Preparing to Return to Work

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It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 has changed our routines.

Some may be returning to work with the same schedule and new precautions; some may continue to work from home for the foreseeable future; some may not be returning quite yet, or experiencing a spouse’s return to work. The next few months will look different for everyone, and the feelings around this shift will vary too.

Here are some tips for managing what’s next:

  1. Recognise and acknowledge your emotions. Accept any feelings of uncertainty and the loss of normalcy. We often feel a need to fight emotions, when recognizing and accepting those feelings from what they are can help manage them.Communicate. If you have concerns about returning to work and what that will look like, talk about it.
  2. Communicating with your bosses, co-workers, and partners can ease concerns and help everyone level-set expectations during a transition back.
  3. Do what is in your control.You may see people not following social distancing guidelines or businesses open up you don’t agree with, and understandably that can feel frustrating. You may also notice people behavior differently depending on their risk factors or concerns with COVID-19. Instead of focusing on that, look to what you can control and do what is reasonable and comfortable for you. Look to reputable organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization for guidance and follow their recommendations.
  4. Be realistic. It may also seem like returning to work will be the return of most things as they used to be with more headspace to focus on physical activity, nutrition, and other things wellness related that may have been on the back-burner the last few months. The transition back may take time; be realistic in how habits will need to be adjusted and readjusted as the return to work unfolds.
  5. Monitor your emotional well-being and look for tools to help manage stress.Keep checking in with yourself, and if you do find your emotional well-being taking a toll, look for resources that can help. This could be your company’s EAP, outreach to a counselor, a mindfulness app, or a phone call to a friend.

 

Is Your Workplace Well?

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Wellness is becoming a strategic priority for companies across the globe. Over the past few years in there has been a significant uptake and rapid growth of wellness building projects in Asia Pacific – which looks set to continue.

Business leaders have identified the ‘war for talent’ as their number one challenge in the region. Millennial’s – set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 – are more focused on their own well-being, changing expectations of the ‘employee experience’. And, research shows that shows failing to take wellness into consideration has serious consequences for productivity and the bottom line.

It is therefore vital for companies to consider how they can embed wellness into the built environment, develop effective organisational policies, and positively influence employee behaviour.

Industry needs to address the pain points of these companies – by developing services to improve well-being at scale, leveraging new technologies to facilitate the journey, and providing ways to measure the impacts. For many, the focus is shifting from ‘what’ wellness is and ‘why’ it’s important, and asking ‘how’ to build effective wellness programmes, and quantify the benefits to employee and corporate performance. As the wellness industry develops more tools to answer these questions, companies will be more willing to commit time and resources to implementing them.

Given that we spend 90 per cent of our time inside, especially in urban environments like Hong Kong, and that indoor air can be more polluted than outside it is essential to ensure the air we are breathing is high quality. Poor air quality, including high carbon dioxide levels, is linked to increased risk of disease and decreased productivity. Providing clean air not only has a clear health benefit but also gives a psychological edge – it’s peace of mind. Leveraging big data and apps to consistently monitor and communicate this to employees is extremely effective.

We were born to move. Some companies are addressing this through office design by creating circulation routes to ensure people are moving throughout the day. Some have fewer printers or a centralised area for bins so people are naturally compelled to walk and socialise. You’ll also find height-adjustable desks or standing desks that team members use for a break from sitting all day. All of this helps to increase movement and step count – making for healthy internal competitions! Using a digital platform or wearable can be a great driver for healthy habits across the business and a great way to see improvements over time.

Efforts to enhance wellness can encounter multiple challenges, from budget limitations to a lack of staff or management buy-in. It’s crucial for corporate’s to create a wellness strategy that’s core to a business and its employees, and not just an add-on. This will help practitioners narrow the gap between the growing understanding of the field of wellness and effectively engaging with industry experts to execute it.

How Do You Bring Wellness Into Your Workplace?

Here are ten top tips to improve the work environment for you and your employees.

  • Improve air quality – air pollution kills 7 million people every year.
  • Ensure you’re drinking enough water – dehydration reduces cognitive performance and energy levels by up to 20%.
  • Reduce sound distractions – exposure to unwanted sound reduces concentration by 66%.
  • Get comfortable – 85% of people in Asia suffer one or more musculoskeletal conditions annually.
  • Make the most of natural light – employees seated within 10 feet of a window reported an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms.
  • Focus on your mind and well-being – 25% of people report work as the number one stressor in their lives.
  • Embrace nature and green materials – adding plants to the workplace can result in a 58% reduction in depression, 44% in hostility and 37% in anxiety and fatigue.
  • Get moving – physical inactivity is the 4th highest risk factor in global mortality.
  • Be more conscious about nourishment – 1 in 5 deaths are linked to band diets globally.
  • Build a sense of community – the average human requires 6 hours of social interaction per day to maintain overall well-being.

Written by Victoria Gilbert, Associate Director, Workplace Advisory Corporate Solutions Asia, Colliers International

24 Ways Employers Can Manage Stress at Work

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Most of the stress we experience comes from our jobs and worksites. Stressed workers are more likely to smoke, drink, be inactive, eat poorly, have relationship issues, and get sick more often. All of this means decreased productivity. Thankfully, employers can help to manage stress at work.

Job stress costs billions of rands every year because it leads to more absenteeism, medical expenses, and workers compensation claims.

Here is a comprehensive list of the main causes of worksite stress and a corresponding list of successful ways to help employers reduce stress in the worksite and help employees manage stress.

Worksites and wellness programs that have good control of stress at work have healthier, more productive employees. They also have lower health care costs.

Workplace Stress That Comes from Poor Leadership

1) Lack of understanding about leadership structure and roles

A lack of understanding about leadership structure creates stress. When employees understand leadership structure, there is less conflict, which enhances productivity and morale.

Do This: Create and honour a clear leadership structure so everyone knows to whom they are accountable. This will improve the efficiency of work and contribute to a more relaxed environment.

2) Lack of job feedback from leadership

Unless employees receive feedback, they can worry about their job performance even when they are doing well. This can make it hard for employees to manage their stress. When leaders communicate with a spirit of encouragement, employees feel reassured and are more likely to communicate with leaders, especially during difficult challenges.

