Creating a Culture of Wellness

Human resources goes through great lengths to ensure they’re selecting the right benefits provider that will offer the greatest options for employees. Although this has been a common benefit to ensure positive employee health and resources if/when needed, HR is also realizing that healthcare benefits aren’t the only option to help improve employee wellness. Employee wellness is vital, not just for the employee but also for the well-being of an organization.

When the economy struggled, many employees lost their jobs and benefits. Workers who were able to keep their job may have absorbed other job functions to keep the business afloat, creating stress due to the need to produce the amount of 2+ people. With recent increases in healthcare benefit premiums, employers may have had to cut back on benefit offerings (such as using a lower quality provider or cutting dependents) or stopped offering it altogether. In more positive situations, employers who are growing have been able to not only offer fantastic benefits but also have incorporated additional wellness programs through their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which provide additional support and resources for employees.

In my experience, I’ve seen HR actively keep employees informed. Sometimes benefits can be a bit too overwhelming to understand and other times, employees aren’t always aware of what they can use through EAPs. Aside from regular meetings, newsletters and so on, some companies’ HR departments have also incorporated initiatives to improve employee wellness. Some such things include weekly emails with tips on diet and exercise, on-site events for nutrition and fitness classes, and some companies also require employees to take a specific number of stretch breaks throughout the day. Lucrative companies have even splurged on cafeterias with healthy options (sometimes at no cost to employees), on-site fitness centers and unlimited PTO/vacation days.

Wellness programs are a good way to improve employee morale and lower stress levels, and is something more companies should consider. Although healthcare benefits are perfect for medical needs, wellness does not stop short of this and some wellness issues might not require a visit to the doctor. Additionally, some employees might not even be aware of situations impacting their wellness until it creeps up on them. This can include workplace stress, anxiety, sore muscles from sitting long hours or performing strenuous labor, eye strain from a computer, poor diet and so on. Over time, these things can add up and negatively affect the employee and organization. This can consist of unexpected absences and a general rise in absenteeism, reduction in performance and quality, turnover, low morale or even more long-term absences like LOA and FMLA. Although many HR departments are making an effort to boost wellness, it can’t only be up to them to be proactive about this. After all, they can’t be everywhere and they can’t keep a constant eye on every employee (despite what some might believe).

As part of a proactive wellness initiative, HR needs to get management involved to support the ongoing programs established. HR should train management regularly to be able to do the following:

  • Take stock of your employees: On many occasions, managers focus on the work that employees produce but may forget to pay attention to the employees as individuals. It’s important for managers to be aware of their employees, such as if they seem to be struggling, overwhelmed, distant/withdrawn or lack passion. These signs could be a tip of the iceberg that an employee is quietly dealing with. If you notice these things, be sure to reach out and see if there’s something you can do to mediate the situation.
  • Regularly check in: Along the lines of taking stock of your employees, it’s important to regularly check in with them even if you don’t notice any signs of struggle/lack of wellness. Checking in can be a practical approach to ensuring employees are prioritizing workloads correctly and managing their stress. Very similar to regular feedback sessions, this can be incorporated frequently and in a casual environment.
  • Create a culture of wellness and health: Time is money and some employees might work themselves into the ground to ensure job security or to help towards career progression. In other situations (and ones I’ve personally seen in the past), an office culture might be aggressive in the sense that employees seem to work an average of 10+ hours a day and respond to emails at all hours… and if you weren’t one of those employees, you may be shunned as the office slacker. Although businesses thrive on productive employees, there comes a point where working your employees too hard becomes counterproductive. Management should create a culture that offsets some of the pressures of rapid work demands, whether that means giving your employees breaks such as a longer lunch or an early dismissal, or just taking time to lighten up the atmosphere around the office.
  • Support employees who need it: As proactive as HR and management try to be to help wellness, sometimes it may not help an employee or maybe it’s too far past that point for them. An employee may not have spoken up sooner or asked for a mental break day because of guilt or the feeling of pressure from an overwhelming workload. Maybe some might feel like they don’t deserve a break because everyone works just as hard, so why are they the weak one? Whatever the reasons may be, if an employee finally reaches the point where they show signs or outright say they are having issues, management should take the stress of asking for help away. Being supportive, getting them in touch with HR about benefits, or encouraging them to take a day or two off to take care of things can help relieve any stress, guilt or anxiety they may have felt when asking for help.

