Curating the week in wellness February 9th – 12th 2021: Looming health care changes; supporting working moms, and more

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

By Robby Brumberg      @robbybrumberg      

Greetings, wellness pros, HR heroes and comms champions!   

We hope you enjoy and benefit from this week’s 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. Biden’s impact on U.S. health care.

America has among the highest medical costs in the world. President Biden has pledged to throttle down ballooning expenses, though by what means remains to be seen. He has promised to revive the Affordable Care Act, with key goals including lowering prescription drug costs, increasing subsidies, and widening access to coverage (including opportunities for undocumented immigrants to buy in).

Wellness pros should also note new protections for transgender health care rights, movement to combat systemic bias, and be aware of possible action to break up “hospital monopolies.”   

2. Reporting on DE&I progress.

Black History Month is an ideal time to take stock of your DE&I efforts. HR Executive reports that 75% of organizations enhanced DE&I efforts following the racial unrest of 2020. If you’re struggling to sustain and maintain inclusion momentum, or if you’re frustrated with lack of results, check on Korn Ferry’s instructive “race matters” infographic and its guidance on five crucial DE&I mistakes to avoid. Also, shore up your efforts to track ROI of your initiatives.

You might also take inspiration from how Google, Coca-Cola and other large companies are observing this year’s Black History Month.  

3. A dozen examples of wellness apps in action.

TechTarget offers a helpful rundown of well-being software to consider, including tools that make telehealth, step challenges, employee recognition, mindfulness, financial health and EAPs a breeze.  

The piece also serves up eight keys to a successful wellness program, as well as nine steps to create a great workplace mindfulness program.

Via TechTarget

4. The keys to meaningful financial wellness in 2021.

Voya’s CEO of retirement and employee benefits provides four tips to better financial health, including:

  • Prioritize emergency savings.
  • See if your employer matches contributions to a retirement plan.
  • Review your benefits enrollment statement to see if there are any coverage gaps to fill.
  • Ask your employer if they plan to augment or add any financial wellness offerings in 2021.

5. Emerging HR trends to monitor.  

Forbes suggests that survive the “next normal,” companies should make employee well-being a “top mandate.” The piece also advises investing in mental health benefits, prioritizing professional development and “corporate learning,” maximizing internal mobility and promotions, and preparing for the “hybrid office of the future.”     

6. Fighting against burnout, stress and exhaustion.

How are you helping employees cope during this stressful season of life?

If you’re not prepared to begin monitoring signs of stress in workers’ sweat, beefing up resilience is a great place to start.

E&Y offers five ways to help employees move from “fear to resilience,” and the CDC lists a trove of guidance and supporting materials to help workers cope with job stress. Metlife, in its report on workplace mental health, offers three more keys to bolstering resilience:

Step 1: Make mental health a priority in the workplace and take tangible actions to drive positive holistic well-being.

Step 2: Build an open and supportive workplace culture that addresses mental health problems while also helping preempt them.

Step 3: Create an ecosystem of support programs, from employee assistance programs (EAPs) to voluntary benefits.

7. How McDonald’s is supporting its workers during COVID-19.

QSR reports that the fast-food giant hired 260,000 workers in 2020. In addition to massive rollout of PPE for employees and a partnership with Mayo Clinic to improve sanitation efforts, McDonald’s, “offered employees paid sick leave if they were impacted by COVID-19, as well as access to a 24/7 Blue Cross Blue Shield nurse line and emotional support counseling sessions for employees and their families. The company also continued to offer flexible work schedules in order to help employees balance new priorities amid the pandemic.”

McDonald’s boosted financial support for workers as well. QSR writes: “While many of the brand’s franchisees chose to provide enhanced compensation packages for frontline employees, which included such efforts as “appreciation pay,” raises and bonuses, free meals, gift cards, and other financial resources for employees and their families, McDonald’s USA offered bonuses to every employee at corporate-owned stores and doubled incentive bonuses for qualifying managers in the first quarter of 2020.”

8. Are you failing your working mothers?

According to CNBC, the women’s labor force participation rate hit a 33-year low in January. As the pandemic continues to rage, 3 million women have dropped out of the labor force.

HBR provides three ways to reverse this alarming trend, including providing certainty and clarity about job prospects, “rightsizing” expectations, and proceeding with empathy.  

The New York Times gives prescient guidance to companies keen to retain maxed-out moms as well, by offering part-time scheduling or paid leave, ponying up for exorbitant childcare costs, and not penalizing people for caregiving.

9. A caution for those eager for returning to the office.

Corporate Wellness Magazine has an article about the “remarkably high” transmission rates of COVID-19 in indoor settings. The piece cites a South Korean study that found social distancing did not protect indoor diners, and that ventilation and airflow are major factors in how the disease is spread.

The article also cites the danger of indoor gatherings such as choir practice.

10. Companies splash cash for worker vaccinations.

Amtrak is the latest company to offer cash bonuses to employees who offer proof of getting inoculated. The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that the national passenger railroad “is spending $3 million on cash bonuses for employees who get a coronavirus vaccine,” explaining that:

“Workers who provide proof of vaccination will earn a bonus of two hours of pay, the company said. It also will allow employees to get the shots during work and will give paid time off up to 48 hours for those who are dealing with side effects.”

As we’ve noted previously, employers should tread cautiously with new regulations regarding vaccination incentives. As Bloomberg writes, “The law is really unsettled here,” in terms of how much money companies are legally allowed to offer in return for inoculations.  

However, you are free to persuade workers to get the shot of their own volition. To start crafting compelling campaigns, make good use of the CDC’s vaccination communication toolkit.