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From Nap Rooms to Performance Reviews: How Companies Can Boost Health and Wellness

By Natasha Pentin 16 April, 2021

Stress Awareness Day

Did you know stressed is desserts spelled backwards? No wonder we always revert to the candy and chocolate when times get tough. 

Modern self-care really does come in many forms. In the workplace, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach either – some companies encourage meditation or physical fitness, whereas Steve Jobs used to soak his feet in the company toilets to relieve stress. 

Whatever the initiative, when studies estimate that stress costs US businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, you can see why many companies are waking up to the importance of employee health and wellbeing. Wellness gradually became a large part of corporate workspaces from 2013, when Google appointed its head of mindfulness training, Chade-Meg Tan. COVID-19 further sent shockwaves through the wellness landscape, with working-from-home and social distancing measures impairing employee mental health. 

In light of the above, and as we celebrate Stress Awareness Day, let’s explore which companies are managing stress-related issues efficiently and how other companies can follow suit.

Stressed Out!

Every April, since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has taken place to increase public awareness about the causes and cures for the modern stress epidemic. It’s one of the great public health challenges of our time, contributing to rising rates of anxiety and depression.

Employee wellbeing refers to the impact someone’s job has on their overall health and happiness. But two in five workers experience poor mental health due to work-related issues and the lingering uncertainty of job security. 

In the UK, stress is one of the top causes of long-term absence in workplaces. The impact of stress has a direct effect on businesses’ morale and motivation. In turn, this leads to high staff turnover, the need for more frequent recruitment processes and more expenses spent on training.

Companies Getting Workplace Wellbeing Right 

There are many health and wellness tech startups innovating the next generation of healthcare solutions like fitness trackers and health monitors. 

BioBeats, for example, aspire to put employee health at the forefront of employer’s minds. The co-founder experienced a heart attack triggered by extreme stress and, coming from an AI background, began to build algorithms that could have predicted and prevented that event. 

BioBeats track biometric and psychometric data to give users a personalized wellbeing score. Alongside insights into their activity levels, mood, heart rate, and sleep patterns, users are provided with resources and personalized coaching programs to improve mental wellbeing. BioBeats have already worked with the likes of JP Morgan and KPMG. 

So, what have other companies done to tackle the stress epidemic? 

Asana has got employee wellbeing down to a T with dedicated “nap rooms”, daily yoga programs and free gym memberships for all employees. Its wavelength blog is packed full of ideas for those budding corporate wellness programs. 

Accenture offers health assessments, subsidized gym memberships, counseling, and health coaches. Likewise, Netflix’s unlimited vacation policy and Expedia’s employee travel allowance, between £6,000 and £10,000, both guarantee a healthy work-life balance and encourage employees to spend time on themselves and with family. It’s not surprising that staff retention is high. 

In 2017, American multinational hospitality company Hilton set up a wellbeing initiative, “[email protected]”. In partnership with Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global startup, which also delivers corporate wellness training, Huffington’s self-guided e-learning course aims to make team members feel more focused and optimistic, and grow and flourish in body, mind and spirit. 

And what’s more, the employees who have worked at Hilton for over five years are entitled to a month-long sabbatical. This gives them the chance to undertake philanthropic work, volunteer or explore new interests. In 2019, Hilton was ranked the world’s most hospitable company recognized for outstanding workplace culture

Before rolling out a wellness strategy, companies need to consider the culture of their organization and deploy programs tailored to their workforce.

How Else Can Companies Boost Motivation and Morale? 

The previously mentioned initiatives and corporate wellness plans may seem out of reach if you have a lower budget… but here are some changes you could start making tomorrow:

  • Talk about stress and its effects openly. Offering employees a place to share coping mechanisms facilitates an environment where those who are stressed and anxious are treated with compassion and empathy.
  • Introduce regular performance reviews. Unless employees receive feedback, they can worry about their job performance even when they are doing well. Feedback sessions between an employee and manager for 15 minutes daily can undo a week of stress and worry. This is even more important with remote work. Letting employees set their own improvement goals can consolidate relationships and increase job satisfaction. 
  • Encourage regular communication. Communication regularly via email, calls and chat channels builds trust among colleagues and leadership teams. Whatever the form of communication, messages should aim to be simple, clear and relevant to avoid misunderstandings. Asking employees to prepare suggestions to share at team meetings boosts motivation and performance. 
  • Offer chances for progression and to be rewarded. Having an organized system for recognition and advancement means employees can visualize a future with the company. At Publicize, every week, four team members receive a shout out if they have excelled in fulfilling a particular value. Recognition can be as simple as that.
  • Provide complete training. On-going training meetings are a must to share expertise between colleagues and focus on areas where the whole team needs guidance. When team members are fully informed, less stress pursues. 
  • Support mini-breaks and physical activity. Throughout the day, employees should be given the time to recharge, leave their desks, have a coffee break, meditate for ten minutes, or have a walk. And all levels of seniority should be visibly seen following suit to set a precedent. 

Final Thought

As Pandora Sykes stated in her book How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?,  the real need for wellness comes from “suffering from…a nervous exhaustion caused by the stress of modern, urban life”. 

No company can completely eliminate stress but, for companies to stay relevant, leaders need to design a flexible ecosystem of offerings designed to meet individual team member needs; whether this means a weekly walking club, flexible work environments, development opportunities, interactive team meetings, or robust wellness programs.

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