Mental health and wellness in HR are becoming top priorities for employers. In fact, HR leaders named mental health and wellbeing as their third biggest problem, behind the labor shortage and retaining talent, in the latest HR Exchange Network State of HR report. In addition, those surveyed also said burnout was the top consequence of the pandemic. “Blurring of work and personal life” and “burnout” tied, with 28% of the vote each, as the biggest challenges to employee engagement. And 30% of respondents said employee engagement and experience was their top priority.
Clearly, mental health and wellness is related to the employee experience, and the expectations in the new normal require HR leaders to provide support, empathy, and guidance for helping those who need it. To begin, they need to understand the nuances of mental health and wellness.
Defining Mental Health and Wellness
A first step for HR leaders is to breakdown mental health and wellness to understand the differences, so they can best address “mental health” and “wellness.”
What Is Mental Health?
The U.S. government defines mental health as the emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing of an individual. Obviously, one’s mental health contributes to how he thinks, feels, and acts, and it relates to his resiliency and relationships with others.
Considering this definition, HR leaders can focus on insurance that covers mental health conditions and connecting people to appropriate specialists just as they would for employees with physical ailments, for example. Tending to mental health needs is slightly different than those of wellness.
What Is Wellness?
On the other hand, wellness refers to the totality of health – both mental and physical – of an employee, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. When employers focus on wellness, they are aiming to provide employees with preventative solutions to avoid illnesses and long-term health problems. For example, gym memberships, yoga classes, and meditation sessions are among the ways HR leaders may support the wellness of workers.
Mental health refers to the condition of an employee’s state of mind, whereas wellness refers to his or her general health. Sometimes, even those in HR use the word wellbeing interchangeably with wellness, but there is a distinction. Wellbeing refers to job satisfaction or one’s contentment at work. Certainly, wellbeing is related to mental health and wellness. If employees are experiencing anxiety, high stress, or burnout, which are associated with both mental health and wellness, they may experience negative feelings at work. Therefore, their wellbeing also will be at risk.
HR’s Responsibility for Mental Health and Wellness
The pandemic revealed the need for mental health and wellness programs at workplaces. Both mind and body needed soothing, and HR professionals took the lead in providing solutions to workers. More than two years after the start of the pandemic, they are continuing to enhance their offerings.
Here are some relevant benefits that employers may provide, and HR leaders can consider:
Medical Insurance that Covers Mental Health
This first benefit is the most obvious one, and it refers to the employer choosing insurance options that cover mental health as robustly as they do physical health.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
The U.S. government defines an EAP as a “voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.” These programs may address stress, substance abuse, or family discord, for example.
Mental Health First Aiders
This is a professional who works on staff or on call for a business, so employees always have someone to support them with any mental health concerns, according to verywellhealth.
Training for Managers, Leaders, and Peers
Some companies are training their teams to recognize potential mental health issues in their colleagues and to develop empathy and emotional IQ.
Yoga, Meditation, Workshops, Zen Rooms, etc.
These are a few examples of programs designed to help employees relieve stress and stay focused.
Mental Health Days
Some companies are including mental health days in their paid time off menu. This allows people the chance to stay home as they would for a sick day.
Parameters around Work Hours/Flexibility/Respecting People’s Time
Many employers are sharing guidelines about allowing employees flexibility around when and where they work or during what hours they can communicate with them about work, etc. The idea is to help people better balance work and life to give them the time and space necessary to recharge.
Why Should HR Leaders Care about Mental Health and Wellness?
The answer about why any leader should care about employees’ wellness seems obvious. It’s the right thing to do. But it also relates to business outcomes. Poor mental health and wellness among employees can pose grave risks to an employer. These are the threats:
- Decreased Productivity – People are not as interested in getting the job done if they’re dealing with mental health issues.
- Resignation – Mental health and wellness is clearly connected to job satisfaction and wellbeing. People might quit if they are suffering.
- Negative Impact on the Bottom Line – If employees are not productive or engaged, the company will not be as successful. If there is much turnover, the company will lose money in recruiting, hiring, training, and patiently waiting for new hires to get up to speed. All these consequences can influence revenue and business outcomes.