Do This: Employees need regular performance reviews. Employees need to know if they are exceeding your expectations or have things they can improve. Involving them in the process and letting them to set their own improvement goals will improve relationships and increase job satisfaction.

Do This: Encourage sharing in staff meetings. Ask for employee suggestions then share them at meetings. This will increase trust, motivation, and performance, all of which reduce stress.

Do This: Communicate regularly by email, newsletters, calls, chats, etc. This builds a relationship of trust. Whatever the form of communication, make the message simple, clear, and relevant.

3) Employees need to understand company vision

When employees understand company vision, they can see how their efforts fit into the big picture and it is easier for them to focus their energy on helping achieve company goals. Understanding and working toward a shared vision gives work a higher meaning, improves performance, and helps employees manage stress. This is also true for stress management and wellness programs.

Do This: Consistently share the company vision with employees. Make it easy and fun to remember. Give your employees a small token to remind them of the shared vision!

4) Employees need to understand how their roles contribute to company success

When employees understand how their role fits with company goals, they will be more likely to engage and contribute.  They will also develop a sense of control over their work duties, which can help manage stress levels.

Do This: Make sure that employees know the company goals and have a chance to identify ways they contribute. Small group meetings are a good way to help employees connect company goals to individual roles.

Leaders can reinforce the importance of employee roles when they praise employees. Recognition results in increased security and productivity, and can decrease stress.

5) Employees need to understand their job responsibilities

It is stressful when job expectations are confusing. When employees understand job responsibilities, they will feel calmer and perform better. Work stress and employee health have a direct impact on employee productivity.

Do This: Make sure every employee has a specific job description that they helped create. Provide guidelines but let them tweak it. This description should outline daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly responsibilities. Make sure the job description provides the employee with a chance to grow and be rewarded.

Workplace Stress Caused by Unhealthy Workloads

6) Work shifts need to be reasonable

Too many hours of demanding work will wear down and exhaust employees. Everyone needs time away from work to rest, recharge, and take care of other duties.  A work/life balance helps maintain physical and emotional health and improves productivity. It also helps employees to manage stress.

Do This: Limit work shifts 10 hours or less and make sure employees have adequate time to rest before their next shift. This will improve morale and productivity, and reduce the risk of work injuries.

7) Employees should be encouraged to take breaks during the day to help manage stress

Short breaks throughout the day allow employees to recharge and refocus. Regular breaks help employees work more effectively.

Do This: Encourage employees to take regular mini-breaks. If leaders take breaks and invite others to join, they likely will. This will help set the acceptable length and type of a break.  Walk for five minutes, stretch, get some fresh air, meditate, listen to music, or even just get a glass of water. Also suggest that employees get away from their desks during the lunch hour.

8) Employee assignments should challenge their abilities without overwhelming them

Employees need to be challenged but not overloaded. Challenge helps employees develop skills, makes work interesting, and helps maintain motivation.

But it is just not possible for people to perform well for extended periods of time when workloads are to heavy. Working this way leads to irritability, exhaustion, reduced productivity and ultimately, illness, and injury.

Do This: Give employees the option of calling a “time out” when they feel overwhelmed. This will help establish a norm around working smarter, not harder.  Employees can easily identify unproductive activities when asked. Asking them on a periodic basis will help you keep your operations streamlined.

Workplace Stress Caused by Lack of Work Flexibility

9) Employees should be able to rotate during shifts from high to lower stress tasks

High-stress tasks are sometimes an unavoidable part of work. However, performing these tasks without relief or variation can wear employees down to a point of exhaustion. Working at high-stress tasks for extended amounts of time will cause their work and health to suffer.

Do This: Schedule regular breaks for employees who perform high-stress activities. Give them assignments that vary by stress level so they can manage their workload by rotating tasks.  Where employees work in teams, encourage job sharing so that no one person has a consistently heavy load.

10) Employees should be able to conveniently change work hours when needed

Allowing employees to have some control over their work schedule will manage stress levels.  A worker with schedule flexibility is better able to find work/life balance, and is generally happier, more productive and more engaged at work.

For example, if an employee can choose when to start and finish work, they can be available for family needs, arrange to miss peak rush hour traffic, create time for exercise, etc.

Do This: Consider the use of flextime or other alternative work schedules such as part time, staggered hours, job sharing, shift working, and even telecommuting. These policies allow employees to manage stressful factors in all parts of their life.

11) Employees need a say in how assigned tasks are performed

When employers have control over every aspect of their employee’s work it can cause employees to feel powerless. This is a major source of stress. Employees need some control regarding their responsibilities and a way to alter their tasks as necessary.

Do This:  Give your employees the opportunity to adjust their jobs as needed. Allow them to make decisions that affect their productivity and give them control over a portion of their work.

Employees can even be put in teams that make decisions together on how to perform given tasks. Employees know their own strengths and weaknesses better than management.  As teams regularly meet, review and evaluate performance, they can decide what is necessary to achieve the outcomes you desire.

Workplace Stress Caused by Lack of Resources

12) Employees should have resources and supplies needed to perform assigned tasks

Job stress is the “harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.” Employees who are expected to perform tasks without necessary resources and supplies will feel powerless and become stressed as a result.

Do This:  Make certain that the work you are delegating can be achieved with the resources on hand. Provide a way to clearly communicate employee needs and then supply them with appropriate resources.

13) Employees need training to do their jobs well

One source of job stress is the disparity between a person’s capabilities and the requirements of the job they are asked to perform. Often, this stress can be alleviated with training and education. An employee who is properly trained and educated will have the confidence and ability they need to do their job well and better manage their stress.

Do This: Provide training and continuing education for your employees. Most employers require new hires to be trained, but many do not provide on-going training.

Ask more experienced employees to assist in trainings. This will improve morale and will help transfer institutional knowledge from older to younger workers.

You can also allow employees to rotate through other divisions of the company for cross-training, provide access to external education at colleges or training centers, or even offer funding for distance learning through online programs.

Where possible, completion of training should be recognized and praised. Remember to regularly assess training programs by asking those who have been trained for their input and suggestions.

14) Employees need to communicate with managers and co-workers

When employees are able to communicate with those they work with, it will alleviate much of their stress. Just knowing the lines of communication are open between an employee and their manager helps tremendously. Often, people don’t even need their situation to be changed, they just need someone to provide a listening ear and some positive encouragement to keep them going. Fifteen minutes of talking to a sympathetic co-worker can undo days of stress and worry.

