Making wellness a priority in 2021 will enable organizations to boost employee engagement, productivity, and company culture.
By Michelle Sedlacek
Every new year come the typical conversations among business leaders on goal-setting and objectives for the year ahead, but after such a tumultuous and unprecedented time for individuals and business alike, the next 12 months provides a unique opportunity to prioritize and put a spotlight on employee wellness.
Achieving a healthy lifestyle and outlook will vary by individual, but by demonstrating that the health and well-being of employees is a top priority in 2021, organizations can show higher emotional intelligence and empathy—ultimately creating a more trusting, engaged workforce.
Here are five ways organizations can prioritize employee well-being in 2021.
1. Enable employees to set their own goals. The first step for any employee to reach their wellness goals is to set them in the first place. When companies take an active interest in the personal goals of their employees, everyone is that much more set up for success. Organizations should consider utilizing a company-wide goal-setting tool or a simple set of questions that encourages employees to start thinking about how to make wellness a priority this year. Regardless of the format that a company uses, encouragement and support around setting specific, realistic, and actionable goals is key.
2. Consider adding new perks to the benefits lineup. This is a great opportunity for organizations to take stock of the perks and wellness benefits they already offer and identify any gaps where more employee support could easily be added. For example, an interactive and comprehensive wellness program with progress tracking and rewards could be a great way for a company to build a teamwork mentality into their culture. Actively promoting a benefit like this would highlight the fact that employee wellness is truly a priority for that organization.
3. Use incentives that work. Often, the best way to drive participation in a program—no matter what that program may be—is to offer valuable incentives as a reward. Many companies are now opting to implement HSA funding as a reward for participating in wellness activities, while other companies rely on the rewards already provided by well-being programs. For example, some programs incentivize employees with gift cards or other prizes as they achieve certain wellness milestones. Using rewards and incentives in tandem with a company-wide program enables organizations to see the real-time progress of their employees and draw in as many participants as possible.
4. Use effective communication to promote wellness. The communication of a new wellness program or campaign is just as crucial as the initiative itself. After all, employees won’t utilize a program if they don’t know the details. Organizations should strategize a scheduled suite of engaging communications to promote their focus on employee health and wellness. This messaging will work best with an employee-centric view in mind. HR teams and program managers should be communicating with a marketing mindset to reach and engage their audience, and orchestrate messaging that is as relevant and valuable to their organization as possible. In doing so, companies can easily integrate the value of personal wellness into the organizational culture as a whole, which is a key step in demonstrating to employees that their well-being is a true priority.
5. Put a spotlight on mental health. After such an uncertain year, organizations are realizing that a particular focus on the mental health of their employees needs to move to the top of their priority list. With the numerous negative effects of stress on employees, including burnout, lack of productivity, and decreased engagement, this is not only an individual issue, but a business-level issue as well. If an organization doesn’t already have the building blocks of mental health support in place, such as an employee assistance program, implementing those types of initiatives is a clear first step.
To communicate mental health resources to employees, organizations should also be sure to empathize with the point of view of their workforce and communicate the most crucial aspects of how the program works. This includes the number of free sessions available to participants, the types of stressors the program is best used for, or how much it would cost overall for an individual to use the program regularly. As a bonus, communicating about mental health resources on an ongoing basis helps to destigmatize the subject matter, enhancing and boosting overall company culture.
Any organization’s success rests on the effectiveness and productivity of its employees, which means employee wellness—both physical and mental—should be a critical focus for leaders. Utilizing the right combination of thoughtful programs and initiatives with effective, engaging communication can help organizations convince their employees to participate. A new year is the perfect opportunity to promote a fresh start for employees, both physically and mentally. In doing so, businesses can help employees feel even more ready to take on the year ahead, no matter what new changes it has in store.
Michelle Sedlacek is director of people at GuideSpark Inc.