Workplace wellness is more than just finding the right benefits provider; it’s about paying attention to the day-to-day of your employees. Underlying issues such as poor habits or workplace stress can be the cause of many issues and affect the health of an organization. Being proactive and finding ways to be supportive of your employees is essential to help promote a culture of wellness.

Photo Source

Credit Where Credit is Due: Employee Recognition

Once again, #Tchat blew my mind last Wednesday as we discussed employee recognition.  Were managers giving too little recognition or ignoring employees? Were they giving too much that it seemed insincere? Did the recognition tap into what employees wanted and needed or did it make no difference in their engagement? There were so many questions surrounding this topic and all of the contributors provided some great input, advice, and examples.

Here are some little take-aways:

  • First off, know your employees: recognition is a great thing but it’s even greater when you know your employees will respond in the way you were intending. Each employee is different and, therefore, their needs are different. Make sure your recognition would be appreciated by them. (i.e. if someone is an introvert, don’t put them on the spot in large crowds).
  • Don’t get too crazy: we all love to be recognized for our hard work, but don’t go overboard. If you say thank you or get excited about EVERYTHING that EVERYONE does, it will start to lose its meaning. Make sure you keep it meaningful.
  • Show a little faith: sometimes companies don’t have the financial means to provide a compensation reward, and that’s perfectly fine. But there’s other ways you can reward your employees. For example, allow them to take on another project to build skills and learn. Show them you believe in their abilities to do well and have faith in them. This can go a long way.
  • Don’t shut out bad behavior: recognition doesn’t just mean positive praise. Sometimes you also need to recognize an employee for the bad, too. Don’t ignore them- help them! Ignoring these situations is just doing a disservice to them and your company. I’m sure they’d benefit from your recognition and help.
  • Keep it unique: make an effort to go beyond a generic recognition statement. Take notice of what your employees individually do for your company and show your appreciation for their unique efforts.

These little tips were just a few of the many great take-aways I gathered from the chat. You can find links below to the recap and full chat for more insight. In conclusion, remember that recognition can be a simple thing to increase morale, engagement, and efficiency. Sometimes, these things can be achieved with a simple “Thank you.”

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter, Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

Employee Recognition Social Platform (and Photo Source): Work Simple – Contact Jocelyn Aucoin @JocelynAucoin for more details

#TChat Recap by Megan Burkett @MegBurkett

Storify of the Chat

Benefits of Business Travel

Travel can seem like an inconvenient task for some people. Other people consider travel as a welcome break in their mundane work week. Regardless of someone’s view on travel, it can be extremely beneficial for both your personal and professional life. The important thing is to make sure you utilize your time there in a way that can benefit you down the long run. You could be surprised by how the little things you do while traveling could end up being useful down the line.

Whether you’re an early careerist or someone who has been in the workforce for years, the world is full of opportunities and possibilities. To make the most of your experiences, be sure to absorb and learn as much as you possibly can. With that being said, I am happy to share tips on how to best utilize your business travel:

  • Network with new contacts. Business travel allows you to connect with some remarkable people throughout the business-spectrum. This is a great time to get to know people that can help you down the line, whether it is for a particular task or just for mentoring. Building these relationships now will make it easier down the line when you’re ready to move up or laterally. These contacts can teach you, provide insight, or get you connected to the right people. Talk to the most people you can because you never know how they’ll be useful to you in the future and vice-versa.
  • Explore new areas. Business travel doesn’t always have to be all work and no play. Take advantage of the time you have there, even if you only have a few hours to spare. Regardless if you’re in a thriving city or a quiet town in the middle of nowhere, this is a chance for you to learn about different lifestyles elsewhere. This knowledge can open your mind and help you be more understanding to people who are different than you.
  • Use it as a chance to research. In your career, you may find yourself in situations where you will be transferred. Additionally, you may be given better opportunities elsewhere. Many people turn down opportunity because they aren’t sure if they’d be happy somewhere new, especially someplace they’ve never been. If this situation occurs in your life, you will be able to confidently pursue the chance because you’ve taken the time to learn about the area. Don’t miss out on professional growth because of uncertainty.
  • Reap in the benefits. If you stay with a hotel chain enough or use a certain airline, sometimes these companies will give you perks for your patronage.  Some of these perks can range in discounted spa treatments, free tickets to shows, a free night’s stay, half price plane tickets, or a great deal at a local restaurant. These perks could be great to use either on your next business trip or even for a personal trip.