Do This: Hold regular meetings with employees to discuss problems, workloads, concerns, and adjustments that need to be made. Allow them the time to communicate. Be available for individual consultations and listen when people need to talk with you.

Hold small group meetings for employees to voice their concerns and interact with each other. Often, many have the same concerns and viable solutions can be brainstormed.

Staff retreats and team building activities can help co-workers build relationships and learn to depend upon each other for help. Support among those at work is an important defence against employee stress.

Workplace Stress Caused by Lack of Social Support

15) Employees need support in a team atmosphere to better manage stress

People who have a support network are much more secure in their ability to cope with stress. This support is especially important at work. Stress is magnified if employees have to deal with problems without support of any kind.

Do This: Arrange for small group interactions where employees can get to know each other on an individual level. This is most effective when combined with training and team building activities. Constructive interaction helps cultivate meaningful relationships.

You can also provide opportunities for social interaction outside of work. Meeting in a less official manner may give people a chance to laugh together. Humour is a great way to cope with stress. A good laugh can do wonders for your employees.

Your company may even want to create a team approach to some assignments which can help prevent isolation. When people know they are part of a team, it is easier for them to function at work.

16) Supervisors should be available to help and advise when needed

Stress is compounded when employees are unable to communicate. Employees will be much more willing to seek help when they have understanding supervisors who will listen and point them to appropriate help.

Do This: Train your leaders to recognize stress in those they work with and what they can do to prevent it from becoming a problem. Provide leaders with helpful resources and encourage them to share the resources with other employees.

17) There should be a spirit of cooperation and respect at work

A hostile work environment contributes to stress and poor health. A spirit of cooperation and support are essential for the well-being of your employees and the progress of your organization.

Do This: Be an example of what you want to see in employees. Respect them and they will be more respectful of each other. You set the tone. If employees feel that they have the support of others, they will be much more likely to follow suit.

Feeling respected and respecting others creates unity in the workplace and builds relationships of trust. Trust is the basis of a positive work environment and it can be a valuable buffer against the negative effects of stress.

18) Programs or tools should be made available to help employees manage stress

Although the first line of defence against job-related stress should be modifying the work environment, educating employees on the symptoms, causes, and treatments for stress can also be of great benefit.

Do This: Offer a stress management program to help your employees learn the skills and tools they need to reduce stress.  These techniques may include time management, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, assertiveness training, and changing negative self-talk.

WellSteps provide employers with campaigns and challenges designed to help employees manage stress and help employers create a stress free workplace.

Stress management training can be provided by EAP professionals or by outside experts and can be integrated into existing training meetings.

Physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce stress. You could encourage employees to increase their physical activity by starting a walking club, providing employee discounts to health clubs, or bringing in fitness professionals for guest classes.

Discussion groups where employees can share techniques with each other are helpful. For example, groups that focus on coping with domestic stress (e.g. parenting, raising teens, etc).

Remember, unless the root causes of stress in the organization are addressed, the effects of stress reduction techniques will be short lived.

Workplace Stress Caused by Lack of Growth Opportunities

19) Employees need realistic opportunities to grow, advance and be promoted

Employees need opportunities to advance and grow. If employees do not see these opportunities, their morale and performance may suffer.

Do This: Recognize and reward employees appropriately when they perform well. When there is an organized system for recognition and advancement, employees will see that their efforts will be noticed. Provide opportunities for career advancement and employees will rise to the challenge.

20) Employees want and need job security

Employees face growing job insecurity. Downsizing, layoffs, and budget cuts are increasingly common. The result of this uncertainty is stress.

Do This: Give your employees opportunities to expand their skills in order to increase their value to the organization. But no matter what, communicate with your employees. Let them know about changes that may be taking place. Even if you don’t know all the answers, be honest and upfront and work with them the best you can.

Lack of Good Policies and Environments to Manage Stress

21) Employees should be given adequate notice when there is a change in policy or procedure

Change is stressful, especially when dealing with employment issues. However, the nature of the workplace is such that change is inevitable. If employees are advised early of changes in policy or procedure, the transition is much easier and less stressful as a result.

Do This: Talk to your employees. Let them know what is going on and keep them informed about future plans as early as you can. Discussing changes with them may open up valuable input from them so you can find the most effective solutions.

22) Employees need a pleasant and safe working environment to reduce workplace stress

Often, employees do not have control over their working environment. Hazards, distractions and annoyances can be stressful, especially if the employee can do nothing to change it.

Such stressors may include chemical agents like toxins, physical agents such as heat, radiation, cold, poor air quality, poor lighting, and other safety hazards. Employees may also be experiencing repetitive work and awkward work positions, especially those caused by computers, and heavy lifting.

Although individual opinions may differ, certain working conditions are stressful to almost everyone and should be addressed. A harsh and uninviting workplace can be a deterrent to the productivity and mental health of those working in it.

Do This: Talk to employees about their work environment.  Give them the opportunity to voice concerns or frustrations about aspects that are harmful or irritating. Make appropriate changes or suggest ways for them to work around such disturbances.

Treat their concerns with respect and attention doing what you can to help them feel comfortable in their workspace.

You may want to assign a certain employee or group of employees to the task of making the workplace safe, comfortable, and ergonomically correct. They can collect grievances and find solutions to valid complaints.

The courts have become increasingly receptive to both labor and employee organizations who have complained about stressful conditions at work. It would be to your benefit to work with your employees on this issue.

23) Employees need sufficient physical space to do their jobs

Employees working in a comfortable space feel more in control of their situation, thus reducing work related stress. It is important that they have enough space to easily complete their assignments, especially in times of high stress.

Do This: Make it possible for each employee to have a space of their own that is adequate for them to do their work. Allow them to make the space their own so they feel comfortable there.

24) Employees need an environment that is as quiet as possible given the type of work to manage stress

Noise is a major factor in environmental stress. Having to work in stressful situations where the noise level is high increases stress dramatically. For many jobs, employees need a quiet work place so they can concentrate on the tasks they have to accomplish.

Do This: Find ways to minimize noise in the office. Ask for employee suggestions and implement guidelines that keep the noise down.

