Why employee wellness should be a top priority right now

Companies keen on maintaining engagement, retention and productivity during the pandemic should double-down on supporting employee health. Here’s how.

Prioritizing employee wellness

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives and livelihoods, employers must take a keener interest in prioritizing people over profits.

Every business at least pays lip service to the idea of caring for its employees, but COVID-19 is forcing companies to go beyond mere rhetoric. It’s time to get serious about supporting, prioritizing and facilitating employee wellness.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Go beyond physical fitness.

Previous wellness communications may have been more focused on physical health, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, hitting the gym or eating better. Those are all still great, but now is a good time to place more importance on emotional and financial well-being.

Take consistent pulse surveys to see how employees are doing. Ask them how the company can support them better or if there’s anything they need to alleviate stress. We’re all enduring mental duress right now, and some might be in desperate need of support. Make sure you have open channels of communication that employees feel safe asking for help.

When announcing wellness challenges or events, include activities, resources and tips that promote mental and financial wellness. Provide special assistance for those who have been furloughed, and be sensitive to needs of workers who are trying to figure out child care.

2. Wellness activities can restore daily structure.

Some employees are struggling to replace the structure that showing up to the office brought to their lives. Employees may have had a lot of momentum with their fitness habits by using office fitness centers or heading to the gym right after work. With those options unavailable, some might have lost the rhythm of their days.

Wellness activities and challenges can help segment their days and break up the monotony of isolation. Even though previous fitness routines and options have been disrupted, there’s plenty of space for new habits to form. Making room for physical activity and workday breaks can preserve emotional balance and increase productivity.

Without the routine of a morning meditation session, an afternoon bike ride or outdoor strength training during a lunch break, your employees may go the whole day without taking their minds off work (or going outside). That creates a sensation of days running together, making some of the more arduous workdays feel even longer.

Try providing employees with different scheduling templates that feature different activities and break reminders throughout the day.

3. Communication with compassion.

It’s true that healthier workers are more productive and engaged. That’s a nice byproduct of a wellness program, but there’s a more profound case for going above and beyond to improve employees’ well-being. We all crave genuine connection, care and concern. Especially now, workers need meaningful support that alleviates burdens and stressors.

Whatever your wellness activities look like, craft empathetic communication that shows the company’s top priority is employees’ safety. Profits and productivity are important, of course, but if you want employees to stick with you and stay the course, they must feel truly valued, heard and respected.

A robust wellness program that takes all this into account will do everyone at your company a world of good.

Tim Brewer is a copywriter with Tribe, Inc.

Learn how to craft stronger narratives during these tough times at Ragan’s Brand Storytelling During a Crisis virtual conference.


One Response to “Why employee wellness should be a top priority right now”

    mary katherine ludlow says:

    I liked your article. Good points. I found it on Meredith Poppler’s LinkedIn page, VP Communications for IHRSA. Her psots especially now are spot on.

    The strength training demos from Self magazine included in your article leave a lot to be desired however. Someday soon, I would like to hear form explanations in more detail or at all, less planks (not the end-all-be-all ab exercise!), proper squat form (no arms in front), etc.

    I also think that “employee wellness” needs a brand new name after this pandemic. Yes the whole idea is SO important and agree that it should be a top priority, but it needs a new name. It is simply boring. The name denotes the usual corporate half assed attempt at pleasing employees. What do you think? And this is often just a 24 Hour Fitness membership or some amount of $ off of the employee’s fitness expenses. Then as an independent business owner/trainer, I get these folks as clients because the club could care less about them. But yes, your last point ‘communication with compassion’ is great. Employees and clients absolutely need to know you (the company or trainer) CARE. And you can’t fake that.

    Thank you for your article. I enjoyed it.

    Mary K. Ludlow, BA, CSCS
    (310) 721-1468

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