There are plenty of other great ways to utilize your business trips besides the ones mentioned above. I hope that you find these tips useful and work them in your favor on your next trip. There is so much you can learn about business and even yourself, so please make it a point to maximize every moment you get in a beneficial way.

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Photo Source.

Will Results Only Work Environment Work for You?

Earlier this week, I was talking to WilsonHCG about their virtual positions for recruiters and sourcers. I was very interested in hearing how they made these types of positions work for them because I have never worked “virtually” before but I was always curious about it. They seemed to have these roles down pat, from the technology they use all the way to the performance tracking tools they have in place to keep everyone on track. Many people and companies have debated that these types of employees would never be as efficient as those who come into the office. However, this company and many others have progressively proved that statement wrong.

With the thoughts of virtual positions floating around in my head, I began to let my mind wander to other alternative workplace environments that I’ve learned of. I recalled learning about results only work environment (a.k.a. ROWE) a few months back and decided to look further into this workplace option. After taking some time to research it, I decided that I really enjoyed the concept and wondered if this option could work for certain companies and/or employees if they gave it a shot.

ROWE was created by Best Buy’s former HR managers, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson (now of CultureRx). The idea of this concept was to allow managers to focus more on results rather than the hours the employees are checking in. After all, the company’s success is dependent on the results. After tweaking it a few times, these HR managers found that productivity levels had risen. The freedom that this provided seemed to tap into employees’ natural intrinsic quality which empowered them to be more accountable and productive.

Here are some reasons why employees love ROWE:

  • Freedom to work when and where they want.
  • They spend less time unnecessarily sitting at an office to meet the required 40 hours.
  • They can work at a faster pace.
  • They have unlimited vacation and PTO.
  • They can make themselves available to participate in hobbies and events that take place during typical business hours.
  • They can spend more time with friends, family, and children.
  • They have more flexible time to go to doctors’ appointments and so on.
  • They can work during hours that they’re feeling productive rather than forcing themselves to have motivation during hours they aren’t.
  • A bad night of sleep doesn’t need to affect the quality of their work- they can work later in the day after they’re feeling rested.
  • It gives work meaning because the time they spend is specifically to get tasks done and achieve results.
  • Better work-life balance.
  • Decreased expenses: no need for gas to get to work or to pay for daycare or babysitters.

It seems like the list is endless, but those are just to name a few. Even though I’ve never dealt with this kind of work environment, I do believe in its benefits because I chose this option for school. During the course of obtaining my BSBA, I decided to choose the online and/or alternative classes that my school had to offer. It made more sense to me because sitting in classes after sitting at work all day didn’t seem appealing. Additionally, I was planning on moving out of NJ so I did not want to potentially lose credits and time by transferring schools. After completing my first “alternative” class, I realized that I loved it and couldn’t fathom going back to traditional classes again.

Alternative classes allowed me to have the flexibility to be more productive with my school work. Instead of wasting time and holding me back to a specific scheduled class, I was able to move at my own pace. At the start of each semester, I was able to see what the modules were, what the assignments were, and when they were due. This allowed me to schedule my life better and took away some of the stress I had when working full-time and going to school. I could work school around my life, as long as I got the assignments in on time.