Supply noise minimizing headphones, install noise blocking computer programs, insulate walls and ceilings, place sound absorbing partitions between desks, separate workers, or use other noise minimizing tactics.

Do what you need to in order to help your employees concentrate so they can appropriately do their work.

As one of the nation’s most effective wellness programs WellSteps helps employees manage stress and reduce stress at work. We help worksites implement all of these worksite stress management strategies.

 

Looking to Partner With a Top Corporate Wellness Program?

Looking to Partner With a Top Corporate Wellness Program?

If you’re looking to reduce health care costs and improve employee engagement and productivity, then you should be thinking about investing in employee wellness software.

A top employee wellness platform will allow you to encourage employees to develop and maintain healthy habits while also creating a culture of employee health and well-being.

If your company is looking to partner with a top corporate wellness program – WellSteps is your answer.

SelectSoftware has conducted and published a study on the 5 best Employee Wellness Software for June 2020 and WellSteps was at the top of the list! SelectSoftware is a reliable source and often quoted in many different HR publications including Undercover Recruiter, RecruitingDaily, HR.com, RecruitingBlogs, Workology, Recruiter.com, HR-Gazette and many more.

Any study into the space of Corporate Wellness Programs must include the benefits, pitfalls, and ROI associated with employee wellness software, along with research into the best vendors in the space.

Benefits of Employee Wellness Software

The best employee wellness programs are not only advantageous for the employees who use them, but are also highly beneficial for both the HR team and bottom line of a business. Here are some key benefits to adding an employee wellness software solution to your HR tech stack.

  1. Reduced Health Care Costs: It’s no surprise that healthier employees lead to lower health care costs. By using an employee wellness solution to encourage employees to adopt a healthier lifestyle, businesses are able to lower costs associated with chronic disease as well as workers’ compensation and disability claims expenses.
  2. Increased Worker Productivity and Performance: When properly implemented, employee wellness platforms can help improve employee performance by reducing absenteeism. By providing them with the tools they need to manage stress, achieve emotional stability and feel connected to those around them, employee wellness platforms reduce workplace stressors and help employees perform at their peak.
  3. Better Employee Engagement and Retention: It’s rather intuitive that employees are more likely to stay with their employer longer if they feel happy and unstressed in their job. Thus, by increasing employee happiness, employee wellness solutions increase retention and engagement.
  4. Attract Top Talent: A robust employee health and wellness program shows potential employees that the company cares about them. As a wellness program is something that most job candidates consider when choosing an employer, offering an employee wellness solution gives your business a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent.
  5. Build Culture: Employee health and wellness software can help you promote a culture of health and brand your business as a company that truly cares about its employees.
Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

Employee wellness software can be a great solution for increasing employee health, happiness, and productivity. However, there are several misconceptions and pitfalls that you should be aware when looking to buy corporate wellness software. Here’s where we people struggle when it comes to understanding and implementing these platforms.

  • Communication is an area where many businesses can go wrong when implementing employee wellness software. A wellness program that is not communicated about early or accurately will result in low employee participation, rendering it ineffective.
  • Make sure that your software solution is not limited to just a website with educational content. A program that informs your employees about how to live a healthy lifestyle, but doesn’t get them to actually adopt and maintain healthy habits will not be beneficial.
  • Lack of social support can be a great barrier to a successful wellness program. Ensure the solution that you will be offering allows for plenty of social support and interaction whether it is among co-workers or with employees’ families.
  • Health and wellness programs tend to fail when the technology involved is difficult to use. Make sure that you provide training or tutorials for any tricky tech involved and have your IT department prepared to handle any problems.
  • Ultimately, a health and wellness solution only works if your employees actually engage with it. Make sure that the program is promoted in a way that is attractive and interesting to employees. A wellness program that is fun and incentivised will also serve to entice more employees. Using tools that involve games, challenges, or team competitions are more likely to get employees involved and excited about the program.

  ROI Calculator

The main value of employee wellness software comes from a number of factors such as decreased health care costs, enhanced employee productivity, and increased ability to attract and retain top talent. Our spreadsheet will help guide you to a more concrete understanding of the financial gain from these factors so that you can build the business case to secure the budget you need for an employee health and wellness solution.

Pricing

With most employee wellness solutions, you pay a flat rate per employee per year for the basic features. Most programs will charge additional fees for biometric fees, rewards and incentives, and personalised health coaching. The best solution will be a program that is fully integrated with minimal add-on costs.

Key Features

Here are the features you can expect in an employee wellness solution like WellSteps:

  • Nutrition and Exercise Tracking: if you’re looking to see real change in the health of your employees, choosing a solution with health and nutrition tracking is a must.
  • Gamified Team and Personal Challenges: Gamification is a key feature of many successful wellness programs as it keeps users more engaged. Team challenges are also important as they encourage social support.
  • Personalised Goal Setting: Wellness solutions often offer personalized goal setting to help keep your employees on track towards achieving their specific health goals.
  • Rewards Tracking and Administration: An employee wellness solution should allow you to control the distribution of incentives so you can make sure that eligible employees are receiving the right rewards when they achieve certain milestones.
  • Educational Materials: Your employees can’t develop healthy habits if they don’t know how, so make sure your wellness solution includes educational materials about health and nutrition.
  • Integration with Wearable Devices: Your employees will be more likely to participate in your program if you make it convenient for them, so make sure your program integrates with popular wearable activity-tracking devices or be prepared to provide an activity tracker that does.
  • Program Participation and Activity Reporting: custom reports on employees’ participation in the program will give you a better sense of which aspects of the program your employees engage with and which aspects you may need to change or eliminate. Records of employee activity and participation will also help you better understand the ROI from your wellness program.
  • Health Risk Assessments and Biometric Screening: Providing health assessments and screenings helps alert your employees to any preventable health issues they may have.
Questions to Ask Vendors on Demos
  • Does the software report on how frequently employees interact with the platform, what reasons they interact with it, what they like/dislike about it?
  • How is impact measured/tracked?
  • Program Features?
  • Health assessments?
  • Educational content?
  • Personalized goals?
  • Coaching/recommendations?
  • Social network/support?
  • Analytics?
  • Incentives/rewards?
  • Mobile access
  • What is the im?plementation process?
  • What are the goals of the platform and do they align with your business goals (i.e. is the platform actually proven to reduce health care costs/increase engagement and retention?)
  • How are remote workers engaged?
What Type of Companies Need Employee Wellness Software and Why?

