Employee Wellbeing Comes into Focus in 2021

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David Rice
01/27/2021

employee wellbeing

As companies begin to focus on employee experience as a driver of engagement, they’re also looking at the drivers of experience. As it turns out, there’s a whole lot more to it than a discussion about work-life balance, one that is focused on employee wellbeing.

On the surface, that sounds nice, but what we mean when we talk about wellbeing is more than a statement on burnout or physical health and reducing stress. A report from Gallup defines wellbeing along five elements that can help people achieve what they call “holistic wellbeing.” People who are satisfied in these areas are more likely to be engaged in work, innovative, collaborative and ready to learn new things.

The five wellbeing elements are:

  • Social – meaningful relationships
  • Career – enjoying work
  • Physical – energy to succeed
  • Community – enjoying where you live
  • Financial – smart money management.

It may sound to some like this is not within the company’s per view to influence these things for people. But wellbeing as it applies to employees refers to how their job impacts their lives overall and that is something the company can control. But where do you start?

Monitoring Employee Wellbeing

Wellbeing should be a consistent concern for companies and as a result, requires consistent monitoring of employee habits, behavior and engagement. That can be a challenge in normal times, but in a time of crisis where everyone is working remotely, the challenge is even greater.

While Zoom fatigue is very real and something that everyone is battling, turning on cameras during video meetings is one of the easiest ways to check in with employees. Their posture, the state of the room they are in and their facial expressions during conversation can tell you a great deal about how they are feeling in relation to their work.

READ: Navigating the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act 

There are software solutions for monitoring employee wellbeing, but these aren’t as useful as connecting personally and continually engaging employees in conversation. An absence of communication from employees is a red flag. Be sure to lead by example by using the video features yourself and communicating openly. HR and direct managers both should look to engage team members regularly as a way of looking after them.

Those whose spouse or roommate has lost a job are prime candidates for financial coaching, while those who appear tired, irritable or more quiet than usual may need to take advantage of physical fitness offerings or mental health coaching. The isolation that accompanies lockdowns and work from home schedules have an impact on people’s lifestyles, awareness of opportunities to interact in the local community and social habits. The consequences of that are something employers have to be conscious of in engaging employees.

Whatever the issue may be, employers will do well to engage employees and make them aware of how they can help. The sense of obligation grew significantly in 2020 due to the change in working conditions and the general state of the world. For example, 62% of employers expressing they feel responsible for employees financial wellness, up from 13% in 2013, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Employee Wellbeing Strategy

For companies just wading into the wellbeing waters, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Some employers haven’t offered much in the way of coaching for employees when it comes to finance and their Employee Assistance Programs were minimal.

Over the last decade this has been changing, but in wake of the current situation, the approach many companies are taking is quickly evolving. Programs that are now commonplace that weren’t even five years ago include healthcare cost planning, budget coaching, tuition planning and debt management programs.

READ: Pandemic Sparks Surge in 401(k) Interest and Activity

Mental health tools have become more common, whether that’s virtual yoga sessions, mental health support websites or expanded options for counseling through the company EAP.

A well rounded employee wellbeing strategy offers immediate support for employees while simultaneously delivering long term preventative approaches to wellbeing that deliver stability over time. That stability ensures a certain level of engagement which in turn ensures an optimal level of performance.

Some other areas your strategy should look to help employees develop healthy habits and set and achieve goals include:

Social

Work relationships are an important part of a person’s social landscape. It helps keep them engaged, provide a sense of meaning in regards to their connection to the organization as well as giving people someone to share accomplishments and other positive emotions with. This deepens the connection to the workplace and creates an engaging environment. Be sure to help employees find ways to remain social with one another despite not physically being together.

Physical

Obviously, exercise is an important part of health and your wellbeing program should offer interesting and fun ways for employees to partake in physical fitness. But diet and sleep also play important roles and with established habits around eating and bed times potentially disrupted due to remote work, employees’ natural rhythms may be disturbed. Consider offering a sleep questionnaire and tutorials that can help them address sleep related issues. Additionally, nutritional coaching and support through access to nutrition tracking apps further employees taking better care of their physical health.

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