Curating the week in wellness: March 7-11, 2022

A global perspective on employee wellness, and leaders share lessons at pandemic’s 3rd anniversary.

By Kacey Larsen      
a global perspective on employee wellness

Hello, wellness pros!

We are here today with a collection of thought-provoking articles, tips and takeaways for the week.  

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.

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1. Take a globally-informed approach to employee wellness.

Finding the right balance between benefits and bottom-line gains that will appeal to employees is a challenge heightened by the Great Resignation. Benefits Pro presents three employee wellness and retention benefits that U.S. business leaders can learn from international counterparts.

  • Find the true meaning of “leave.”

The article says: “International workers have time-off traditions built into their social structure and culture — for example, many European countries take the summer months at a slower pace.” It is time for many companies in the U.S. to create workplace cultures that support employees taking time off without it limiting their success or being too difficult with their workload.

  • Changing up pay periods for employee financial well-being.

Whether you are paying employees on a monthly or bi-weekly basis, consider weekly pay as a means of insuring workers feel financial security every week. Some companies in India, Australia and New Zealand have adopted this model to get wages into employees’ hands faster and assist with the stress of paying bills every week. If changing pay periods isn’t feasible, offer financial wellness tools to help employees with addressing financial stress.

  • Family values are employee values.

As many employers consider returning to the office, child care may be a stumbling block for some working parents, who have proven they can be effective while working from home and picking up their children from school. Benefits Pro says, “Business leaders that put family first can effectively future-proof their workforce and increase their economic growth potential.”

2. Lessons to keep—and leave—from the pandemic.

At the three-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Fast Company article compiles lessons on pandemic-era leadership from top CEOs. The top thing to keep moving forward: empathetic leadership. This is no longer a “trend,” but something quickly becoming mandatory. As the article says, “Leaders who are able to practice empathy will be critical not only for the year ahead but for the evolving future of work as we know it.”

Leaders also identify trends worth leaving behind, including the use of the terms “post-pandemic” and “back to normal” along with establishing a return-to-work timeline. Simply speaking out on pressing issues is no longer enough, as leaders recognize they need to set concrete and attainable goals around issues like climate change and creating an inclusive workplace to drive transformative change.

The article also says that, though the pandemic may have driven employees to realign their priorities, the Great Resignation is not solely a pandemic-driven phenomenon. Employers must adapt their priorities as well — examining pay structures, benefits, work hours, expectations for commuting and more — to acknowledge that employees are looking for more than just a paycheck from their jobs.

3. Support for Ukraine should not mean harassment for Russians.

As the war in Ukraine enters its second week, many news outlets have covered the brands who are pulling out of or closing locations in Russia, including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola. And while Americans see an impact at the gas pumps, there is another issue that employers may need to address: the harassment of Russian-American workers.

As reported by SHRM, discrimination or harassment based on an employee’s national origin is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well a many state laws. Employers must make it clear that harassment won’t be tolerated, and any corrective action should be stronger that simply coaching. SHRM also recommends focusing on the humanitarian aspects of the Ukrainian crisis, but if an employer feels a stronger statement is necessary then remarks should denounce Vladimir Putin or the Russian government — not the Russian people as a whole.

“Ensuring that leadership is mindful to how current world affair may impact a subset of its workforce more than others is an important part of creating a workplace welcoming to all,” says Mishell Parreno Taylor, an attorney with Akerman in Houston and Los Angeles. “A great way to do this is to ensure that business leaders are trained on business diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and unconscious bias.”  

4. Financial wellness offerings targeted to women.

In a recent study from Betterment’s 401(k) business, only 37% of women rated themselves as financially stable compared to 61% of men. This presents a critical opportunity to support women’s financial wellness. Employee Benefit News (EBN) identifies benefits employers can be offering on this front:

  • Women have fallen behind men on retirement planning, so be sure to highlight any 401(k) offerings or other savings opportunities. Ensuring women — and all employees — have access to one-on-one, personalized financial advice can be valuable in getting on a savings path.
  • Student loan-focused benefits, like repayment programs, especially appeal to women and might entice them to stay with, or accept an offer from, an employer offering them.
  • The survey reported that 59% of women have an emergency fund with the primary reason women listed for not having one being they did not have enough funds to build one. An employer-sponsored emergency fund could help reduce financial anxiety.

5. Emojis as a measure of employee engagement.

A preliminary study found that people who use emojis in work-related communications are less likely to be experiencing burnout, reports Human Resources Director. Xuan Lu, research fellow at the School of Information at the University of Michigan, said that her research team developed a machine learning model to track emoji use, which found that software developers who “never used emojis are three time more likely to drop out of remote work.”

While these findings are preliminary and show correlation not causation, Lu says that emoji usage may be a good lens to understand the emotional status of workers in the future, especially when working remotely. Employers can begin by understanding how emojis are currently used in the company before developing models that can be monitored.

“Following our approach, they can predict who is likely to quit or who is likely to be undergoing some mental health issues,” Lu says. “[They] can also make timely interventions, for example, such as emotional support.”