Curating the week in wellness Jan. 3-7, 2022: Improving hybrid and remote cultures, how to score higher on mental health support, and more

The week’s essential content for those dedicated to employee well-being.

By Kacey Larsen      
Hybrid work culture improvements

Welcome to 2022, wellness pros!

We have curated a collection of thought-provoking articles, tips and takeaways to help kick off the year.

Please get in touch with any ideas, suggestions or feedback on how we can serve you better or cover topics that are top-of-mind at your organization. Email: kaceyl@ragan.com.

1. Improve your hybrid/remote work culture.

Let’s start off 2022 by admitting that despite almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still work to be done on improving the hybrid/remote work experience. With “retention and hiring” identified as a top priority for many managers, getting hybrid/remote right becomes crucial for many employers. Fast Company shares “7 Hybrid Work Hurdles Which You May Have Overlooked.”

The good news: These intentional steps do not require top-down policy changes, but most are a shift in management style and approach. It’s about turning lessened or lack of in-person time into a tool rather than viewing it solely as a detriment. For example, use your inability to literally peer over someone’s shoulder as an opportunity to stop doing so metaphorically as well.

Looking for more about the hybrid/remote work culture? Back in December ZDNet also explored this topic by identifying five problems to solve. Charter in partnership with Time identified 6 workplace lessons to carryover. Workplace Wellness Insider also dives into what’s in store for 2022.

2. Failing grade on mental health efforts.

ToolBox examines a study conducted by LifeSpeak and Lighthouse Research and Advisory that looked at how employees score their employers when it comes to receiving mental health support. The outcome:

“On a 10-point scale, HR leaders tasked with ensuring employee mental well-being ranked their efforts at 7.8 and business leaders other than them ranked the efforts at 7.2. However, workers graded their employers’ efforts with an abysmal score of 4.4.”

These vastly different grades seem to come from differing opinions about a workplace’s culture of mental well-being. Employers said they offered tools and resources, but employees did not feel positive changes to support mental well-being had been made. The two groups did agree on a few methods to support mental health:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • Access to qualified experts
  • Company leaders openly supporting mental health conversations
  • Relevant training and education
  • Personalized live counselor support
  • Fitness options

3. Vaccine-or-test rule before the U.S. Supreme Court

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) for a vaccination or test requirement for employers with 100 or more employees has been controversial since it was announced back in November. A stay issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit halted the standard the day after it was announced, then the Sixth Circuit lifted that stay Dec. 17. Oral arguments begin at the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 7. The challenge to the ETS comes from a group of 27 states and a coalition of 26 business organizations.

One of the biggest questions around the case before the Supreme Court, reports Bloomberg Law, is the reach of OSHA. “The industry groups, led by the National Federation of Independent Business, said in their brief Monday (Jan. 3) that the government’s ‘position that OSHA can regulate any health problems threatening an employee’s health would remove any remaining limit on OSHA’s authority.’ That could lead to other OSHA rules, such as one for workplace cafeterias to prevent obesity and other health problems, the group said.”

It also will be up to the Supreme Court whether to leave the order in effect while the litigation process continues or if another stay is issued. If the ETS is allowed to remain in effect, OSHA gives employers until Jan. 10 to make “good faith efforts” to comply with most of the rule, though citations for violating the testing requirement won’t begin until Feb. 9. Workplace Wellness Insider will keep you updated.

4. Support for working parents.

“In the midst of the pandemic, some in private industry have stepped up their child care benefits,” reports NPR. Examples highlighted include Recursion Pharmaceuticals and the launch of an on-site childcare center at its headquarters in Salt Lake City, and Adobe partnering with the Cisco Life Connection childcare center in San Jose to offer its employees discounted rates.

Adobe also partners with Bright Horizons to offer “20 days a year of fully-funded backup care. Employees located in areas without Bright Horizons centers receive a daily $100 stipend for 20 days a year.” UKG launched virtual programs, like virtual summer camp and unlimited access to tutor.com, to give parent-employees a break.

While it might be easy to think about childcare benefits simply from an employee productivity standpoint, recent research covered by Kellogg Insight (part of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University) finds that working parents’ concerns that they aren’t focusing enough on child-rearing can trigger feelings of shame that impact their work in many ways.

“The results suggest that it would be wise for organizations to understand the psychological challenges working parents face, and try to reduce feelings of shame among those employees. In addition to being careful in how they speak to and about working parents, managers can send the message that work and parenting aren’t in conflict by offering lots of schedule flexibility.”

5. How employers can help employees manage chronic health conditions.

Chronic conditions are becoming more common, and Employee Benefit News (EBN) finds that “in addition to higher care costs for employees and the impact of higher utilization on health insurance costs, chronic conditions affect productivity, costing U.S. employers $36.4 billion per year due to missed days of work.”

What can employers do to help?

  • Gather data to tailor your program.
  • Encourage employees to build a relationship with a primary care provider.
  • Provide additional support and education.
  • Incentivize better health.

Adding or expanding workplace wellness programs to support employees with chronic disease, EBN adds, can “not only have a significant positive impact on the health of these employees, it can also lower costs for employers, reduce absenteeisum and presenteeism, and increase productivity.”