While wellness programs are more often found at larger companies, companies of all sizes and industries can benefit from a wellness solution. If any of the following characteristics apply to your company, then you should definitely be looking to implement a wellness program:

  • You’re struggling to recruit top talent: If you don’t currently have a wellness program, your business may be losing out on talented candidates. With 87% of employees considering health and wellness when choosing an employer, it’s evident that a strong wellness program can impact your ability to recruit.
  • Healthcare costs at your company are too high: Many businesses face high healthcare costs due to chronic disease among their employees, as chronic diseases tend to be the most costly. However, they are also the most preventable, so if you can get your employees to develop healthy habits through a wellness program, you can help reduce health care costs associated with chronic disease
  • You want to increase employee engagement and productivity: Healthier employees are more engaged in their work and take fewer sick days. If your business wants to create a more efficient workforce, then a wellness program is right for you.
  • Improving your company culture is important to you: If you want your company to be seen as a great place to work with a strong culture, you should definitely implement a wellness solution, as 77% of employees think a wellness program positively impacts culture.
Best Practices

Here are some best practices to follow in order to avoid the common obstacles that HR teams often struggle with when trying to start a wellness program:

  • Secure sufficient funding: You should know how much your program will cost, including expenses from incentives, health screenings, and health coaching, and be sure to secure the budget you need before rolling out the program.
  • Administer a baseline survey: Before you decide to implement a wellness program, you should survey your employees to get a better sense of their levels of physical activity, nutrition habits, health risks, and interest in participating in a wellness program.
  • Focus on developing healthy habits: Many wellness solutions fail when only focus on improving employee health in the short term. The best way to gain from your program is to help your employees form healthy habits that will last throughout their lives.
  • Collect data and evaluate outcomes: In order to understand if your program is actually worth what you’re paying, you need to collect data on your employees to see if the program is having an effect on their health company-wide.
  • Communicate: If your employees don’t know about the program, they won’t be able to participate. Use including email, posters, signs, and social channels and other media to communicate about your program early and often. Be transparent about any data you are collecting and any changes to the company that the program will cause to make your employees feel more comfortable with participating.
  • Ensure accessibility: You have a diverse corporate population so make sure your program caters to their diverse needs. Try to offer a variety of options that will reach all of your employees regardless of their abilities or schedules.
  • Create a wellness team: A successful implementation of your program will be much easier if you have a wellness team to take responsibility for all aspects of your program. You should pull from all levels and departments when creating this team to make sure all employees feel their voice is heard. Having one team to take charge will help you stay organized and help you make sure that all responsibilities do not fall on your HR team.
  • Involve senior leadership: When senior leaders of your company set an example by actively embracing a healthy lifestyle and sharing their own health journeys, employees will be more encouraged to participate in the program themselves. Having support from upper-management will also make it easier for you to secure the budget you need.
  • Don’t limit your program to physical health: While improving physical health is an important driver for lowering healthcare costs, you should also try to consider financial, emotional, and mental health. All kinds of health contribute to an employee’s ability to perform so it’s important to keep the focus of your program broad.

 WellSteps is mentioned as one of the 5 best Employee Wellness Software for June 2020 and the reason for that is because WellSteps ticks all the boxes required to be a proven corporate wellness solution. WellSteps is award-winning wellness platform and the only wellness vendor with proven scientific evidence that its programs work and it encourage employees to develop and maintain healthy habits while also creating a culture of employee health and well-being.

Contact us for a free no obligation demo of the WellSteps platform and  discover for yourself why it was voted the best Corporate Wellness Software in June 2020.

No Cost Ways To Treat Depression Yourself

depression

Although therapy and anti-depressant medication are the most effective treatments for depression, home treatment is also important. There are many things you can do to help yourself during a depressive episode and to prevent future episodes. Remember there are not always therapists to help you in your area.

  • Make sure to get up out of bed and dress everyday– even if you are not doing anything. It may sound simple but it is at least a step in the right direction, as staying in bed all day will make you feel even worse.
  • Get adequate sleep. If you have problems sleeping:
    • Go to bed at the same time every night and, more importantly, get up at the same time every morning.
    • Keep your bedroom dark and free of noise
    • Don’t exercise after 5:00 pm.
    • Avoid caffeinated beverages after 5:00 pm (e.g. coffee, coke, redbull, etc.)
    • Avoid the use of nonprescription sleeping pills or alcohol, because they can make your sleep restless and may interact with your depression medications
  • Try to establish a routine that is easy to follow and not stressful. This will keep you engaged with reality, help you to cope and get through the days.
  • Make sure you eat a balanced diet. If you lack an appetite, eat small snacks rather than large meals.
  •  Avoid drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs or medications that have not been prescribed to you. They may interfere with your medications or make your depression worse.
  • Try to do the things you remember enjoying before the onset of your depression. Reading, listening to music, sewing, woodwork, painting, watching TV.
  • Even if you don’t feel motivated, try to participate in religious, social or other activities.
  • Get regular exercise, even walking around the block…
  • Keep a journal and write your feelings down. This is cathartic and will help put things into perspective.
  • Let your family and friends help you.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences, avoid negativity.
  • Try to share your feelings with someone. It is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself and take on a reasonable amount of responsibility even around the home like cooking or shopping, or ironing. .
  • Break large tasks into small ones and set priorities. Do what you can when you are able.Postpone major life decisions such as changing jobs, moving or getting married or divorced when you are depressed.

Read as much as you can about your illness, so you are fully aware of it, which can help you not let it take control of your life.  

  • Be patient and kind to yourself. Remember that depression is not your fault and is not something you can overcome with willpower alone. Treatment is necessary for depression, just like for any other illness.
  • Try to maintain a positive attitude – remember that feeling better takes time, and your mood will improve little by little. Try and focus on the positive aspects in your life and do not dwell on the negative aspects. If you are always thinking about the negative aspects in your life it will make you more depressed.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and don’t necessarily live for the moment, think of the future and of things you would like to accomplish- Tomorrow, “today” will be gone forever.
  • Always keep yourself occupied so as not to allow yourself to think about negative and upsetting things. Remove yourself from places and people that don’t bring out the best in you or make you feel good.
  • Start or join a support group and talk to people who have overcome depression to find out what they did to beat it. If there is no group in your area speak to your doctor, or friends about the two of you starting a group in your area, with help from SADAG.
  • Do volunteer work. Help others, go to an old age home, a hospital, a church, a school and see what help they need even if it is just once or twice a week. Remember you are an important part of your community.

