One of the many effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that employee wellness is now near the top of corporate America’s agenda.
Wellness doesn’t refer only to physical health — that’s just one dimension. When it comes to keeping staff healthy and productive, employers need to take a broader approach and commit additional resources to help employees enjoy their jobs and perform at their best.
Here are five workplace wellness trends on the rise:
1. Mental health
Perhaps one of the most lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the increased dialog about and resources dedicated to mental health. Employers are beginning to realize that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that employees struggling with mental health issues may need extra support. The uncertainty, anxiety and increased stress of the pandemic strained mental health for many Americans and caused issues for some who had never had to deal with them previously. As a result, many companies are spending additional dollars on resources, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), which provide access to counseling services as well as programs and courses that teach coping and management techniques like mindfulness meditation.
A new Robert Half survey of more than 1,000 U.S. workers reveals that nearly one-third of workers (29%) feel their employer does not offer the mental health resources they need to feel supported.
Workers who don’t feel supported cited what they want most from their employer is:
1. Paid time off for mental health days (61%)
2. Expanded mental health benefits and perks (43%)
3. Encouraging open dialogue about mental health in the workplace (27%)
The survey also showed that remote workers are more likely to feel that their company offers mental health benefits that meet their needs (77% vs. 62%).
2. Stress management
Along similar lines, many companies are finding ways to help workers reduce their overall stress. Employees who can manage their stress levels tend to be happier and more productive. Often, they’re more physically healthy too.
Not every employee adjusted easily to working from home during the pandemic. For some, it was a significant stressor. Worrying about health, loved ones, work responsibilities and childcare left some dealing with burnout, which continues to be a problem, even as we emerge from the pandemic.
To help alleviate this, employers have added new initiatives like caregiver programs and additional paid time off. They’re also making sure employees disconnect when needed, encouraging them to set clear boundaries and to step away from work when they’re out of the office or on vacation.
Read about how to prevent work burnout at your company.
3. Financial health
Worries about the state of personal finances are another critical component of wellness, and they’re another area where the pandemic has had a measurable impact. Many Americans were laid off or had their hours reduced as businesses closed due to health precautions and loss of revenue. This caused others to worry about the possibility of losing their paychecks. Even now, many are dealing with the added worry of high gas prices and rising inflation. As a result, employers are focusing on helping their staff members improve their financial well-being. This may include hosting in-person and virtual financial planning sessions, offering training in financial planning tools and student loan or tuition assistance.
Many employees moved to flexible work arrangements during the pandemic, and once they got into their groove, they liked what they found. Working from home helped workers balance their personal and professional lives, leading to reduced overall stress and better mental health. Many employers who feared a COVID-related drop in productivity now acknowledge that employees are as (or even more) productive and effective when doing their jobs from home as they were in the office. Along with hybrid work arrangements, they’re offering flexible daily and weekly schedules, full-time remote positions and volunteering opportunities, all with the goal of keeping workers energized and engaged.
Employers are working to eliminate barriers and disparities that may prevent their staff members from seeking the healthcare they need. One way they’re doing this is by amending their employee benefits plans to cover health services through telemedicine.
That way, employees can get support from healthcare providers without having to worry about time-consuming trips to the doctor’s office and the danger of sitting in waiting rooms filled with potentially infectious patients.
If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s this: It has shed light on additional ways for employers to help employees work better, happier and healthier.