Curating the week in wellness May 17–21, 2021: Making sense of mask mandates, the power of peer praise, and more

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

By Robby Brumberg      @robbybrumberg      
United's DEI efforts

Greetings and salutations, wellness pros.

We hope you enjoy this week’s collection of compelling articles, helpful tips and takeaways.

As always, please get in touch with any ideas, suggestions or feedback on how we can serve you better. We are grateful for all the excellent work you do, so please keep it up!

1. What does the mask reversal mean for return-to-work plans?

Now that the CDC has issued guidance saying vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks in most situations, employers are scrambling to keep up. As CNN writes, “The news makes it so much more complex for companies to navigate their re-openings now,” also adding:

“Generally speaking, employers can mandate workers get vaccinated and require proof of inoculation before they return to the office. But federal protections allow for some exceptions. Workers with underlying medical conditions might be exempt under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And Title VII of the Civil Rights Act could allow employees with ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs against a vaccine to seek accommodations.”

Certain cities and states also have differing rules on masks, which further muddles return-to-work plans. Will you treat vaccinated workers differently? Are you “strongly encouraging” your workers to get the shot or just hoping for the best? Are you offering incentives to get the jab?

Whatever policies you settle on, prioritize clarity with employees. As CNN writes:

“Employers need to clearly communicate to their employees what the expectations are, apply them consistently and have frequent, likely changing communication with employees based upon the current state of the regulations and the jurisdictions in which you are operating.”

2. Amazon’s new worker well-being program.

The e-commerce titan has launched WorkingWell, “a new comprehensive program providing employees with physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support that are scientifically proven to help them recharge and reenergize, and ultimately reduce the risk of injury.”

The program, which was designed with input from employees, aims to slash “recordable incident rates by 50% by 2025” through a number of interventions, including:

  • Health & safety huddles
  • “AmaZen” mindfulness sessions
  • Onsite medical representatives and athletic trainers
  • “Neighborhood health centers” that offer nearby health care access
  • Healthy eating tips and nutritional guidance
  • WorkingWell mobile app

Gizmodo takes a slightly more cynical view of this move, writing:

“In lieu of allowing workers to take bathroom breaks, have reasonable productivity quotas or form a union, Amazon is reportedly seeking to boost morale and reduce workplace injuries in its warehouses by rolling out a new health and wellness program that taps into the ancient powers of deep breathing and positive visualization.”

3. How to sustain employee well-being through and beyond the pandemic.

Gallup offers 10 strategies for success, including:

  • Maintain a strong and sustained leadership voice regarding the importance of well-being.
  • Demonstrate a shared and consistent definition of what is meant by “well-being.”
  • Keep the line of communication constantly open.
  • Lead by example.
  • Include family members.
  • Develop a network of local wellbeing coaches and champions who serve as resources to collect and share best practices.

4. The mighty, multiplying power of peer praise.

A University of Notre Dame study finds that “peers can help boost marginalized voices, and at the same time benefit their own status, all while helping their organization realize the potential of its employees’ diverse perspectives.”

The data shows that amplification and attribution can be mutually beneficial, regardless of pecking order or who’s doling out plaudits. HR Dive explains:

“Such held true in the study even when someone of lower status in the workplace amplified the ideas of someone considered higher status, including when gender was introduced to the study components. ‘Regardless of gender composition,’ researchers said, amplifying was consistently the most beneficial behavior for amplifier and the one being endorsed.”

“‘The very first time we examined amplification, I was observing the amplifier as they amplified other group members, and I was surprised at how much of a leadership role the amplifier took on, simply by boosting other people,’ Nathan Meikle, postdoctoral research associate in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said in a statement. ‘Amplifying others requires no new ideas nor complicated decision making, and proves to be a very low-risk, easy strategy that can be used by anyone to help themselves and others.’”  

Praise, recognition and giving credit where its due never comes back void. It’s a simple, surefire way to boost engagement, morale and good vibes.  

5. Family-friendly policies boost engagement.

Employee Benefits writes: “New research has revealed that there is a clear link between family friendly benefits and improved employee productivity, engagement, loyalty and wellbeing.”