Source: SADEG

Mental Health Study in South African Workplace

Mental Health Study in South African Workplace

Depression Impairs Employees’ Intellectual Functioning

Classified as a mood disorder, people mostly associate depression with sadness, loss of pleasure in daily activities, social isolation and feelings of worthlessness. Yet, aside from affecting how a person feels and behaves, depression also influences thinking.

South African research involving over 1 000 employed/previously employed workers or managers in the country now proves depression is not just a bad mood. Although respondents showed a poor awareness of cognitive symptoms, 74% of them reported experiencing one or more of the following the last time they were depressed: trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, indecisiveness. According to nearly half of the participants with depression, the cognitive symptom that most affected their ability to perform work tasks as they normally would was difficulty concentrating.

COMMON COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

  • Poor concentration
  • Easily distracted
  • Poor memory/forgetfulness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Slower thinking speed
  • Problem solving difficulties
  • Struggling to find the right words to express your thoughts
  • Negative or distorted thinking patterns

 

Depression affects cognitive functioning such as decision making, concentration, memory and problem solving abilities. Depression negatively impacts productivity. If an employee has depression but is at work, they are 5 times less productive than an employee who was absent due to depression,” says Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologist, Dr Frans Korb.

Less than 20% of the employees taking part in the 2014 study associated forgetfulness and indecisiveness with depression, in contrast to sadness/low mood, which the majority identified as a symptom of depression. When it comes to recognising depression in the workplace, it seems SA workers would mostly look for withdrawal from colleagues, crying and extended sick leave as signs of its presence.

Despite rarely being a topic of discussion, the cognitive symptoms of depression tend to be quite debilitating and can affect all domains of a person’s life.

Diagnosed with depression, “Greg” had this to say about his experience: “Trying to handle all my work responsibilities is very challenging for me, and it takes me a lot longer to get things done. It’s like you can’t see the small steps, and you don’t have the energy to take big steps, so you feel stuck… trapped. At the end of the day, very little gets done. This kind of thinking makes it difficult to do any normal daily tasks, not just those related to work.”

Employees who experienced cognitive symptoms rated their work performance with depression as worse off than those with depression who did not experience cognitive symptoms. This suggests that people who find their thinking more affected by the condition feel more incompetent at work than those who struggle more with a low mood or feelings of helplessness. Workers with cognitive symptoms were also more likely to have taken time off for their depression.
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These findings highlight the issues of absenteeism in the workplace while ill, as well as continuing to work whilst ill, which then impacts severely on productivity.

During their last depressive episode, SA employees took an average of 18 days off work due to the condition. However, the recent study also showed that only half of those diagnosed with depression have taken time off work because of it. What could this say about the level of performance achieved by the other half who continued working, especially when considering the commonly experienced cognitive symptoms of poor concentration, forgetfulness and indecisiveness?

Operations Director of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Cassey Chambers, says: “This is one of the reasons why it’s vital to examine how depression is managed in the workplace and what procedures are in place to ensure that affected employees are encouraged to and supported in seeking treatment.

With the help of Lundbeck SA, SADAG conducted the new research to gain a better understanding of how many South Africans making up the country’s workforce experience depression, how much awareness exists in the working world about the condition, and how the illness is managed in the workplace.

FIVE WAYS COMPANIES CAN HELP

  1. Educate employees on depression and especially how cognitive symptoms can affect work performance.
  2. Raise awareness of any existing employee assistance programmes and emphasise that they can help with mental health problems, like depression, too.
  3. Promote a culture of acceptance around depression and other psychiatric disorders – they are no different to diabetes or asthma.
  4. If an employee shares their struggle with depression, refer them to a mental healthcare professional and reassure them the illness can be treated.
  5. Explore creative ways to support an employee’s recovery, like flexible/adjusted working hours or working from home for a while.

Source: SADAG 2015

 

 

9 Reasons School Wellness Programs are a Smart Wellness Strategy

9 Reasons School Wellness Programs are a Smart Wellness Strategy

Here’s a quick peek at the 9 reasons why school wellness programs are a smart wellness strategy

  1. Absenteeism Costs Schools More Than It Costs Other Worksites
  2. Schools Need to Watch Their Finances More Closely Than Other Worksites
  3. School Employees Are Like Family
  4. Schools Have Great Fitness and Healthy Eating Facilities
  5. Schools Do Great Wellness Training and Communication
  6. School-based Wellness Programs Have Great Leadership
  7. Wellness Takes on a Life of Its Own in Schools
  8. School Wellness Starts With Employees But Grows to Include Students and Communities
  9. Published Research Proves That School Wellness Programs Can Work

There are 3.7 million people who work in schools. Schools are the single largest employer in the United States. Even the federal government only has 2.7 million employed individuals. In many ways schools are just like any other workplace; they need access to wellness programs for many of the same reasons.

But schools, including universities, have some very special challenges and advantages that make them ideal locations to offer school wellness programs. Just like any other worksite, schools need help controlling employee health care costs and keeping employees healthy.

School employees represent an extremely diverse workforce with both ethnic and geographic diversity. You can find educators and school staff in every corner and county of the United States. Some school districts are relatively small with fewer than 50 employees while others can have tens of thousands of employees and serve over 1 million students. New York City has a school district with over 1 million students.

School employees require medical care just like any other employees and schools have to control healthcare costs. For the most part, school employees use about the same amount of healthcare as other employees. School employees also have average health risks. In the chart below we can see that the prevalence of obesity among those who work in the education system is about average.

Fortunately, those who work in education have much lower obesity prevalence than public administrators or even healthcare workers.

Individuals who work in schools have average health risks and healthcare costs – this fact alone is an excellent reason to offer school wellness programs. But there are even better reasons why schools are some of the best places to offer employee and staff wellness programs.

Based on the published scientific research and over three decades of workplace wellness experience, I have compiled a list of reasons why school wellness programs are a very smart business strategy.

