What Is Missing In Your Employee Wellness Program?
Recently Eliz keynoted the Biz Times Wellness Summit and facilitated roundtable discussions about “What’s Missing In Your Wellness Program” with HR professionals, CEOs, and wellness providers. These discussions resulted in insights on challenges facing employers and best practices beneficial to anyone managing an employee wellness program.
Employer Challenge: Overcome Stigma To Supply Mental Health Resources
One of the themes of the Summit was mental health and addiction. This theme carried through to the roundtable discussion as we addressed how to overcome stigma to supply mental health resources. Two insights in this area include:
Managers need a way to start supportive conversations about mental health and addiction. Managers are often provided with training and even scripts to have supervisory conversations about attendance, performance, and discipline. Most, however, receive no training in starting a conversation about mental health. The stigma of mental health is often a barrier to discovering when employees would benefit from assistance. Develop scripts and training to start supportive conversations about mental health and addiction is essential.
Employee Assistance Programs must be highly visible. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) often seem like a well-kept secret. Employees need regular reminders of the benefits available to them. Whether it is a visit to a lawyer or the opportunity to talk with a mental health professional, these services need to be communicated regularly. Having a physical presence of the EAP is important. Providing education programs on mental health, addiction, and other EAP services is essential to visibility as well.
Employer Challenge: Low participation or engagement in wellness programs
Many of the companies attending the summit struggle with engaging more than 30 to 40 percent of their employees in their wellness programs. Three insights from the roundtables include:
Wellness programs must be led from the top down. Eliz shared in the keynote stories of wellness programs defeated by inconsistent communication from leadership. For example, a “leave work at work” theme encouraging employees not to answer emails between 7 pm and 7 am is easily defeated by a boss emailing at 11 pm. Also, leaders have to share personal experiences to place importance on wellness efforts.
Wellness programs must be flexible enough to serve different locations, job categories, fitness levels, and environments. Managing a wellness program to serve employees in multiple states or vastly different job workspace is challenging. For example, the needs of warehouse employees are different than the needs of business office employees. Using an evaluation tool, such as Eliz’s stress study, to discover needs across the organization is essential to providing programs to serve different populations.
Wellness programs must be assessed regularly. Surveys are often the best tool to examine the success of wellness programs. Best practices involved allowing employees to sample wellness offering and then choose programs to fit their needs and goals. Incentives to encourage participation were also suggested as a best practice. One organization rewarded participation in programs throughout the year with a playing card. At the end of the year, the employee with the best poker hand won a prize.
Employer Challenge: Negative work environment is overshadowing wellness efforts.
As Eliz’s keynote demonstrated, often the largest source of stress is the work environment. Offering yoga at lunch or access to cooking classes can’t address this problem. Best practices from the group for addressing negative work environments include:
Employers must shift communication, interaction, and even location to address negative environments.
Using an improvisation game such as “Yes and…” can be useful to shift negative attitudes at the beginning of a meeting. If everyone speaks and is encouraged to be collaborative before any work discussion begins, people are more likely to contribute to the conversation, and the outcome is more likely to be positive.
Changing the way interaction happen can also have a positive effect. Having a meeting while standing can speed up communication, avoid one person monopolizing the discussion, and keep the group on topic. Having a conversation while walking side-by-side can add emotional cover during more uncomfortable situations as eye contact is diminished.
Shifting locations changes interactions as well. Holding meetings outside of the regular workspace can reset communication patterns.
Employers must recognize employees with rewards of real value. Employee recognition efforts only work if the employ values the reward. A trinket might hold value for one employee and be an annoyance to another. Some suggestions of “real value” included extra vacation days, early release Fridays, and late start days. One organization uses a program which encourages employees to nominate team members who are then rewarded with things which benefit the entire team. For example, an outstanding employee can earn a catered lunch for the whole team.
Employer Challenge: Change in the workplace is overshadowing wellness efforts.
Undergoing change often creates stress in a work environment. Addressing the change head-on is often essential before progress on wellness initiatives can be made. Insights from the roundtables include:
Employers must clearly communicate the end goal of the change consistently and often. Without the end goal, the frustration of change, especially technology changes, can overwhelm employees. One announcement will not be enough, regular reminders of the reason for the change will keep the focus on the big picture rather than the daily frustration. During times of change employees often fragment their focus onto small details and lose sight of the goal. Conversations about “why we do what we do” on personal and organizational levels reset the focus as well.
Employers must allow employees to grieve what is lost. Loss of comfort in familiar routines, technology, or people often results in anger. Adjusting to something new naturally requires letting go of what is known. Acknowledging and allowing time to process this loss speeds adoption and lowers stress.
Employers must celebrate incremental progress towards goals. Any large change consists of smaller steps. By celebrating short-term milestones, the change seems more achievable and success more possible. These celebrations also offer a reprieve from constant stress.
Employer Challenge: Starting or reenergizing a wellness program:
Many of the attendees came from smaller organizations searching for ways to integrate a wellness program. Best practices included:
Employers must assess the unique needs of their organization. Wellness programs should be tailored to address the causes of job stress in the organization. Using a tool such as Eliz’s job stress study or internal surveys allow employers to create opportunities for impact.
Small employers should take advantage of grant opportunities. The State of Wisconsin offers grants for companies with 50 or fewer employees to start wellness programs. Contact your local American Heart Association for assistance in finding your state’s opportunites.
