By Caitlin Gibson
As we prepare to welcome a new year, we can expect the usual discourse around new year’s resolutions, goal setting, and fresh starts. But, this time, it’s going to feel different. We’re closing out a year of overwhelming change, and it’s going to be much harder to begin this new year with the optimism and excitement we’ve felt in years past. Most people are just focused on surviving right now, making it difficult to prioritize personal, holistic wellness. Yes, we will be coming into 2021 with some hope for a better year, but we’re also bringing our stress, challenges, and associated coping mechanisms with us.
Fortunately, for many, this past year has brought into clear view what’s most important—taking care of ourselves, our families, and our communities—physically, emotionally, and otherwise. So, for employers, 2021 has to be about prioritizing employee wellbeing. It’ll be about making sure employees know that no matter what’s going on in their personal life or in the world, their employer is there to support them.
Make Employee Wellness a Top Priority
How exactly can your organization express this support and pair it with meaningful action? Take the following steps.
Help employees set wellness goals
Before you can support your employees’ wellness goals, they have to be established. Setting wellness goals, however, isn’t something all of your employees may plan to do. So, utilize a goal-setting tool that guides employees through the process. For example, you can share a set of questions that encourage employees to think about how they want to feel in the new year and what they want to experience, so they can craft personalized, meaningful wellness goals with those aspirations in mind. Regardless of the tool you use, encourage small, gradual adjustments that can be made over time. On average, it takes about three months to form a habit. So, even the smallest change to a daily routine will take time.
Offer mental health support
Make sure your benefits lineup includes a service designed to care for mental health. Given that 40% of employees say they’ve felt hopeless, burned out, or exhausted while working during the pandemic, mental health care needs to be a top priority for your business. Typically, this kind of support is offered through an EAP, but you can also utilize other services that offer free therapy sessions with mental health experts. Regardless of the offering you select, be sure to communicate how it works. That includes details like how many free sessions employees can have with a therapist, how to set up a virtual counseling session, and how much it would cost to continue those sessions on the company’s insurance plans or out-of-pocket. By demystifying how these services work, you can help destigmatize accessing mental health care across your organization. As a result, you can help your employees prioritize their mental health and prevent damaging, costly burnout.
Provide remote-friendly wellness perks
Now that remote work is here to stay, the need for perks that cater to a distributed workforce has grown. So, consider adding a few wellness perks that specifically serve remote employees. For example, you can provide a home office stipend to help employees create a defined, functional workspace. This makes it easier to put away work at the end of the day and better maintain a work-life balance. You can also offer free, virtual fitness classes and meditation classes, so your employees can set aside time throughout the week to exercise or take a relaxing mental break. Whichever ones you choose, these kinds of perks can help employees stay on top of their wellness goals and better balance their work life and personal life, particularly when they happen in the same place.
Incentivize healthy habits
Sometimes, a financial incentive can be the motivation someone needs to prioritize their wellness goals. If you already offer an HSA, consider connecting it to a wellness program and making wellness-based contributions to your employees’ accounts. So, when an employee logs thirty minutes of exercise or at least seven hours of sleep for the wellness program, you can add a little money to their HSA. Similarly, you can utilize lifestyle spending accounts or LSAs to set aside post-tax funds for employees to use on things like home exercise equipment, mental health care, or nutrition counseling. Alternatively, you can provide a quarterly wellness incentive in the form of gift cards or other recognition to help motivate your employees and reward them when they achieve their wellness goals. By incentivizing the formation of healthier habits in these ways, you can help motivate your employees to stick to their wellness goals and save some money, which can serve your employees’ financial wellness, too.
Tie it all to a communication campaign
However you decide to support your employees’ wellness goals, you must utilize an ongoing communication campaign because employee communications will be critical to the adoption of your programs. If you only send out messaging around wellness in January and then sporadically throughout the year, you’ll fail to do the most crucial thing—integrate the value of personal wellness into your organization’s culture. This is key because it shows your employees that prioritizing personal wellness is expected of everyone and essential to how the organization operates. You can utilize an internal communications software to orchestrate and personalize all of your messaging around personal wellness, ensuring you reach and engage employees no matter where they are or what wellness goals they have in mind.
Ultimately, in order to support your employees’ wellness goals in 2021, you have to first understand where your employees are at as we close out this year—mentally, emotionally, and otherwise. Given that many employees have only been focused on getting by and getting through, you’ll need to tailor the tone and overall approach you take with your wellness offerings to the present moment. Be thoughtful, creative, and consistent with the programs and services you roll out. Rather than just providing opportunities to identify and work on personal, holistic wellness, encourage and incentivize year-round wellness across the organization. By doing so, you can help your employees feel more ready to take on the year ahead and whatever it may bring.