9 Reasons School Wellness Programs are a Smart School Strategy

  1. Absenteeism Costs Schools More Than It Costs Other Worksites

Surveys show that one in four teachers misses 10 or more school days per year. Schools have some of the highest rates of absenteeism of any workplace. Absenteeism is a direct cost to every employer.

Absenteeism is a more important problem in schools because when an employee is absent, a replacement or substitute has to be hired in their stead. Someone has to drive the buses and someone has to teach the classes.

Unlike other worksites when an employee is absent either the workload gets shared by the remaining employees or the work goes undone. But, not so in schools. Schools have to pay both the salary of the absent employee and the salary of the substitute or replacement.

The cost of having an absent employee in schools is often double the cost of absenteeism experienced in other worksites. This problem with absenteeism represents an excellent reason to have a school wellness program.

Recent surveys show the various reasons why employees are absent from work. As you can see in the graph below personal illness is the biggest single cause of employees missing work. This is followed by family needs, personal needs, entitlement mentality, and stress, in that order.

When you look at all of these reasons for absenteeism ask yourself which ones could be directly impacted by a wellness program? Personal illness can be caused by diseases or conditions that are 100% preventable with a healthy lifestyle. The same is true for the diseases and conditions of family members. Wellness programs can also reduce stress and wellness programs can greatly improve employee morale.

If you have employees who really like their work and who feel valued as a contributing employee, they will be less likely to be absent. On the flipside, employees who don’t like their work or their boss will find a reason to be absent from work. A good school wellness program can greatly reduce the entitlement mentality and thus reduce the prevalence of absenteeism.

Employee wellness for school employees has the ability to improve employee health and this can have an impact on whether or not individuals are absent from work.

  1. Schools Need to Watch Their Finances More Closely Than Other Worksites

Most schools are just like other municipalities in that all of their operating money comes from taxes. Only about 10% of schools are private, and even some of those schools are funded with public tax dollars. All public schools are revenue consuming not revenue generating.

They fill a special role in society and provide vital services. Unlike other worksites, they are not in the business of making money, they are in the business of educating and expanding minds. Because schools rely entirely on public funding they do not take financial risks.

Most schools are very conservative with their accounting and budgeting processes. Unlike worksites, schools don’t heavily invest in untested or high risk projects. Unlike worksites, schools rarely face bankruptcy

Funding for schools is hard to come by. Typically the public must vote to issue school bonds or they depend upon state legislatures for continued funding. Because schools rely so heavily upon public funding they are very careful with the funds they do receive.

Careful accounting and budgeting are needed to make sure there are no disruptions in service and that they complete their mission of educating people. Schools are particularly interested in getting a positive ROI on their wellness investment.  This also encourages them to only look at wellness vendors that offer a performance guarantee.

This is another reason why wellness programs in schools have such an advantage. Good school-based wellness programs can have a direct impact on employee related expenses such as lower rates of absenteeism, improved employee health and productivity, and lower medical costs.

  1. School Employees Are Like Family

Even though a school district might have tens of thousands of employees, all school employees work at smaller, more manageable local schools and offices. In reality working for a school is very much like working for a small business. All of the employees know each other.

Wellness programs in small businesses have an advantage. They have greater participation and program engagement than larger companies.

Because schools are very much like small businesses, they are ideal locations for wellness programs. There is, however, a small disadvantage that is often seen in school-based wellness programs. Most schools and universities have two categories of employees faculty: professional employees and staff members. Participation in wellness programs varies between these two groups.

Typically staff is more likely to participate in a wellness program than faculty. Staff are more likely to engage in all of the programs and include their spouses or significant others.

Faculty and staff wellness programs work well because most of the employees work together on a daily basis. They are like family.

  1. Schools Have Great Fitness and Healthy Eating Facilities

Traditional well-being programs are designed to help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviours. If done correctly, school wellness programs can prevent chronic diseases. To do this school employees need regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and tobacco avoidance. These three healthy behaviours should be the core of most wellness programs.

Between 70 and 90% of all strokes, heart attacks, cancers, and type II diabetes are directly related to what we eat, whether or not we exercise, and whether or not we use tobacco. (see below)

It just so happens that schools already have access to a variety of facilities and tools needed to maintain a habit of regular physical activity and good nutrition. Every high school and junior high and many elementary schools have fitness facilities, gymnasiums, sport courts, outdoor and indoor tracks, exercise equipment, and weight training equipment. Even though these are used mostly by students, in most communities these facilities are also made available to school employees and sometimes the public.

Unlike most worksites, schools have ready-made fitness assets that can be used for employee wellness challenges, yoga classes, morning exercise classes, and holiday weight loss challenges.

Schools also have access to cafeterias and healthy options vending machines. Granted, it takes some work to get food services to prepare healthy meals, but in most cases it can be done. School employees often eat food from their schools.

Once the food service people are on board with your wellness program they will begin to offer many more healthy options. School wellness programs are outstanding places to create and support a health promoting environment.

If you work at a school that has a school employee wellness program, there should be lots of opportunities for physical activity and a healthy diet.

  1. Schools Do Great Wellness Training and Communication

Schools are run by professional educators. These are people who make a living teaching concepts, ideas, and life skills. Students aren’t the only ones receiving an education at schools.

School well-being programs are really nothing more than educational programs geared towards health. An effective school wellness program can make wellness training and healthy living and integrated part of all the other communications that they do.

Schools with effective wellness programs almost always offer wellness related training as part of their mandatory school meetings. I have personally taken part in many mandatory school district trainings where the focus of the meeting was wellness.

This does take a commitment from district leadership, but if they’re serious about helping employees improve health and lowering employee related healthcare costs these meetings are scheduled.

Some schools will have a dedicated section of the district newsletter or online communications that focuses on current wellness topics and challenges. These are also great ways to communicate team-based competitions between different schools.

  1. School-based Wellness Programs Have Great Leadership

School wellness programs for staff and faculty are successful when support for the program starts at the superintendent’s office. Every worksite has HR professionals, benefits committees, and its ministers.

But schools have even more support for wellness. Schools have physical education teachers, nutrition experts, nurses, health educators, and food service experts.

