Curating the week in wellness March 1st –5th 2021: Prioritizing women’s wellness; Avoiding EEOC violations, and more

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

By Robby Brumberg      @robbybrumberg      
Supporting women at work

Greetings to you, wellness, HR and comms pros!

We hope you enjoy 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. It’s time to support women workers—in meaningful ways.

March is Women’s History Month. This particular March merits deep introspection and reflection, as we observe the one-year mark of this horrific pandemic. It’s been particularly devastating for women. As NBC writes: “More than 2.3 million women have left the workforce since February 2020, bringing their labor participation rate to levels not seen since 1988,” and that, “Whether they have been laid off or had to leave to care for children home from school, many are struggling to make ends meet.”

How is your company supporting female staffers during this prolonged crisis? As Fortune noted last year, at the outset of the pandemic, it’s long-past time for companies to start covering (or at least defraying) exorbitant childcare costs—which continue to be a major driver of the gender pay gap. Far too few are putting their money where their mouths are. As a Willis Towers survey revealed, “while most employers (74%) believe supporting working parents is a top priority today, less than four in 10 (39%) agree that their current programs and policies to support them are effective.”

The consequences of women dropping out of the workforce are far-reaching and profound. It’s time companies take this issue seriously and do more to give women all the flexibility, resources and support they deserve.

2. Steering clear of EEOC violations.

No one wants to get sued for discrimination. One way to prevent running afoul the EEOC is to review recent cases, settlements and legislation the agency has pursued.

While the agency recently withdrew controversial proposed regulations regarding vaccine incentives, it’s still wise to see what sorts of cases the agency closely monitors.

Consider Frito-Lay’s religious discrimination case, a Lexus dealer’s sex discrimination lawsuit, and Cracker Barrel’s recent disability ruling, to name a few. Don’t forget about the dangers of age discrimination, either.

3. Maybe call instead of text (or email)?

As workers’ mental health continues to suffer amid the ongoing pandemic, employers should be keenly cognizant of burnout among rank-and-file staffers.

One easy way to increase connectedness, research finds, is to pick up the phone. Science Daily reports: “After months of social distancing mandates, people are leaning heavily on technology for a sense of social connection. But new research from The University of Texas at Austin suggests people too often opt to send email or text messages when a phone call is more likely to produce the feelings of connectedness they crave.”

Many prefer emails and texts due to the perceived “awkwardness” of chatting on the horn, but it turns out that voices play a key role in social health. Science Daily continues: “But the researchers found when they really interacted, people felt significantly more connected when they communicated by talking than by typing. And, again, they found it wasn’t more awkward to hear each other’s voices.

In fact, the voice itself — even without visual cues — seemed to be integral to bonding, the researchers found.”

As we continue to keep our distance, let’s not neglect the fact that “we still need these social ties for our well-being — even for our health,” as the researchers note.

4. Practical steps to improve financial wellness.

Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that 84% of Americans are severely stressed about finances due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19. To alleviate what is perhaps the biggest, most frustrating weight on your employees’ minds, it’s wise to help workers bolster basic financial literacy, conduct a needs assessment among staffers to see where crucial cash (and knowledge) gaps exist, and to consistently evaluate your offerings’ effectiveness.

You might also see what other companies are doing to help employees through this difficult time—or try mining employee financial wellness data for insights on how you can improve.

Financial wellness is certainly top-of-mind for employers, but providing substantive benefits that suit their unique workforce remains a challenge.

5. The return of wellness screenings?  

Traditional biometric screenings have fallen by the wayside in recent years. COVID-19 has pushed these wellness standbys of yore further to the periphery of program priorities, but a San Diego startup might be changing that equation.

Truvian Sciences is “developing a desktop analyzer and test kits that can perform up to 36 wellness blood tests,” which cantarget standard wellness markers, such as cholesterol and glucose levels, complete blood cell count, and liver and thyroid functions.”

San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the company can deliver results “at lower costs and with significantly less blood than is typically drawn for samples shipped to centralized labs” and that results are ready in about 20 minutes. 

6. Keeping your DE&I momentum moving.

Just because Black History Month has ended doesn’t mean you should take your foot off the DE&I pedal. As Smart Brief notes, Black workers are still 95 years away from “management parity,” so there’s no time to waste.

Keep reporting on progress, and dig deep to tell meaningful stories about your DE&I efforts. As Bank of America demonstrates, even your yearly financial filing offers an opportunity to share and track DE&I initiatives.

Also, make sure your people feel empowered to be themselves on the job.

7. Inside Bellabeat’s new female-focused wellness project.

Entrepreneur reports that companies such as LG, Coca-Cola and Microsoft are trying out new tech to support women’s wellness, writing: “Bellabeat uses high-tech jewelry and devices specially designed for women in work environments to track their physical and mental health indicators.”

However, this idea does not come without privacy concerns. Entrepreneur explains:

“These Internet-of-Things devices are all equipped with sensors that receive and communicate data to Bellabeat’s system, which then uses artificial intelligence to compile, process, and interpret data to generate accurate reports and suggestions within the system’s platform. The platform, which main focus is to help users create better habits, has an intuitive, data-driven approach that personalizes recommendations to match users’ habits and needs. The program manages users’ daily activities and ‘musts’ like hydration, meditation, stress control, diet, sleep, among others.”

If that all seems a bit too, er, invasive, how about a digital vegetable garden?

8. Untangling FMLA confusion.

HR Dive clarifies what is (and isn’t) allowable under FMLA rules right now, and SHRM writes about modern ADA compliance.

HBR covers similar ground—and much more—featuring smart insights from five prominent CHROs who dish on hot topics facing midsize companies.

9. Getting creative about finding mental health support.

The Drum shares how advertising agencies are providing mental health benefits for employees right now, which includes training and empowering mental health “first responders.”

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that TikTok has become a haven for sharing mental health struggles among young workers. Perhaps your staffers might find solace in this or some other unlikely “conduit for social impact”?  

Alternatively, you might consider the potential mental health benefits of switching to a four-day workweek.