How Work Can Affect Employee Wellness
Employees spend a large amount of time working. Toxic workplaces obviously can damage one’s mental state, whereas a psychologically safe environment can motivate people. Anyone experiencing bullying or harassment at work may feel more anxiety or stress. That’s undoubtedly true. But having heavy workloads, tight deadlines, and other stressful personal situations can lead to burnout. Potentially, these factors cut into the psychological contract between employee and employer. This is concerning to HR leaders.
The Mayo Clinic says job burnout is a type of work-related stress that results in a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that can influence an employee’s self-worth and sense of identity. The pandemic and consequential labor shortage put burnout in the spotlight and forced employers to confront it. Now, HR leaders are working to combat and prevent burnout as part of their overall mental health and wellness strategies.
Taking steps to reduce hours and workloads, managing expectations, and training managers to be better, more empathetic leaders are among the ways they are addressing the problem. HR Exchange Network recognized this new obligation of Human Resources in its recent talent management report:
Companies that show they truly care about the mental health and wellness of their employees will get noticed. Those who are flexible and understanding when people are having a tough time personally will win hearts. “Companies need to switch their focus on engagement to experience. Maya Angelou said it the best, ‘People forget what you tell them. They don’t forget how you make them feel,'” says Sebastien Girard, Chief People Officer at Centura Health.
HR leaders are helming efforts to address mental health and wellness of employees. They are confronting these issues to improve employee engagement and experience and the work culture. Employers recognize the link between the mental health and wellness of their employees and the success of their business.
In addition, they realize this is the right thing to do, which is vital at a time when employer brand is of the utmost importance, and everyone is trying to better maintain work-life balance. The pandemic was the spark for employers giving attention to these issues, but the focus on helping employees maintain their mental health and wellness will continue.
By Francesca Di Meglio
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network
Competitive wages are no longer enough to satisfy and support valued employees. Today, a variety of benefits and perks play an essential role in attracting and retaining talent. Lifestyle benefits, sometimes referred to as employee perks, are non-salary benefits given to employees to improve their overall lifestyle that go above and beyond standard medical, dental and vision benefits. These lifestyle benefits are rapidly becoming the future of employee benefits.
Around 60% of employees say benefit offerings are a significant factor in their decision on whether or not to take a new job. That’s why an increasing number of employers are utilizing lifestyle benefit plans to entice high-quality applicants. In fact, studies show that 80% of employees would select more benefits above a pay increase. Moreover, younger employees, like Millennials, are more apt to change jobs than their older Baby Boomer counterparts if they are dissatisfied with the employee benefits offerings available to them.
Lifestyle benefits are benefits to enjoy now. These are meaningful services that meet the needs of employees today. Not tomorrow, next week or even ten years from now. Employees don’t have to be sick, deceased, disabled or over 65 to use them.
In this article, we will explore the 4 “W’s”—Who, What, When, and Why—of lifestyle benefits to explain how you can use this tool to improve your benefits package!
Who Are Lifestyle Benefits For?
Even companies with generous overall benefits packages can suffer from low employee engagement and productivity which can be exacerbated by the massive shift to remote work. Offering perks that are customized to your people’s unique needs is hugely beneficial for companies wanting to increase employee engagement and retention. In the increasingly competitive job market, this really sets employers apart because it demonstrates a vested interest on the part of the employer to provide opportunities for personal, as well as professional growth. Lifestyle benefits, particularly in the form of flexible perk stipends, are an ideal way to offer personalization and also promote an inclusive company culture.
What Lifestyle Benefits Can Employers Offer?
Lifestyle benefits can be customized to meet many different types of needs. For instance, an employee might be sending their child to college for the first time. If they want advisors or financial planners, a lifestyle benefits account can cover it. Or what if an employee wants to take advantage of a gym membership or health app? This could also be covered through a lifestyle benefits program. Everyone benefits from a calm, happy, and valued employee! Other examples of offerings you can include in a lifestyle benefits program include:
When Should You Offer Lifestyle Benefits?
Really the answer to the question of when you should offer lifestyle benefits is-now! Now is the right time to make the most of lifestyle benefits by setting employees up and educating them of their perks.When organizations offer lifestyle benefits, it’s about building positive, long-term relationships between executives, supervisors and employees. It’s about investment and dedication to employee well-being.
