Sarah Skillin is responsible for building out the HR infrastructure in the U.S. as the Americas Chief People Officer at JDX Consulting.
Employee well-being has increasingly become a focus and even a strategic imperative within most firms over the past couple of years. However, there is no denying that the current pandemic has accelerated a business’s need to adopt a more robust wellness package, adjusting it accordingly to the current virtual climate.
Today’s workforce is a five-generation workplace, including members from the Silent Generation to Gen Z. That means to stay desirable in a competitive market, it is critical that employers understand generational differences — millennials are not necessarily looking for the same thing baby boomers are — while remembering all of the generations that are possibly still represented throughout your company.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen our work-life balance as we know completely change. Almost 12 months into the current work-from-home environment for most of us has resulted in many employees becoming overworked as they struggle to switch off. The long-term effects of this could include a loss of productivity and general burnout. Even prior to the pandemic, employers were losing out on an estimated $225.5 billion a year in productivity related to mental wellness issues alone.
With all that being said, there is no doubt that wellness programs are nothing short of a necessity. Here are three tips to help employers build out a meaningful wellness package in today’s world.
1. Strip back preconceived ideas around ‘wellness.’
Previously, workplace wellness meant offering healthy snacks around the office, smoothie weeks and gym memberships. Despite these things being unobtainable for most in the current climate, wellness should not be confined to this narrow definition. Wellness should be looked at much more holistically, encompassing an individual’s overall mental and physical well-being. The sooner we can get away from these rigid ideas of what wellness means, the sooner we can become more impartial, start realizing the various needs of our dynamic workforce and have a direct positive effect on our employees’ well-being.
For example, parents working from home with children may have the added worries of homeschooling, therefore a flexible approach toward the working day to allow for interruption could be an accommodation you consider. By allowing a relaxation of the rules and a flexible approach, business leaders can help in reducing employees’ stress of balancing work and childcare. A child care program or initiative and parent forum groups may also be useful components in a wellness package for some of the working parents within your firm.
Above all, we must remain conscious and understanding of every individual’s circumstances.
2. Study your employees.
Understand where your employees are on their life paths in terms of responsibilities and interests they may have outside the workplace, but do not make assumptions — especially ones that are generationally based. Often people categorize “behavior, attitude, or value as generation based rather than simply age-based.” It is imporant to understand generational differences versus life-stage differences.
A good way to begin to understand the needs of your employees is to organize focus groups and send out questionnaires.
3. Make creative choices.
As mentioned previously, we arguably have one of the most diverse workforces we have ever seen. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all wellness package will not suffice. There needs to be variety of options to ensure there is something for everyone.
Once you have studied your employees, you’ll begin to discover a narrative around the various themes and desires that your employees want. This may range from virtual light-hearted happy hours to family care assistance for children or elderly parents.
You can encourage your employees to complete an optional wellness action plan to be shared with their managers or HR; this is an evidence-based system for managing mental health. As a people manager, it can help you structure and start conversations about mental health with your employees and understand their experiences and needs.
At JDX, after taking the time to understand our employee base, some initiatives we implemented that might serve as inspiration for your company include:
• Virtual fitness challenges. It has been suggested that adding an element of competition or providing access to a social web can help drive higher engagement.
• Work-from-home equipment, such as ergonomic chairs with virtual ergonomic webinars. These help ensure employees can at least work comfortably from their homes.
• Complimentary meditation applications and one-on-one mental health clinics.
Overall, what matters is taking the time to understand your workforce and recognizing the unique differences among employees. Working from home can be isolating and everyone is handling the pandemic differently, whether they are quarantined with children or stuck overseas away from loved ones. Therefore, during this time, we cannot offer a one-size-fits-all package; we need to listen to employees and be supportive and understanding of their actual needs.