparing for her #TChat appearance, Judy offered helpful guidance about how to frame this work-life integration issue and gain a sense of control. Read “Digital Detox vs Digital Redux in the Work-Life Merge.”

WED 7/10

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Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: 30 minutes prior to #TChat Twitter, radio hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman sat down with Judy and Heidi for a lively discussion about work-life integration — what it means for individuals, as well as employers, in today’s digitally dependent world. Fascinating stuff! If you missed the session, listen now to the recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community came together on the Twitter stream to share ideas in real-time about the pros and cons of digital connections at the core of professional and personal life. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas! To review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-digital-breaks-rethinking-connecti.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Judy and Heidi for helping our community think more carefully about how to manage the demands of digital life in more productive and personally satisfying ways. Your passion and perspectives are inspiring!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about work/life integration issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat events, we’ll continue our summer “professional reality check,” as personal branding expert and author, Dorie Clark, helps us look at how to “Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng