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Taking time off to focus on wellness.By Rhoda McVeigh and Anita Krieg

Employee burnout is a crisis in workplaces everywhere. According to a 2021 McKinsey employee survey, “Almost half of all employees [in the U.S.] report being at least somewhat burned out, and that’s likely an underrepresentation of the real number,” as the most burned out among us may have already left the workforce.

Burned out, stressed out employees are less engaged, less productive, have higher rates of absenteeism, and can have a destructive impact on their co-workers – and company culture itself. Fortunately, employee wellness is receiving more attention in corporate America these days, and many organizations have initiated Employee Wellness Programs that offer mental and physical health benefits. These benefits can include things like health assessments, smoking cessation programs, nutrition and exercise programs, mental health support, and even offer financial or other incentives to employees who participate and achieve their wellness goals.

Summer is the perfect time to launch, or promote, your Employee Wellness Program. It’s a season most of us look forward to all year, when the days are longer, a little bit slower, and we can get outside and relax more easily. Here are 10 ways employers can support employee health and wellbeing right now:

  1. Form a wellness committee, with all levels and departments represented, designed to nurture a culture of wellbeing. To start, the committee could be tasked with surveying all employees to determine where to focus your efforts, whether that’s mental health support, wellness challenges, or a review of company policies and culture.
  2. Encourage employees to plan time off during the summer. Scheduled events are more likely to happen, and planning ahead allows teams to arrange for back up and support when a co-worker is out of the office. When an employee returns from a vacation, create opportunities for them to share how they spent their time (if willing), or even just to share how much they enjoyed their time away. This reinforces that time off is a valid and necessary part of work life.
  3. Make sure workloads are evenly and fairly distributed, and that expectations are realistic. Consider if you could ease up slightly on production goals during the months of July and August.
  4. Consider flexible scheduling or alternate work schedules, or even reduced hours during the summer months. You could offer half-day Fridays, with the caveat that the work gets accomplished (again, being realistic about what’s possible).
  5. Leadership must model the desired behavior. It’s important that managers are exemplars of the habits and behaviors your organization states it is committed to. If employees see management working long hours, coping with stress in unhealthy ways and avoiding time off, burnout culture will persist.
  6. Create opportunities for employees to connect socially, especially with today’s distributed workplaces. Try a 10 minute socializing period before the start of a meeting, or set up break-out groups with the simple goal of employees getting to know their co-workers better.
  7. Share nutrition and health tips. You can often get these “ready to go” from your health insurance carrier, or find them online for free. Employees tend to be more motivated to improve their health in the summer when it’s easier to be active.
  8. Assemble a summertime wellness kit to give to your employees. This could include items like sunscreen, water bottle, beach towel, guide to some local hiking trails, or gift certificate to a local bookstore. Everyone loves a gift bag, and this will go a long way to show your employees that you’re committed to their health and wellbeing.
  9. Launch a walking challenge where your team logs their individual miles, and collectively walks to some fabulous virtual destination – the Grand Canyon, for instance, depending on the number of participants. Walking is a great form of exercise that almost everyone can do, but make sure to create an alternative option for any team member who can’t.
  10. Set goals and celebrate the wins. Whatever you and/or your wellness committee decide to focus on, create some goals, track your progress, and plan regular company-wide events, in person or virtually, to celebrate all the innovative ways your organization supports employee wellness. Group activities are invaluable in building a sense of community and teamwork.

Summertime wellness initiatives can help employees enjoy all that the season has to offer while focusing on better health. But you won’t want to stop when summer ends, because the benefits include reduced absenteeism, greater productivity, improved morale, a higher sense of company loyalty and lower health insurance costs.

Contact the experts at KMA today for even more ideas on how you can promote wellness now, and use it as a starting point for a permanent program.