EB reports:

“When asked about the impact of family support available, including childcare and eldercare services, 67% of respondents agreed that it had a positive impact on productivity; 76% were more likely to recommend the employer to others; 69% felt more committed to their employer, and 74% said that it positively impacts overall wellbeing and/or reduces stress. More than three-quarters (78%) said that their organization cares about their work and home balance, while 79% agreed that their manager cares about this balance. The survey found that 77% of employees would prefer a hybrid way of working in the future, while 16% would want to work from home for 100% of the time compared to 5% that would want to work in the office 100% of the time.”

EB continues:

“When asked how else their employer could further support them, the top support was a positive approach to flexible working (90%), access to emergency child or adult dependent care (43%), a knowledgeable and supportive line manager (42%), enhanced parental/dependent leave (39%) and access to employer-subsidized childcare (33%).”

6. How to address loneliness at work.

Many workers in your midst are likely struggling with isolation, loneliness and lack of social connectivity. How can companies help?

People Management tackles this tough topic and offers steps to build a more “productive and resilient workforce,” including:

Culture and infrastructure: Identifying what really matters to employees and aligning it with corporate values and embedding loneliness into other well-being and welfare activities.

Management: The different kinds of support, training and guidance that can aid managers in identifying and helping those employees who are experiencing loneliness.

People and networks: Demonstrating how people have used networks to address loneliness, including while working remotely.

Work and workplace design: Discovering how employers have tackled a dispersed workforce and the tools and systems that can promote visibility and connections.

Wider role in the community: How some employers have sought to tackle loneliness beyond their immediate workforce.

However you go about bolstering your workers’ social connections and alleviating isolation, make sure it’s a top-level business priority. Social wellness efforts are worth every bit of energy and investment.

7. Takeaways from Intel’s new CSR report.

The software giant has published its massive 2020-2021 CSR report. Some highlights include:

  • In our own operations and supply chain, we made progress toward our 2030 goals of 100% renewable energy and net positive water use, increasing renewable energy from 71% to 82%, and conserving 7.1 billion gallons of water in 2020.
  • In collaboration with the industry, we launched the Alliance for Global Inclusion, a new coalition focused on creating a shared set of diversity and inclusion metrics in four critical areas: leadership representation, inclusive language, inclusive product development, and STEM readiness in underserved communities.
  • For larger global impact, we worked with over 170 customers, partners, governments, academia, and NGOs on 230 projects around the globe through Intel’s Pandemic Response Technology Initiative to accelerate access to technology at the point of patient care and speed scientific research, ensure access to online learning for students, and aid in  economic recovery.
  • Advancing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in our global workforce, and advocate for public policies and laws that combat discrimination and inequities impacting our employees and our communities, as well as take actions to advance our 2030 goals, including doubling the number of women and underrepresented minorities in senior leadership and increasing representation of women in technical roles to 40%.  

How are you reporting your company’s CSR efforts? And what about your DE&I initiatives? Intel offers a “Report Builder” tool to help you craft a report of your own.

8. How United plans to become the ‘most inclusive airline in the industry.’

Essence has published an interview with United Airlines’ Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, Jessica Kimbrough. She lays out the airline’s plans to make DE&I fly in a sustainable manner:

“Specifically, we created the United Executive Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – comprised of 12 executive team members including the CEO and chaired by the President, the group serves as a strategic catalyst for change. The Council shapes our DEI strategy, removes barriers to progress, and promotes an inclusive, informed, understanding environment for our employees and customers.”

Also:

“Moving ahead we will formalize how we measure our progress in DEI using a data-driven approach just as we measure other business imperatives. This includes the Executive Council on Diversity Equity and Inclusion, led by President Brett Hart has instituted quarterly reviews of performance on; Talent Dashboards – reviewing representation in recruiting, retention and advancement of women and the underrepresented to ensure we fully reflect the diversity of the communities we serve and; Business Diversity Dashboards – United’s commitment to DEI extends from our workforce and continues in our relationships with our suppliers. Reviewing our use of underrepresented owned businesses ensures our supply chain also reflects the diversity of the communities we serve.”

9. Lessons in building resilience.

CNBC offers seven steps to raise resilient, successful kids. These tips can apply to bigger people, too. Consider these ideas:

  • Play to their strengths.
  • Demonstrate direct links between hard work and extraordinary, meaningful outcomes.
  • Create a culture of striving and excellence.
  • Encourage and build up self-confidence.
  • Be patient with questions.
  • Encourage (friendly) competition and personal improvement.