Why Provide Lifestyle Benefits at Your Company
There are so many reasons to provide lifestyle benefits but it primarily boils down to one thing: employee satisfaction. Employees want to feel valued by their employers and if this can be achieved by helping them afford the lifestyle they enjoy and envision for themselves, then do it!
We are, after all, living in the age of personalization. Everything in our lives, from our Netflix subscriptions to Spotify playlists is customized to us and our preferences. Lifestyle benefits can be designed in a way that addresses the various needs of your diverse workforce, whether that means supporting a 22-year-old recent graduate living in the city, or a 45-year-old executive with three kids in a home in the suburbs, lifestyle benefits are ideal for that type of personalization and inclusivity, especially in the form of flexible perk stipends.
If companies want the best potential candidates, they have to think outside the box with personalized benefit offerings. Everyone wins with a flexible lifestyle benefits platform. After all, physically and mentally healthy employees are more productive, which is better for the bottom line.
“Suck it up,” “cheer up,” “snap out of it,” “but you don’t look sick”- these are just some of the phrases that well-meaning friends and family tell loved ones struggling with mental health issues. Research shows that one in five adults struggle with mental health conditions. Mental health struggles include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.
Mental illness is also becoming increasingly common among teenagers; studies indicate that approximately one in five teens between ages twelve and eighteen are diagnosed with a mental health disorder. These issues deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others. When your mental health suffers, everything in your life will suffer as a result.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
The fact is, a mental illness is a disorder of the brain – your body’s most important organ. Like most diseases of the body, mental illness has many causes – from genetics to other biological, environmental and social/cultural factors. And just as with most diseases, mental illnesses are no one’s fault. For many people, recovery – including having meaningful roles in social life, work and school – is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness can include the following:
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Extreme mood changes
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Having unexplained aches and pains such as headaches or stomach aches
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
What Are Some Things You Can Do to Look After Your Mental Health?
- Talk About Your Feelings – Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. Talking with a friend or loved one is helpful but remember, therapists are not only for those in the middle of crisis – they’re incredibly beneficial for people in all stages of life
- Exercise regularly – Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Aim to exercise about 30+ minutes at least five days per week
- Eat Well – Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body
- Stay Connected with Family and Friends – Close, quality relationships are key for a happy, healthy life
- Take a Break – a change of scenery or pace is good for your mental health
- Get Outside to Enjoy 15 Minutes of Sunshine – Sunlight synthesizes Vitamin D which experts believe is a mood elevator
- Send a Thank You Note – Let someone know why you appreciate them. Written expressions of gratitude are linked to increased happiness
- Practice Forgiveness – People who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives
- Pursue Your Passions – Enjoying yourself can help beat stress and achieving something boosts your self-esteem
- Sleep – Most adults need around 8 hours of sleep each night so try to make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye
Mental health is undoubtedly just as integral as physical health but it’s something that we often don’t prioritize. We all experience times when we feel stressed or overwhelmed but if these feelings persist, it’s time to slow down and re-evaluate your mental wellbeing.
Most people are afraid to ask for help, but seeking help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please reach out to a local mental health professional.
We’ve been both super busy and understaffed recently. Is there anything we can do during this time to help our employees avoid extra stress or burnout before we can hire more employees?
Yes. Here are a few things you can do to make this time run as smoothly and stress-free as possible:
Remove nonessential work duties: For the positions that seem most stretched, make a list of tasks that could be put on hold (or perhaps reassigned). You can invite input from employees, too, but I’d recommend acknowledging that they’re overwhelmed and saying that you’ll do your best to alleviate some of the pressure. Then hold off on nonessential tasks until business slows down or you’ve increased your headcount.
Allow for flexible scheduling: If employees need to work longer hours on some days during the week, consider allowing them to work fewer hours on other days of the week. Note that some states have daily overtime, spread-of-hours, or split-shift laws.
Budget for overtime: Employees may need to work extra hours to keep up with the current demands of their job, so allow them to work overtime if you (and they) can swing it. If you’re pretty sure overtime will be necessary, inform employees of that ahead of time, so they can plan accordingly.
Ensure all equipment is fast and reliable: It’s important to identify, troubleshoot, and correct any slow or nonworking equipment issues (such as laptops, internet hardware, cash registers, or vehicles). If not resolved, these issues can slow down work and add to everyone’s stress.