The Biz Times Wellness Summit Roundtables were a wealth of wisdom and lively conversation. For more information on Eliz Greene’s Employee Wellness programs and Job Stress Research visit www.ElizGreene.com/Wellness/
Recently my husband and I spent a glorious ten days on vacation in Mexico in celebration of his 50th birthday. We traveled with five other adults to a resort which caters to scuba divers. I don’t dive, but Clay is enthusiastic about the sport, as were our fellow travelers. This led to some interesting insight on stress and relaxation.
When not diving, most of our group spent time lounging by the pool, with the iguanas (yes, actual iguanas). Being fair skinned, I spent some enjoyable time by the pool, in the shade, reading. I did not, however, have the staying power of the rest of the group. I needed something else. My husband, Clay, enjoyed being an iguana for a while, then also needed to DO something. We took out the little sailboat, went for walks — coming and going from the pool. One of our fellow travelers remarked,
“You are always on the go. When are you going to relax?”
Here’s the thing — we were relaxing.
Clay joked at dinner one evening,
“I’m like a border collie. If I don’t have something to do, I start chewing on things.”
Funny and true, it is a good description of how he relaxes. He needs something diverting him from thinking about the things which cause stress. Staying still provides too much time to think.
Too often we think of relaxation in only one facet – as stillness. Meditation works for many, but if you are a border collie at heart, it may cause more stress to try to be still.
Engaging hobbies are excellent for reducing stress. My dad, for example, loved woodworking and spent hours in his garage workshop building, sanding, and finishing. The “busy hands/free mind” essence of these actions can reduce stress for many people.
Other people need highly engaging activities to detach from stress. Racing on an all women’s sailing crew last summer, I saw this in action. During the race we are completely focused on our individual jobs and the task at hand. Working as a team, chatting on the way back in from the race, all of it reduces stress.
Your way of relaxing might not look the same as it does for your fellow travelers, but that is ok. Embrace your own style and make time for activities to support stress reduction.
Are you and iguana, a border collie, or something else?
This post isn’t about politics. It is about stress.
Women’s stress increases when we are in contact with other people who are stressed. It seems both sides of the aisle are stressed these days. The non-stop social media postings of overwhelm and doom can spiral into a feeling of despair. This downward spiral, which I call “awfulizing,” keeps the focus on the negative and stops us from seeing opportunities for improvement.
Regardless of their place on the political spectrum, professional women may find themselves, and their hearts, in danger due to stress around Inauguration Day. A previous post about election stress, revealed the unprecedented level of turmoil in the 2016 presidential race combined with already high job stress levels were a recipe for disaster. While the election is over, the turmoil seems to have increased, intensifying stress and increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack.
So, be kind to your heart and let’s deal with the stress of Inauguration Day.
Avoid going down the rabbit hole of social media:
Facebook algorithms are built to show you more of what you click. It is easy to be pulled into a spiral of dire predictions and raw emotion. Set a timer, limit your number of clicks, avoid reading comments, or devise some other way to manage your contact with stressful posts and articles.
Our country isn’t going to implode on January 20th, nor will all of our problems be magically solved. It is one day. One ceremony. Yes, our country is deeply divided. Yes, we have work to do. It won’t all happen in one day. We all need to move forward and do the best we can.
Doing the best you can with what you have is better than doing nothing.”
Her point revolves around choosing to use your strengths and opportunities now rather than waiting for the right leader, right time, or right frame of mind. This lesson has been instrumental in my own stress management. Rather than complaining on Facebook, I’m picking up the phone and getting to know my elected officials (local, state, and national — those I voted for and those I didn’t). Jess is right, doing something is better than doing nothing. By recognizing stress and taking an action, it is possible to release some of the tension.
As January 20th comes and goes, keep in mind we are all part of the process. You Are Good Enough Now. Do something and reduce your stress.
P.S. Jess’ book Good Enough Now is a fantastic guide to getting over being terrified of messing up and get into action. Check out the video below and order your copy NOW here: www.GoodEnoughNowBook.com
Unsubscribe from emails to limit stress and increase productivity during the holidays!
Is your important email being crowded out by sales emails and e-newsletters?
During the holidays, this is a particular problem.
According to our job stress research, the sheer volume of work to be done is the single largest stressor for a vast majority of people. Eliminating things which steal time and energy from what is important is a central point in The Trouble With Busy.
So… right now… UNSUBSCRIBE!
Think about it.
Deleting what you don’t need several times per day takes time and energy you could use better elsewhere. Take a couple extra moments to scroll down and click the link to unsubscribe. Better yet, use a tool such as unroll.me to do it all at once. Today, using unroll.me I found 132 subscriptions. There are far fewer now. We all “sign up” for activities and relationships that may work in the beginning, but over time we outgrow them or our needs change. Any time we buy something online, the merchant has permission to email us.
It’s okay –- unsubscribe.
Think about it this way.
If you say no to one thing, you are saying an emphatic yes to something else.
Unsubscribing is freeing. You don’t have to feel guilty about it. As a person who sends out a regular email newsletter, I only want subscribers who find value in what I provide. If you don’t have time to read it, if it doesn’t fit your needs, if it is just cluttering up your inbox, please unsubscribe. I won’t take it personally, really!
Unsubscribe for productivity, low stress, and great success this holiday season.