Today’s physical activity instructors are not just throwing out playground balls, they are receiving outstanding training on how to have a healthy lifestyle. Universities and colleges that train PE teachers have modified their curriculum to include wellness and lifestyle management.

They realise that physical education in schools is most effective when students form lifelong habits of fitness. The same physical education instructors should be part of every wellness committee and should be identified as school wellness champions.

When combined with the nutrition teachers, health teachers, and nurses, schools have a very strong wellness support staff.

These individuals should be part of a schools wellness committee. They have great ideas and experience on how to make a wellness program fun and effective. In short, schools have the leadership and content expertise they need to create and administer great school wellness programs.

  1. Wellness Takes on a Life of Its Own in Schools

After a few months of participating in a school well-being program, school employees often start many of their own wellness activities. An effective school wellness program can create a sense of camaraderie between employees.

When combined with access to school fitness facilities and kitchens it’s almost natural for school wellness programs to start to see spontaneous wellness activities popping up at schools throughout the district.

Employees will participate in the wellness campaigns and challenges but will often want to do more. School employees have been known to organize healthy potluck lunches, before work and have to work exercise classes or walking clubs.

Some schools have special fitness classes like zumba or yoga specifically for other employees. In the summer months when school is out employees will often create hiking clubs. Obviously any employees at any worksite can put together their own health and fitness activities.

What makes schools so special is the access to fitness and nutrition facilities, close-knit working groups that are almost like family, and access to faculty and staff who are experts at exercise, fitness, unhealthy eating.

  1. School Wellness Starts With Employees But Grows to Include Students and Communities

Once school employees begin to participate in school wellness programs, they start to desire to share their good health transformations with others, especially students and their communities. Students see school employees participating in wellness and start asking questions.

Teachers start to include more of the healthy living and healthy lifestyles information in their classes. Some schools have even started student-based wellness programs to complement the school wellness program that is offered to employees.

Instead of just including employees, individuals start to include others. Some schools support and promote local fun runs or races. These are shared with not just school employees but also students and members of the community. Some schools have started school-based farmers markets.

What starts as an effort within the school district to improve employee health and reduce healthcare costs transforms into a community effort to help both students and their families live healthier lives.

  1. Published Research Proves That School Wellness Programs Can Work

Researchers have published a serious of research articles showing the impact of a school wellness program. There is more research published on the school wellness program at Boise school district than perhaps any other wellness program in existence.  When done right, these programs can improve health behaviours, reduce elevated health risks, dramatically control healthcare costs, and improve productivity.

After 12 and 24 months, dramatic improvements were seen in those employees who had previously reported low levels of baseline exercise, fruit and vegetable consumption, days of restful sleep, and high levels of tobacco and alcohol use.

In 2016 a school wellness program was awarded the C Everett Koop award as America’s most effective wellness program through WellSteps. Article by Dr. Steven Aldana, CEO of WellSteps.

Contact Us to help you implement a workable wellness solution for your School or University!

Ready to Implement or Facelift Your Existing Wellness Program?

Ready to Implement or Facelift Your Existing Wellness Program?
If your company is considering implementing a wellness program—or your current program could use a “facelift,” flexibility is key to implementing and maintaining a successful wellness program.

Elements of a Successful Wellness Program

A successful wellness program is defined and measured by each organisation’s unique needs and employee population. It begins with understanding the demographic makeup, baseline health status, and overall health and wellness education of your employees. When creating wellness programs for your employees, it’s crucial to understand their living condition, access to care, income level, etc. Understanding your employee population is the first step to creating a successful, targeted program.

The Value of “Total Wellness”

When building a wellness program, there are a number of activities that can be embedded in the program including:

  • Physical fitness activities.
  • Weight-loss competitions.
  • Tobacco-cessation programs.
  • Health screenings.
  • On-site health fairs, and more.

While a focus on fitness and nutrition are vital to improving employees’ health from an individual and overall population standpoint, we’ve seen our clients begin to shift their focus to providing resources and programs that support total wellness—body, mind, and spirit.

The Importance of Education and Proactive Communication

For many organizations, two important aspects of a successful wellness program are education and communication. Being involved in the implementation of wellness programs for many businesses, I have learned that addressing social determinants of health is important for improving health and reducing health disparities. Studies propose that the main drivers behind poor health behaviors—smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise—are social and economic factors. Both can significantly shape an individuals’ health behaviors. The best way to change this is through education.

In my experience of partnering with many different organizations, sometimes employees simply don’t realize that they have access to resources to help them better manage their health and reduce chronic illnesses through their healthcare plan. By reaching out to those individuals and providing individualized resources to address their specific needs, we’re able to see stellar results.

According to a study conducted by UCLA, there’s “a clear link between improvement in physical health and improvements in mental health, quality of life, stress, and energy.” Giving employees access to resources that help them focus on reducing stress, anxiety, and depression can positively impact their overall health and productivity in the workplace.

A great way to support mental wellness in your workforce is to leverage technology. Virtual counsellors, employee assistance programs, apps that offer yoga and meditation sessions, and even sending positive and motivational messages to employees via email or push notifications are great ways to leverage technology to support total wellness.

Flexibility is key

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we all have to be flexible—both in our personal lives and in business. When shelter-at-home orders began, there were many organisations that had to quickly pivot from a largely on-premise workforce to one that was remote. We had to quickly adapt to conducting business virtually, and for many organizations, this included finding ways to virtually educate and motivate employees to make healthy choices.

In order to develop and maintain a wellness program that can stand the test of time, it’s important to build in flexibility so you can meet the needs of your entire workforce—if it is remote, dispersed nationally, or if it is demographically diverse.

When it comes to creating or sustaining successful wellness programs, it’s all about doing what is right for the employer and their employees. Working with your clients to build robust, customised wellness plans that help them not only cut down on health care costs, but also help their employees lead happier, healthier, and more productive lives is a huge source of pride for our team. By taking the steps to educate employees and provide them with resources that demonstrate how small changes can make a big impact, we’ve seen sweeping changes to overall employee population health.

Implementing and maintaining a successful wellness program can be a daunting task, and many business owners simply don’t have the time or resources to develop the right program and make it successful.

If you want to launch a wellness program or evaluate your existing one, Sanga Wellesss can help.

Click here to request a consultation and experience how a customised wellness program can positively impact your workforce for years to come.