Employees are grappling with several crises at once, from the pandemic and financial stress to concerns about job security and more. As a result, these mounting concerns can leave them feeling isolated and burned out at work.
Unfortunately, many companies aren't prepared to handle this challenge. Results from a recent MetLife study, "Mental Health: A Path to a Resilient Workforce and Business Recovery," show that nine out of 10 employers say their organization isn’t completely ready for a mental health crisis.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost employee wellness through a holistic approach that includes the following four components:
1. Address mental health issues
In a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40 percent of adults reported struggling with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. While this can be a complex and private subject, there are ways companies can address mental health. Read on for a few examples:
- Encourage employees to take personal time off. MetLife's study reveals that 34 percent of employees say they are taking less time off during the pandemic compared to before it. Two of the reasons why: An increased workload and job security concerns.
- Give employees more flexibility during work hours. Think about implementing no-meeting time blocks, so employees can attend to personal needs or children at home. You can even set a standard of no emails on weekends.
- Cut back on video conferencing. Forced video calls can actually increase feelings of stress and anxiety, reports show. Give employees the option to keep their video off during meetings.
- Create meditation breaks throughout the day with the help of a mediation app to help teams stay centered.
- Offer access to free or discounted mental health counseling through a hotline or in-network providers.
2. Promote physical well-being
Many companies that offered discounted gym memberships, onsite fitness classes, and healthy cafeteria options are facing new challenges in the current remote work environment. Here are some tactics to help keep employees engaged in physical wellness:
- Provide a stipend to reimburse workers for purchasing at-home exercise equipment, fitness trackers, or stand-up desks.
- Offer a subscription to a website or app with a variety of exercise classes for all fitness levels.
- Send out activity reminders to stand up, take a walk, or stretch throughout the day.
- Provide discounts to a healthy meal delivery service, so workers can have nutritious options on hand at home.
3. Provide resources to boost financial wellness
MetLife's study found that 81 percent of employees feel major financial stress, a leap from the 52 percent who said so prior to COVID-19. Fortunately, employers can provide financial tools to help employees better understand the impact of their financial choices:
- Provide a variety of employee benefits that can help them save money in the long run, with offerings such as legal services, critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, and life insurance.
- Educate employees about the retirement planning tools you provide—as well as outside resources.
- Hold virtual training sessions on topics like developing a budget, saving for a down payment on a house, and opening tax-advantaged savings accounts. If possible, tap internal subject matter experts or local professionals to lead those talks.
4. Create social outlets
Daily small talk in the office might be more critical than you think: A recent paper from the Academy of Management finds these interactions helped employees feel more positive and led to an increased sense of well-being at the end of the workday. Lack of small talk could leave employees feeling detached when they're working remotely. Here are a few ways to help keep the conversation flowing, even when you’re not together:
- Create hobby groups. Find employees with similar pastimes, such as cooking, movies, book club, etc., and give them opportunities to connect virtually. Having a non-work meeting can be something to look forward to.
- Consider bringing in virtual chat software, so co-workers can have a place for chit-chat throughout the day. However, think about making it optional to engage, as some may find it disruptive.
The wellness issues we're facing are unprecedented, but we are empowered to change the future of the workforce. Download MetLife's study, "Mental Health: A Path to a Resilient Workforce and Business Recovery" to learn more.