Curating the week in wellness February 23th–26th 2021: Hope amid a grim milestone; NASA embraces wellness; and more

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

By Robby Brumberg      @robbybrumberg      
2-23 week in wellness links

Good morning, wellness pros, HR heroes and comms champions.  

We hope you enjoy and benefit from this week’s must-read batch of links.

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

1. A grim milestone—yet hope persists.

As President Biden noted in yesterday’s press briefing:

“Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead.  That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined.  That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth.”

However, he tempered the somber news with uplifting exhortations:

“For in this year of profound loss, we have seen profound courage from all of you on the frontlines.  I know the stress, the trauma, the grief you carry. But you give us hope. You keep us going. You remind us that we do take care of our own. That we leave nobody behind.  And that while we have been humbled, we have never given up. We are America. We can and will do this.”

Wellness and HR pros have a role to play in halting this pandemic. By encouraging employees to get their vaccine and providing healthy living guidance during this frightening time, you can make a lifesaving difference with your work.  

In the meantime, lean into the emotion of COVID-era storytelling. Don’t ignore the reality of what employees are experiencing. Work with communicators to document this season of turmoil, and find those stories of hope. “We are America. We can and will do this.”

2. How to measure engagement during times of turmoil.

SHRM offers guidance on tracking employee engagement during COVID-19, including asking more pointed “stay interview” questions such as:

  • What do you look forward to each day when commuting to work?
  • What are you learning here?
  • Why do you stay here?
  • When is the last time you thought about leaving and what prompted it?
  • What can I do to make working here better for you?

3. Taking wellness to Mars, the stars and beyond.

NASA is partnering with Fitbit and Google to fuel employee health during the pandemic.  

EBN writes, “NASA is offering employees a Fitbit device and access to the wellness company’s Ready for Work solution, as part of a pilot program to help employees prevent COVID-19 exposures in their workplace.”  

According to EBN:

“As part of the pilot program, 1,000 NASA employees across the U.S. will receive Fitbit Charge 4 devices and access to Fitbit’s Ready for Work daily check-in tool. The employees—including astronauts and other mission critical staff—will use the Fitbit solution as part of the NASA Health Stabilization Program, which is aimed at mitigating the risk of infectious disease among astronaut flight crews during the preflight period.”

“The in-app daily check-in feature allows users to log their symptoms and temperature, track key health metrics and receive summarized COVID-19 guidance based on CDC guidelines. The goal of the Fitbit pilot program is to help NASA and its employees prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also supporting the overall health and well-being of NASA employees. Employees will also have access to one year of Fitbit Premium and one-on-one Fitbit health coaching services.”

4. Sharpening your DE&I focus, and programs.

TLNT writes that bolstering diversity and inclusion at your company can help you achieve “35% better performance, 87% better decision-making, and 1.4 times more revenue.”

To go from lip service to meaningful change, TLNT says you must:

  • Make DE&I measurable.
  • Dissect the employee experience.
  • Live it from your core.
  • Encourage collaboration and disagreement.
  • Train your leadership.

Also, be mindful of whether your workplace is welcoming and inclusive toward LGBT employees.  

5. Adjusting benefits, perks and programs to match employees’ reality.  

Has your company adjusted any offerings amid the pandemic? Some food for thought: Hewlett Packard has planted a “virtual vegetable garden,” Santander has partnered with Operation Hope to bolster employees’ financial wellness. Prudential is covering caregiving expenses, and many have committed to covering (or at least defraying) exorbitant child care costs.

Learn more about how employee benefits are shifting amid COVID-19.  

6. Forecasting the future of work.

The National Law Review offers workplace trends for 2021 and beyond, including: 

  • An increased expectation of flexibility—in work location and work time.
  • Enhanced support of employees for engagement and retention.
  • Increased expectation of employer/organizational social responsibility.
  • Steep demographic changes, including a worsening gender pay gap.
  • Expected workforce reductions and closings.

7. Spotting—and—reversing burnout.

TLNT lists the five most common causes of burnout:

  • Working beyond capacity.
  • Lack of company support.
  • Not enough rest.
  • Lack of role clarity.
  • Low psychological safety.

To monitor and prevent employees from burning out, the piece says to:

  • Gather candid data via pointed, open-ended questions.
  • Use the data to inform “treatment.”
  • Perform “surgery.”
  • Manage the “recovery.”

8. Can wellness save the office?

As companies contemplate when—or whether—to reopen offices, The Sydney Morning Herald considers the role wellness can play in easing employees back into the workplace. The Aussie paper of record writes: “But in a post-COVID world in which personal health is at the fore, workplace wellness can be a lever to lure employees back to the office,” adding that:

“Libby Sander, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Bond University, says in-office well-being measures can help entice people to the workplace, and ones that have a social or mental-health element will be particularly effective. ‘[It’s about] having purpose around the reason you’re going to the office,’ Sander says. ‘I think employee well-being programs are very important and even if people aren’t stressed by the job, they’re stressed by what’s going on externally. So I think it’s as, if not more, important than ever.’ ”

9. Employers hesitant to mandate vaccines, but employees are (mostly) sanguine about getting inoculated.

HR Dive writes that just 6% of employers plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. However, 56% of employees surveyed said they’d be willing to get a shot if their employers encouraged them to. In that same piece, HR Dive also shares how Chobani, Dollar General, Kroger, McDonalds and Target are incentivizing the coronavirus vaccine.