Committing to Employee Wellness

Employee wellness has become an increasingly high-profile issue, thanks mainly to the pandemic. Consider these facts:

  • The U.S. life expectancy at birth in 2021 was 76.1 years, down from 78.9 years in 2019 before the pandemic began. This is the most significant two-year decline since World War II. 
  • The percentage of American adults who are physically inactive is at least 17.3% in every state in the nation and as high as 47.7% in some states. For this purpose, “physically inactive” means they have not participated in any leisure-time physical activity (walking for exercise, gardening, running, etc.) for at least the past month. 
  • In 2019, nearly 50 million Americans (20% of all adults) experienced mental illness. More than half of them, about 27 million, did not receive treatment.
  • Pandemic stress has led to increased anxiety and burnout. Remote working has some feeling socially isolated and disconnected from their work colleagues. Fewer opportunities to get out of the house have made it harder for some people to keep up exercise habits.

This has increased demand from workers that their employers provide more support for workplace wellness. A recent survey by McKinsey and Company found that 51% of employees are trying to achieve a better work-life balance, and 47% want their employer to adopt a more robust future focus on employee wellbeing.

Companies are responding, with many upgrading their policies, adding wellness incentive programs, and expanding benefits packages to include wellness options.

How Recognition Can Help

Some think the term “wellness” encompasses only physical health. In reality, wellness includes physical and mental health and social factors. Considering fitness, employee recognition programs can help boost participation, encourage better habits, and contribute directly to overall well-being.

Physical Wellness Challenges

Introducing wellness challenges is the simplest way to promote physical fitness at work. Some challenges involve reaching a specific target, such as walking ‘X’ miles over 30 days. Others are more complex, such as listing ten different activities and awarding points for each one the employee completes. 

Physical wellness challenges can be individual or team-based. Organizing workers into teams often increases participation and adds a social component.

Adding recognition to any wellness challenge is likely to increase participation rates. The best efforts will include rewards throughout the competition for spot achievements and recognition at the end for complete results. Don’t forget to include participation recognition for those who cannot achieve a spot or total reward.

Healthy Workplace Habits

Companies can encourage healthy work habits by installing hydration stations, offering standing desks, stocking the kitchen with healthy snacks, and encouraging walks around the building. You can include these as part of a broader wellness program or provide recognition to those who use them.

Mental Wellness 

The area where recognition can have the most significant impact is mental wellness. With the rise in hybrid and remote workplaces, it’s easy for workers to feel like what they do is not noticed or appreciated, increasing isolation and anxiety and decreasing self-esteem and motivation.

To begin with, recognition typically has an automatic and positive effect on the mental well-being of both the receiver and the giver. Consistent recognition makes employees feel acknowledged, motivated, valued, and satisfied and is known to affect energy levels positively.

Physical wellness programs can include mental health components, such as meditation classes, anxiety-reduction techniques, nature walks, etc.

Safe Work Environment

People need to feel welcome and included at work, along with the ability to be their authentic selves. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) activities can be built into your recognition program by rewarding behaviors that promote DEI objectives. 

As with other people-focused activities, the tone needs to be set by company leadership through their actions.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has become very top-of-mind over the past two years. During the pandemic, many employees forced to work from home began to feel on-call 24/7 because they couldn’t get away from their desks, email, and messaging apps.

Overwork and long hours create reduced focus and productivity, poor health, and negative impacts on relationships.

  • People who work 3-4 hours of overtime have a 60% higher risk of heart problems than those who work no overtime. 
  • Researchers at Stanford found that once an employee has put in 50 hours a week, productivity falls dramatically; once they hit 55 hours, productivity essentially disappears.
  • Activities that contribute to burnout include work overload (job demands exceed human limits); too little control due to rigid policies, micromanagement, or chaotic conditions; and when job requirements conflict with personal values and principles.

Compare that to employees who feel rested, supported, and engaged. They feel more creative, connected, collaborative, and energized.

Recognition and reward programs to encourage work-life balance can be very creative. Rather than recognizing projects completed through lots of overtime, for example, laud those that don’t require overtime. Include humorous recognition initiatives such as a “No Problem Saying No” certification or a “Meeting Meter Monitor” reward for the person who always points out that a meeting has gone on too long and it’s time for a break. Promote using vacation time to get away from work by publicly recognizing any worker who takes a certain amount of PTO in a block.

Social Wellness 

For many people, work is an important social outlet. In these days of remote working, employers need to help workers recapture a sense of togetherness and team spirit. Organize voluntary virtual hangouts: sponsor virtual team-building events and reward collaboration.

Wellness at Work Starts Here

Xceleration’s unique RewardStation® platform helps businesses of all sizes provide goal access and rewards for teams, individual employees, and everyone. Our ready-made, fully customizable platform can be tailored to fit your organization’s wellness programs and other recognition incentives.

Get in touch with the Xceleration team today to learn about RewardStation® features, pricing, and implementation.

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