Perhaps it’s because I have a type A personality, but this option worked well for me. I learned to do my assignments at least a week in advance to take off some of the pressure I used to feel when I was given assignments at the last minute. There was even one semester where I finished all my assignments within the first couple weeks just so I could give myself a mental break. Life tends to throw curve balls at you and things can unexpectedly come up, therefore, it was nice to at least have some control over this major responsibility. I loved the benefits and freedom that came with this option and felt that I was more productive and happier. I’m sure these feelings are similar to what the ROWE employees are feeling, as well. It gives them a more time to actually live life.

Will ROWE work for every company, every job function, and every employee?  Unfortunately, no. But this option can still work for a good amount of them. If you decide to test out this alternative work environment, be sure to help train employees going through the transition on time management and reaching results. I believe that even employees that aren’t the most self-driven will eventually learn to be more productive on their own once they see the benefits and rewards of getting their job done more efficiently.

Links about ROWE:

CultureRx.

The End of 9 to 5.

Fistful of Talent- 80hrs Per Week VS. ROWE.

CBS: What is Results Only Work Environment?

WilsonHCG.

Will Your Company Benefit from Social Media?

Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding social media in the workplace. Different individuals in this discussion had debated whether or not using social media would be beneficial or counter-productive. Although I do agree that some organizations wouldn’t find social media helpful, there are plenty of other companies that could use it as a useful tool. Today’s post will help educate companies on how social media can be functional.

The individuals debating that social media would be counter-productive mainly thought that it was only for personal use. They wondered how “gossip” or quirky status updates would help and believed that this would distract employees from doing their jobs. Although those are true points, there are also different social media sites that are geared towards business use. For example, Work Simple, Salesforce, and Yammer are three companies that come to mind.

If utilized properly, social media could be beneficial to companies for the following reasons:

Collaboration is easier. Technology is allowing businesses to be able to reach audiences on a global scale. To be able to keep up with this: employees are now available around the world; are working remotely while traveling; or are working different shifts to be accessible to all time zones. If all employees can’t participate in business meetings, it can be very hard for teams to effectively work together. Social media can allow employees to collaborate at any time and in any location so no one ends up missing out.

Employees get more exposure to executives and managers. Social media allows managers, HR, and executives to easily see which employees are influential. Many employees can have a hard time proving they are worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool will allow management to see employees’ documented efforts. It will display their progression and contributions in a way that validates their eligibility for promotion or rewards. It is a social recognition and performance management tool.

It can increase employee engagement. Social media can empower employees by giving them a voice. Additionally, having a tool that keeps a record of employees’ suggestions or ideas can make them become accountable for following through.

It can allow employees to communicate in a way that creates a solid community within the organization. Employees might work in different departments, locations, or time zones. Or, employees might work in a role that has them strapped to a desk or on the road. With those being realistic factors, employees can’t always converge in a way to get to know each other. Social media can allow employees to communicate throughout all levels of the business-spectrum. This is a team building tool that can create stronger cross-departmental teams and company community.

Employees will know who the correct point of contact is. I know I’ve wasted so much time trying to figure out who I need to contact for more information or assistance. This tool can allow employees know who does what in the business so they can get what they need faster. It can also help employees follow up easier by letting them to see who else was working on a project/task. This feature permits them to contact that person for clarification, status updates, or help. Pictures can also help employees put a name and job function to a face.

It can encourage learning and development. Employees can connect with others throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions. Additionally, this can be used as a knowledge base in which employees can find information faster so they can do their job more efficiently or help customers quicker. In addition to this, those using the tool can expose other users to helpful information by posting useful resources, invites to webinars, and so on.

It is a brainstorming tool. Great ideas don’t always get formulated right away. Discussion boards can be used as brainstorming meetings which will let employees provide thoughtful, innovative, and creative ideas when it comes to them. Having suggestions easily available can allow other members to jump in, build off of it, and develop it into something functional.

There are so many benefits to using business social media that I could go on and on about it. I feel that majority of companies could use it to their advantage if they utilize and customize it in a way that suits their industry, mission, and culture. Hopefully this information can open up minds to the endless possibilities that can come from using this tool.

If you want to read more about the benefits of business social media, please click on the following links:

Yammer-Business Benefits
Work Simple- Performance Management for Social Goals
Salesforce- The Social Enterprise Solution