Look for ways to automate: Consider whether any of your employees’ manual and time-consuming tasks could be eliminated or simplified with the use of new or different technology.
Increase safety protocols: Employee absences related to COVID have created a significant strain for many employers during the pandemic. Shoring up your safety protocols may reduce the risk of COVID-related absences because of sickness or exposure. Depending on your circumstances, examples include improving ventilation, encouraging or requiring vaccination, requiring employees to wear masks, and allowing employees to work remotely when possible.
By Megan Lemire
Originally posted on Mineral
February is American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health. Do you know how to keep your heart healthy? You can take an active role in reducing your risk for heart disease by eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, and managing your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Heart disease accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide. Studies and experts recommend exercise as an important way to maintaining a healthy heart, but your diet plays a major role in heart health and can impact your risk of heart disease. The most important factor in healthy eating is having a balanced diet, watching portions, and eating foods you actually enjoy. This will allow you to stick with it for the long term.
Let’s take a closer look at the 4 key factors for a heart healthy diet and examples of how you can incorporate them into your daily life:
1. Fruits and Vegetables:
Leafy green vegetables are well known for their wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. An analysis of eight studies found that increasing leafy green vegetable intake was associated with up to a 16% lower incidence of heart disease.
2. Healthy Proteins:
Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products and eggs are some of your best sources of protein. Legumes – beans, peas and lentils – are good, low-fat sources of protein and are a good substitute for meat. Also, substituting plant protein for animal protein – ie. a black bean burger for a hamburger – will reduce your fat & cholesterol intake and increase your fiber intake.
3. Healthy Fats:
Not all fats are bad. Foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are important for your brain and heart. Limit foods with trans-fats, which increase the risk for heart disease.
4. Whole Grains:
Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.
Eating heart healthy is a lifestyle, it’s about nutrition, balance and retraining our mind to make better food choices. What you eat can influence almost every aspect of heart health, from blood pressure and inflammation to cholesterol levels and triglycerides. A well-balanced diet can help keep your heart in good shape and minimize your risk of heart disease. With planning and a few simple substitutions, you can eat with your heart in mind!
Workplace wellness programs have increased in the past several years to promote healthy diets and lifestyle, exercise and other behaviors such as quitting smoking. As of 2020, most employers had wellness programs of some kind, including 53% of small firms (those with 3-200 employees) and 81% of large companies. Since employees spend most of their waking hours on the job, wellness programs seem to be a natural fit to try to promote healthy changes in behavior. But, in 2022, employees want more; many workers are looking for employers who show authentic concern for their well-being.
Well-being is about how our lives are going. It’s not only about health and happiness but also about living life to its fullest potential. In fact, data shows that employees of all generations rank “the organization cares about the employees’ well-being” in their top three criteria.
Financial stress soared during the pandemic but so did regular stress, too. Mental health struggles such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are also climbing. These are expensive issues to ignore both in terms of the human suffering but also the company’s bottom line: Depression alone costs an estimated $210.5 billion per year. These costs are due to absenteeism (missed work days) and presenteeism (reduced productivity at work) as well as direct medical costs (outpatient and inpatient medical services and pharmacy costs).
Employers must recognize the interrelationship between the physical, financial, work and well-being components of employees’ lives. For example, employees who need help with their financial well-being are significantly less likely to be physically healthy and more likely to report feeling stressed or anxious which can impact productivity and job performance. Vice President for Communications at Fidelity Investments in Boston, Mike Shamrell, recognizes the need for all dimensions of wellness. “It’s tough to be well in one area when you’re unwell in another,” he said.
Well-being is often associated with gym memberships and green smoothies but it is much more than that; it is a result of many different aspects of one’s life. Here are 5 common dimensions of well-being that can be addressed through a workplace wellness program:
- Emotional/Mental Health – Understanding your feelings and coping with stress.
- Physical Health – Discovering how self-care can improve your life and productivity.
- Financial Health – Successfully managing your money.
- Social Connectedness – Creating and being a part of a support network.
- Occupational Well-Being– Feeling appreciated at work and satisfied in your contributions.
Great employees want great employers. Companies that want creative, high-performing teams must be willing to support workers both in and out of the office. Well-being has a major influence on an employee’s performance and satisfaction; employees who feel valued and appreciated are more invested in their company in return.