Mental health, over the past year and a half, has undeniably come to the forefront of household conversations – and rightly so. During the pandemic, 4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety – up from 1 in 10 adults the previous year. But one’s well-being isn’t limited to their at home performance.
In addition to raising a family and finding personal fulfillment, our occupations, for better and for worse, take up a significant part of our daily lives. And due to the built up expectation of ‘hard work is good work,’ it can be extremely difficult to fight for your workplace wellness. Especially as hybrid and work-from-home businesses models continue to persist.
With a growing number of workers reporting that they don’t have enough time to exercise and eat right, the need for employee faceted health programs that address both mental and physical health has never been greater.
Fortunately, for many of us, the stress management and health-preserving techniques we adopted in our personal lives can be translated to the workplace. How we introduce these lessons into actionable workplace items, however, can be tricky and heavily nuanced.
In addition to regular sleep, staying hydrated, and daily exercise, there’s a whole new set of issues to consider in today’s ever-evolving work environment. Unfortunately, employers may not always be privy to the wellness requirements of their staff. That is why it is up to all workforce members to support and encourage the adoption of all types of wellness initiatives and programs.
Wellness programs are a type of employee assistance program (EAP) that provide employees with resources to help them succeed in their wellness journey. They can be designed to help employees achieve wellness success by helping them identify key issues and building a plan to address them.
There are a variety of means to enhance employee wellness both within formal programs and as part of your organization’s overall benefits. These include but are not limited to:
- On-site Fitness Centers
The fitness industry is reemerging right now with gyms and fitness clubs popping up all over the place, offering everything from free weight training to personal trainers. A gym membership can be expensive, however, and it can be difficult to find the time and interest to go to the gym regularly. As a result, employer-provided fitness services are becoming more and more popular. Many of these services are gamified as well to increase competition, teamwork, and overall office morale.
- Corporate Housing
For many of us, where we live can be a much more temporary concept – especially as business travel returns. After turning your home into the perfect work-life environment, moving to a new location can be a terrifying and isolating experience.
To avoid this very predicament – and ensure a smooth home-to-home transition – employers are increasingly looking to provide the mobile worker with enhanced corporate housing options during extended business travel.
The reasons for this policy change are manifold: they can provide employees with a more comfortable home away from home, new ways to de-stress, and offer them curated nutritional guidance to choose from while away. There are several advantages to using corporate housing versus hotels, including 4-5 times more living space to enjoy and entertain, gourmet kitchens for cooking, and the option for pet-friendly residences.
How you live starts with the quality of your home environment.
- Smoking Cessation Programs
Stress can manifest itself in many different ways, most often as harmful or addictive habits, such as smoking.
Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable death worldwide, killing nearly 7 million people each year. Despite the amount of public health knowledge, nearly 14 of every 100 adults in the U.S. smoke. Employees who smoke are more likely to experience health issues, which may limit their ability to exercise, focus, or generally feel good. Many employers have a smoking cessation program or have policies to help these employees quit smoking. And find positive, health-promoting habits to manage both their professional and personal stressors.
- Transit Options
One of the first things that employees should request from their employers is a variety of transportation options. Not only does this promote a healthy work-life balance, but it also gives employees a better chance at getting to and from work by encouraging them to take public transit or use a bike-sharing service. Biking or walking to work is a healthy, affordable, and environmentally friendly way to get to the office. It is, therefore, not a surprise that bicycling has become quite popular during the past year and a half.
- Massage Sessions
Many companies will offer their employees allotted budgets for health and wellness purchases over the course of a year. But deciding what you are going to do with that sum can sometimes be overwhelming. If you are struggling to determine how you should invest your self care allowance, massage is always a great place to start.
The benefits of massage are well documented. It’s a simple, natural way to relax, and it can improve circulation, reduce stress and muscle tension, relieve aches and pains, and aid sleep. Low back pain and neck pain from sitting for long hours at a computer are examples of conditions that can be effectively treated with massage.
- Yoga Classes
Yoga is another excellent way to invest the money you have set aside for health and wellness. That is partly why it is becoming more and more popular; to the point where employers are starting to offer classes for their employees.
It’s an excellent form of exercise, and it can help to keep employees healthy and on top of their game. Yoga is not only good for one’s physical health, but it also improves mental health, relieves stress, reinforces effective breathing techniques, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Lunch and Healthy Snacks
Your physical and mental health begins and ends with your diet. That is why healthy food options in the office kitchen have become more commonplace and will continue to be so as employees return.
Kombucha, fresh produce, and various fruits and nuts have emerged as excellent health-promoting energy boosters for employees to tackle the day. While employers might believe that they have to provide unhealthy snacks to keep their workforce happy, these types of snacks may actually hinder employee productivity and increase the risk of various health conditions. The solution, therefore, is simple: provide healthy snacks to your employees so that they feel more energized and alert.
- Meditation Sessions
Research shows that meditation can improve health and boost productivity. It can also be used to reduce stress and anxiety, which is why many companies are teaming up with meditation experts to help their employees de-stress and improve productivity at work.
A meditation session can differ significantly based on the instructor and the individual. It should be noted that meditation is not suited for everyone, but for those that it works for, it can be extremely effective for improving one’s mindfulness and reduce the mental anguish of stressors.
Meditation can be done in a group, one-on-one, or even by yourself in your own home. A session usually lasts for 20 minutes but can be longer or shorter. The sessions can be done 1-2 times a week, or once a day. Some people follow a meditation practice for years and learn to do it without guidance.
- Intermittent Naps
A nap at work seems unlikely, right? That’s what people say until they try one. After all, you likely had a late night the night before, and your morning alarm probably went off way too early. Many tech companies such as Facebook and Asana have special nap rooms in their offices for employees to visit and take a rest. Employees feel refreshed and renewed to continue with their work. At the very least it is a reminder to all team members that you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time – and that is okay.
- Wellness Challenges
Workplace challenges related to wellness are effective in promoting healthy lifestyles within your workforce. They are also excellent pathways for encouraging employee engagement. Whether these are client initiated or employee initiated, when implementing wellness challenges, it is important to consider how these programs can help employees to achieve their wellness and workplace goals.
Since 2020, wellness has become an unavoidable buzzword. One that is as overused as it is under-utilized. Many major corporations are realizing the benefits that employee health and wellness can have on the bottom line, such as with employee retention. For example, over 87% of workers say they consider an employee wellness program as a major factor when deciding on a job. That is because, like all of us, employees appreciate being valued. And nothing demonstrates employer care than investing in the well-being of their employees.
Organizations that look to offer their employees a healthier life now have the option to encourage better nutrition and exercise to ultimately promote a more productive, less stressed workforce. But these programs won’t be implemented on their own. It is up to workplace leaders to initiate, support, and invest in this philosophy.