Practical Ways to Support Employee Wellness

One of the most important responsibilities of any business leader is ensuring that their employees have a safe environment in which to do their work. A safe workspace helps companies protect their most essential assets… that is to say, their people. Additionally, it helps promote employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. Simply put, most employees are going to be more focused on their work when they feel like they are safe and secure.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces have begun to rethink their approach to employee wellness. As we enter a new year, there are plenty of practical ways in which business leaders and HR teams can make good on their commitment to employee safety.

Start with Physical Safety

Many companies are still encouraging their employees to work remotely. This is generally the best way to guarantee employees are physically safe, and to minimize the spread of COVID or other infectious diseases.

For employees who choose to return to the office, or whose physical presence in the workspace is a necessity, there are some important safety protocols to put into place:

  • Set a cleaning schedule. Not only should the office be cleaned multiple times a day, but employees should also know roughly what that cleaning schedule is; this can provide them with some peace of mind about the sanitation level of their physical work environment.
  • Make sure you have well-trained cleaners. Either hire a CDC-certified cleaning company, or ensure your in-house janitorial staff is well-versed in current CDC guidelines.
  • Invest in employee safety equipment. Hand sanitizer stations and forehead thermometers are among the smartest investments here.
  • Create space for social distancing. To promote employee wellbeing, it may be necessary to reconfigure the flow of your office, allowing for more social distancing, or even to purchase some physical buffers and barriers that can be put into place. Plexiglass screens and shields can be especially helpful.
  • Clarify company policies. Make sure there is no misunderstanding about company rules and guidelines concerning the use of face coverings, requirements for employees to eat lunch separately, individual responsibilities to keep office equipment clean, etc. These policies should be placed into writing, printed on signage, and verbally communicated by the HR team.

Support Mental Health

In addition to physical safety, employers have a responsibility to provide for the mental health of their employees. There are a number of ways to do this.

  • Make sure employees have access to good tech support. Nothing frustrates more than a slow or malfunctioning computer. Be sure employees all know how to obtain the IT support they require to work as productively, and as headache-free, as possible.
  • Provide PTO flexibility. One of the best things HR can do to promote employee mental health is to allow some flexibility in when people take time off, whether for vacation, medical needs, or simply for a needed “mental health” break.
  • Remind employees of their role and its importance. Another way to promote mental wellbeing is to remind employees of the company mission, and of how their individual role contributes to that mission. Reinforce to employees that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and that their role makes a difference.
  • Acknowledge and thank. To support the emotional wellbeing of employees, leaders should be proactive and consistent in acknowledging good work, and voicing their appreciation for employees who show up and work hard each day… even amidst challenging circumstances.

These are just a few steps toward a safer, healthier, more proactive work environment. With any questions about promoting employee wellbeing, particularly in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, feel free to contact WhiteWater Consulting at any time.

Recognizing Employee Burnout

By now, it’s beyond cliché to say that 2020 has been a tough year. From a global pandemic to a tense election season, the year has offered no shortage of wearying headlines. Now, as we head into the final few weeks of the year, many of us are feeling fatigued, frustrated, or simply drained. For HR leaders and team supervisors, it’s critical to realize that your employees are very likely battling with burnout.

Of course, burnout is a very real possibility even under ideal circumstances. The 9-5 grind can take its toll, and sooner or later even the most cheerful and energetic employees may show signs that they’re tired and stressed. Leaders who are attentive to the signs of burnout may be able to help their employees gain a better sense of balance, restoring their mental health and even making necessary changes to the company culture.

But in 2020, it’s especially challenging to notice those signs of burnout. That’s because so many employees are working remotely, which means leaders and managers don’t have as much facetime to gauge their exhaustion. Certainly, there are some telltale signs of burnout, evident even in remote work settings: For example, leaders can look for employees who participate less during virtual meetings, who are slower to respond to emails or texts, or whose quality of work deteriorates. In some cases, employees may even offer direct feedback, making it clear that they’re feeling tired or burned out. Take this feedback seriously!

Managing Workplace Burnout During the COVID Era

Though it may be difficult to see the signs of burnout, it’s crucial to be vigilant: Burnout can sap employee morale, productivity, and work quality, and it can ultimately impoverish your team.

