Curating the week in wellness October 25–29, 2021: Calling for a wellness ‘revolution,’ learning from lauded workplaces, and more

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

By Robby Brumberg      @robbybrumberg      

A hearty hello, wellness pros!

We hope you benefit from this fresh collection of thought-provoking articles, tips and takeaways.

1. Calling for a corporate wellness revolution.

Clinical psychologist Lindsay Jernigan, writing in HR Director, seems to think so.

She says a shakeup is long overdue—particularly in our approach toward supporting employees’ mental health. She suggests four key ideas to start building a healthier work environment for everyone:

  • Bust the norm that work is not the place to talk about mental health.
  • Mental health resources should be openly and readily available through the workplace, not just behind the closed doors of the Employee Assistance Plan therapists.
  • Leaders communicate values through their own actions.
  • Organizational values also are communicated through company policies, which should be evaluated for wellness impact.

The piece concludes:

“In a time when mental health problems are skyrocketing, creating a corporate wellness culture is more important than ever. By giving employees a week off explicitly for mental health, Nike took a step in the right direction. They communicated that mental health matters and that they are willing to put money behind that value. This is a critical ingredient in what should be the future direction for corporate America: promoting thriving businesses by promoting healthy individuals.”

¡Viva la revolución! 

2. Can apps help us beat burnout?

Financial Times has a quick but insightful 16-minute podcast exploring this issue. The short answer is “no,” of course, but a great start is creating a culture that prioritizes listening over talking, and compassion over productivity.

As FT writes elsewhere, mindfulness alone can’t fix a toxic workplace. You must take substantive strides to help support workers in meaningful ways, which requires investment and intentional effort to make employees lives and jobs easier. 

3. Lessons from America’s most admired workplaces.

Newsweek has published a ranking of the U.S.’s top 100 “most loved” companies.

Topping the list is Spotify, which is loved because it’s, “Big on discussing company mission and values via its Passion Tour, which builds loyalty. Benefits like six months of paid parental leave doesn’t hurt, either!”

Other heavy hitters such as Dell, Hasbro, FanDuel and SAP round out the top 10. What makes these workplaces so beloved? The reasons vary, but one through line is clear: These companies prioritize their workers’ well-being and take wellness seriously. Furthermore, Newsweek cites factors such as:

  • High emotional connectivity.
  • Respect from bosses and managers.
  • Sensing that the company adheres to the values it espouses.

The “loved because” column of this list is absolutely packed with specific details on why these companies are beloved, which can provide a trove of inspiration for your own employee engagement efforts.

(See also: 10 companies with great perks and benefits.)

4. A roundup of reports on sustainability updates, DE&I progress and ESG initiatives.

For a bit of inspiration on demonstrating your company’s sustainability activities or philanthropic ventures, have a look at these recent reports:

5. 14 ways to promote financial wellness.

Forbes offers a load of helpful, creative tips to help workers find better financial footing, including:

  • Provide access to educational resources.
  • Offer merit-based rewards.
  • Help them meet major expenses (such as childcare costs).
  • Practice open-book management.
  • Conduct one-on-one assistance and coaching.
  • Consistently communicate your financial wellness benefits and offerings.
  • Ask them what assistance they need.

6. How to fight ‘Zoom dysmorphia’ and other subtle burnout drivers.

Being on camera all day is doing weird things to our brains. According to Fast Company, 70% of workers feel anxious or uncomfortable with their appearance right now, and you’d better believe that all these Zooms are not helping.

Fast Company says, “It’s time to shift our perspective toward being more intentional with our actions, processes and general workplace operations.”

To start down that path, start with these tips:

  • Establish a clear post-pandemic norm straight away.
  • Enlist the help of an employee engagement specialist to minimize turnover and burnout.
  • Be more intentional about scheduling, expectations and processes.

You also might let your staffers know they are free to turn that camera off any time they please.

7. New vaccine incentive approval.

HR Morning points out that companies are officially allowed to offer vaccine incentives via health care premiums.

Of course, there are limits. HR Morning explains the five criteria you must meet:

  • You must “reasonably” design your program to promote health or prevent disease.
  • You must provide a reasonable alternative standard to qualify for the discount. The feds’ example: A wellness program may offer a waiver or the right to attest to following other COVID-19-related guidelines to certain individuals. These are people for whom it’s unreasonably difficult due to a medical condition or medically inadvisable to obtain the vaccination to qualify for the full reward.
  • The plan also must provide notice of the availability of that reasonable alternative standard under the wellness program.
  • The reward tied to the vaccine incentive program can’t exceed 30% of the total cost of employee-only health coverage, and
  • Eligible individuals must have the opportunity to qualify for the reward under the program at least once per year.

As for what’s out of bounds, HR Morning says companies cannot “condition eligibility for benefits or coverage for covered items or services to treat COVID-19 based on being COVID-19 vaccinated.” Which means:

“Plans and issuers are prohibited from discriminating against participants, beneficiaries, and enrollees when it comes to eligibility, premiums or contributions based on health factors. Therefore, ‘all similarly situated individuals’ must be provided benefits under this plan.”

Here are the guidelines in more extensive detail.

8. Planning ahead for future-minded benefits, perks and wellness programs.

Benefits Pro offers guidance on future-proofing your offerings, which is an essential weapon companies must wield to survive amid an accelerating “Great Resignation.” The piece says, “Employers need to place greater emphasis on forward-thinking strategies to entice talent with attractive compensation packages,” adding that:

  • Employee values are shifting fast, and companies should tweak their offerings according to these new preferences.
  • PTO policies should be refreshed to comport with our new reality—which could involve incentivizing employees to take vacations.
  • Creating a healthy culture must start at the top, with execs who demonstrate desired behaviors and exhibit healthy work/life balances.

9. Making (or breaking) the case for wellness portals.

SHRM presents pros and cons of giving employees an online space to track specific health metrics, participate in wellness programs or schedule appointments. On the plus side, the piece says, “Wellness portals can also help employers stand out in a crowded employer market.”

Additionally, wellness portals can, “make it easy for employees to access information and resources—wherever they are. They also minimize demands on HR staff, freeing them up to focus on other, more strategic responsibilities.”

However, potential drawbacks include the cost of portal software, privacy concerns and tech roadblocks. You might also find that employees simply aren’t interested in signing up for “one more thing.”

Regardless, it’s worth getting feedback from employees—before making any major decisions.

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: joyceanng@ragan.com.