Curating the week in wellness Aug. 30–Sep. 3, 2021: Big companies return to work, Nike’s mental health move, and more

The week’s essential content and fresh industry pickings for those dedicated to employee well-being.

By Robby Brumberg      @robbybrumberg      

Hello, wellness warriors!

We hope you enjoy this week’s collection of thought-provoking articles, savvy tips and relevant takeaways.

As always, please get in touch with any ideas, suggestions or feedback on how we can serve you better or cover topics that are near and dear to your heart. We are grateful for all the excellent work you do.

1. Bringing workers back to the office.

The New York Times offers a compilation of when (or if) major corporations have decided on when to recall employees to brick-and-mortar locations—along with how they’re approaching vaccinations. Here’s a sample:

Goldman Sachs

Return date: June 2021

Goldman Sachs is requiring employees to be fully vaccinated to enter its U.S. offices starting on Sept. 7.

JPMorgan Chase

Return date: July 2021

JPMorgan is encouraging employees to get vaccinated but has not announced a mandate.

Bank of America

Expected return date: September 2021

Bank of America is only allowing vaccinated employees to return to the office. The bank’s goal is to have most employees back by September.

Wells Fargo

Expected return date: October 2021

Wells Fargo is encouraging employees to get vaccinated but has not announced a mandate. Employees who are working from home will be called back to the office starting Oct. 4 instead of Sept. 7, as previously planned, according to a memo to staff.

BlackRock

Expected return date: October 2021

The world’s largest money manager said it would allow only vaccinated employees in its offices until Oct. 1, rather than the original date of Sept. 8. The company is encouraging employees to get vaccinated but has not announced a mandate.

Google

Expected return date: October 2021

Google said last month that it would require employees who returned to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also said it would push back its return-to-office date to mid-October from September.

Apple

Expected return date: January 2022

Apple is encouraging employees to get vaccinated but has not announced a mandate. The company delayed its return-to-office date until January from October.

Amazon

Expected return date: January 2022

Amazon is encouraging employees to get vaccinated but has not announced a mandate. The retail giant told its corporate employees that they did not need to return to their offices until Jan. 3, pushing back a deadline that had been set for early September.

Microsoft

Expected return date: October 2021

Microsoft said it would require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and guests to enter its offices. The company pushed back the full reopening of its U.S. offices to no earlier than Oct. 4.

Airbnb

Expected return date: September 2022

Airbnb said in May that it would not ask employees to return to the office until next September, to provide greater clarity for families and other caregivers. The company has not yet announced a vaccination policy.

How do your plans stack up? More importantly, do your plans dovetail with employees’ preferences and desires?

2. Nike gives employees a week off.

This week, staffers at the athletic giant are getting permission to “Just don’t it.”

As BBC writes, “Staff at Nike’s corporate headquarters in Oregon have been given a week off to support their mental health, ahead of the return to the office in September.”

Bumble, LinkedIn and others have taken similar steps in recent months, as companies struggle to alleviate the burdens of burned-out, exhausted workers.

If you’re not sure how to support your employees amid such jarring turbulence and stress, time off is always a nice gesture.

3. Moving past diversity toward genuine inclusion.

HBR offers insights on creating an environment that facilitates inclusivity and rewards meaningful collaboration. The tips include:

  • Recognize differences.
  • Work to actively uncover common ground
  • Commit to having difficult conversations.

The piece concludes:

“A diverse team can drive more creativity, encourage individuals to think through and process ideas more critically, and aid problem solving. Instead of pretending that race does not exist, it’s time for business leaders to create environments that encourage authenticity and trust—and build supportive team cultures that help teams reach these lofty aims. Your team’s success just may depend on it.”

4. Lessons on reporting CSR, ESG progress.

If you’re struggling to report on your company’s sustainability initiatives or philanthropic ventures, have a look at these heavy hitters’ recent reports:

5. New research on political messaging and expectations.

Porter Novelli just published a report that analyzes the importance of businesses speaking out on timely political issues.

The study finds:

  • 70% of Americans believe the private sector has become a more central figure in influencing government legislation.
  • 74% think company leaders/CEOs can influence politics and government legislation.
  • 64% believe businesses should speak out against government legislation if it doesn’t align with their company’s values.
  • 48% do research to see which PACs or politicians a company is making contributions to.

As you collaborate with internal comms and HR counterparts to shape your company’s culture, keep this guidance in mind:

“This research shows that companies can and should speak up on domestic political issues but must be ready for the ramifications—good and bad. As the spotlight continues to shine on the private sector’s government engagements, stakeholder expectations on domestic political engagement by U.S. businesses will continue to shift and increase. In such uncertain times, one thing is for sure, stakeholders are inspecting all aspects of businesses and the private sector must be prepared to respond.”

6. How and why financial wellness can bolster equity.

T. Rowe Price’s new Retirement Savings and Spending Study posits that “financial wellness is imperative to address social inequity, the prioritization of competing financial goals, and long-term retiree success.”

But what roles can employers play? According to T. Rowe Price, “Employers have an opportunity to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in defined contribution plans and help address broader social inequality,” and “can help plan participants navigate retirement planning, while also supporting retirees as they face new financial decisions.”

The report also finds:

  • Societal inequality found in the broader labor market is also present in retirement savings.
  • Black and Latinx retirement savers are more likely to have debt and less likely to own homes than white savers.
  • Defined contribution (DC) plans such as 401(k)s are one of the few places where access to advice, guidance, and education in support of lifetime financial goals is supported equally.
  • Discussions of financial wellness have often focused on retirement planning; however, financial wellness also matters in retirement.
  • Retirees may still need guidance in making the right financial choices as they pivot from a saving to a spending mindset.
  • Retirees are more confident about their finances in retirement than preretirees.

The gist: Financial wellness should play an essential role in your DE&I efforts, as genuine equity will lag so long as enormous wealth gaps persist.  

7. Is now the time to mandate the vaccine?

Now that the FDA has given full approval to the Pfizer jabs, companies are feeling increasingly emboldened to follow through with mandates. The White House is encouraging businesses to do so, and many more are requiring employees to get the shot before returning to work—but are mandates worth the trouble?

That’s for you and your leaders to decide, though your workers should have a say, too.

You might also consider using sticks in addition to carrots. Companies such as Delta have announced health care cost hikes for unvaccinated employees, and the NFL is enforcing extremely strict protocols for personnel who refuse to get the jab. While effective, these sorts of strategies could open your company up for litigation.

8. Seven ways to fight burnout.

HR Executive offers seven tactics to ease workers’ mental burdens. The tips include:

  • Talk openly about mental health and stressors in your organization.
  • Make sure you’re offering the right benefits and resources. 
  • Encourage workers to take time off. 
  • Be cognizant of Zoom and on-camera overload. 
  • Give employees collective time off.

How are you fighting workforce burnout? If this issue is not a top priority for your leaders right now, it should be.

9. A reminder to get up and move around.

The Conversation has published a piece of research that shows how crucial it is for students to move their bodies instead of anchoring to desks. The researcher writes that “sitting in front of a computer screen subdues, or completely detaches people from, many of the sense-making abilities of their bodies. To learn most efficiently, our minds depend on the movement of our bodies, working with a variety of tools, being in dynamic places and having our collaborators nearby.”

Guess what, the same principles apply to bigger people, too! So, make sure you and your colleagues enjoy freedom of movement throughout the day. You might just unlock new levels of productivity, engagement and collaboration.

10. Helping hands.

If you want to support folks affected by Hurricane Ida, check here and here for resources and ideas.