As you look for the signs of employee burnout, there are also a few simple steps you can take to better manage burnout among team members. Consider these suggestions:

  • Give employees meaningful work to do. Nothing exacerbates burnout like busywork. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable: There are tedious tasks that someone on your team has to complete. Whenever possible, though, try to connect team members with projects that actually mean something. Also, take the time to stress to your employees why their work matters. Remind them of the difference it makes in the lives of your clients and customers.
  • Provide some mental health breaks. Whether it’s one day out of every month or just an hour every Friday afternoon, provide employees with some time they can use for self-care, or simply to get away from their computer. This is a great way of demonstrating your commitment to a culture of mental wellbeing.
  • Be mindful of boundaries. Don’t let the remote work environment blur lines between the personal and professional. It’s unreasonable to expect employees to show up to work an hour earlier or stay an hour later, simply because they happen to be working from home. And it’s unhealthy to send emails or assign work after-hours or on the weekends.
  • Stay positive. This may sound simple, even simplistic… but during a stressful or chaotic season, intentional positivity goes a long way. Be extra committed to acknowledging good work when you see it and expressing gratitude to your team members for their important contributions.
  • Seek feedback. The HR team may also use employee surveys to gather feedback and gauge the mood among employees. Not only can this provide some insight into current burnout levels, but it also shows employees that you care about what they’re feeling. That in itself can help stave off feelings of discontentedness.

Get HR Solutions from WhiteWater Consulting

If you have any questions about how your HR team can identify and respond to employee burnout, we’d love to chat with you one-on-one. Contact WhiteWater Consulting at your next opportunity.

Prioritizing Mental Health in the Workplace, Post-COVID

As more businesses welcome employees back to the workplace, HR leaders have understandably prioritized physical health and safety. This is entirely appropriate in the wake of the pandemic: Workplaces can and should do everything in their power to promote hygiene and support employee wellbeing.

It is crucial to remember, though, that employee wellness is about more than physical safety. Mental health is also a significant concern. Keep in mind that many employees will return to work feeling anxious, afraid, or depressed; some will be carrying grief from loved ones they have lost, or trepidation that they might become sick themselves. Others may simply feel nervous due to changes and uncertainty in our work environments.

Mental Health as a Priority

Due to these concerns, it is critical that employers and HR leaders develop their back-to-work plans with employee mental health in mind.

Indeed, mental health is a major source of concern for many business leaders. Businessolver recently published the results of their fifth annual State of Workplace Empathy Study, where they found that CEOs, HR leaders, and employees agree that mental health should be a key consideration in the workplace. And yet, the same study also shows that just 69 percent of employees feel that their workplace is sensitive to mental health concerns.

Digging deeper into the numbers, we find the following:

  • Many employees are afraid to reveal their mental health struggles, with 64 percent saying they are concerned about confidentiality. Their fear is that, in being honest about their mental health issues, they could jeopardize their job security.
  • There is a disconnect between employees and leaders. An overwhelming 86 percent of CEOs give their companies high marks for open discussion of mental health issues… but only 58 percent of employees agree.
  • Similarly, 76 percent of CEOs note that their workplaces offer mental health benefits, but only about half of employees are aware of these benefits! Awareness-raising will be a key issue moving forward.
  • About 92 percent of employees say their companies should do more… and 100 percent of HR leaders agree!

What we see here is that mental health concerns loom large among employees and business leadership; and that there remains much work to be done in creating workspaces where mental health is addressed with honesty and sensitivity.

Take Action

As HR leaders start considering their options for improving mental health in the workplace, especially amidst a post-COVID re-opening, there are a few preliminary action steps that we can commend.

  • Start talking honestly and openly about mental health. Make your workplace an environment where people feel comfortable talking about these issues without fear. This must start at the top: Leaders and executives must be the ones who model transparency and vulnerability.
  • Create support systems in which employees can talk with each other not only about logistical aspects of their jobs, but also emotional ones. This may look like team huddles where emotional issues are expressly raised. It may also mean pairing employees to check in with each other in a more confidential, one-on-one setting (such as a “coffee buddies” program).
  • Finally, it is so crucial for employers and HR leaders to develop benefits packages that include mental health care… and, to make sure the scope of those mental health benefits is discussed openly with employees. Again, raising awareness and rejecting stigma will be important going forward.

Ready to find out more about designing (and communicating) benefits packages that put mental health as a priority? Reach out to our team at WhiteWater Consulting at any time.