May is Mental Health Month. Your employee’s mental well-being matters year-round. But this month is an opportune time to communicate with your employees about how you support them.
Good mental health is not just necessary for your workers’ total well-being, but it also benefits you as an employer. Mental health conditions contribute to 62 percent of missed work days. That’s according to the 1,850 U.S. employed adults surveyed for the 2019 Unum Mental Health Report.
Whether you have a fully-developed set of benefits that address mental health in the workplace, or offer employees general wellness resources, communications is key. Here are some great programs and messages to promote as part of a communications strategy around Mental Health Month.
Teach Employees How to Use the Employee Assistance Program
Your company may offer its workers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Such programs often include several free sessions with professional therapist or counselor. This is gold, especially for someone who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn or have a lot of money to spend.
Sadly, many employees don’t understand that an EAP is part of their benefits. The Unum report found only 38 percent of employees knew they had access to an EAP. It’s up to you to help them understand its offerings and advantages.
Use messaging to explain the program benefits and reassure employees about confidentiality. Privacy matters. Sixty-one percent of employees said there was a social stigma in the workplace towards colleagues with mental health issues. Design a mail-to-home postcard that explains step-by-step how to use the EAP. Since most EAP’s extend to dependents that communications method gets home to spouses so they know can take advantage.
Encourage Employees to Take a Stress Reduction Class
A program doesn’t need to be specifically about mental health in the workplace for employees to benefit. Mindfulness can benefit all staff, regardless if they have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Consider hosting wellness seminars. With the help of strong communications and promotion, they will be well attended and regarded by employees. I have personally benefited from a Stress Reduction session and a Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation session sponsored by my company.
There are lots of ways to promote these seminars, like email, posters and desk drop flyers. It’s also important to:
- Engage frontline managers. Give them the details to understand the impact of stress management on employee well-being and performance. Employees need to feel confident that their managers support their decision to take the time to attend a session
- Create a seamless sign-up process so employees can enroll easily and directly. This will make them more likely to take action.
- Offer both in-person and online sessions that capture remote workers, too. Or, if budgets allow, offer repeat sessions at different times of day or different times of year.
Remind Employees to Take a Break
Time away from the office is important for mental well-being. Even the occasional short break throughout the day can make a difference. Encourage employees to take them.
- Promote mobile apps, like Calm or Headspace, that help employees get the most from brief moments of revitalization. Write and distribute a communication about these options. With some guidance, staff might be motivated to download one.
- If your office is close to a walking path, or park , encourage them to get out in nature, which research shows has a restorative effect. Start a lunch-time walking club that can be done outside or even inside, if the weather is bad. This has the added benefit of socialization, which also boosts mood. A flyer on the breakroom fridge would be an eye-catching way to communicate about this program.
Vacation time is crucial for mental health. Remind employees about your vacation time policy and help them understand why it’s important. Feature the voices of senior leadership in communications so employees know they support time off. Since May is the time many people start planning their summer vacations, it’s a great time to drill down into this message. Also remind folks about your employee discount program and how to save on rental cars, hotels, attractions, etc.
Promote Charitable Efforts
Use your voice as a company to support mental health in the workplace and let employees know it’s a priority. Make a corporate donation to an organization that promotes mental well-being. Or, you may want a more hands-on approach. Organize a company team to participate in a charitable outing, like the National Alliance for Mental Health walk or the Out of the Darkness walks from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In this case, you need consistent communications both inside and outside of Mental Health Month. Create a how-to tool kit for managers, so they can talk up charitable events at team meetings and engage participation. The presence of leadership at such events is a morale booster. If you’ve done a walk before, ask staff to share photos. Post them on the company intranet to raise feelings of camaraderie. If this is the company’s first time, no need to reinvent the wheel. Many charities have media packages to download and distribute.
Mental health in the workplace matters to everybody—those who struggle with their own mental health issues and those who want to support them. Take the time this month and every month to communicate that your company values its workers’ total well-being.
Benefits are important to employees. Sometimes, they can be game changers if an employee stays with your company or leaves. Employee benefits are continually evolving. As we turn a new page in the calendar, are you ready to remain an employer of choice? You need a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute benefits package to keep current staff and attract talented new hires.
Adding to your benefits package is great. But, as the saying goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it happen? Communicating about improved benefits is essential. Here are three predictions for employee benefits in 2019 and our tips for when and how to communicate them.
1. Benefits Customization
Why is it that we can customize our cars, houses, and vacations, but not our benefits? Good question. We can! The days of cookie cutter benefits are going away. In their place are improved benefits packages tailored to specific health and financial needs. Cafeteria plans give employees a set dollar amount to buy the benefits that best meet their needs. You need to show employees how to do it.
To communicate about benefits customization, target the right audience. You might start by surveying your employees on the benefits most useful to them. Respond to what you learn with clear, user-friendly communications that lead with the “What’s In It for Me?”
If employees receive the information relevant to their preferences, they will be more likely to pay attention. Consider that 73% of employees say customized benefits increase their loyalty. And 83% would take a 3% pay cut in exchange for better benefits choices.
It’s clear workers crave personalization. Employees in one study ranked paid parental leave, commuting cost reimbursement, and leave to care for elderly relatives as the top 3 personalized benefits they’d be most likely to choose. Hopping on trend would put you in good favor. It’s up to you to communicate about improved benefits to show employees how you meet their needs.
2. Rise of Telemedicine
More companies now provide this benefit. From 2014 to 2018, the percentage of mid-size and large employers offering telemedicine rose from 18% to 80%. Telemedicine is a financial win for employees, as copays are often less than a visit to an urgent care clinic.
It can reduce absenteeism and promote good health. According to one survey, 86% of workers would cancel a preventive care appointment due to work pressures. If employees could use telemedicine for some of those check-ups, they wouldn’t feel guilty about missing critical time in the office.
Telemedicine pays off only if employees use it. Communication plans should focus on education. Telemedicine can be intimidating, so create brief videos that walk employees through the process of using it. Cold and flu season would be a great time to send out communications that remind staff about the benefit. Employees with chronic conditions that require monitoring are one population that you could target with materials that promote telemedicine.
The number of workers who use telemedicine is relatively low. Just 20% of companies with the benefit have utilization rates of 8% or higher. Yet, satisfaction is high among telemedicine users. Sixty-two percent rated their experience as an 8, 9, or 10.
A clear communications plan to show employees the WIIFM of telemedicine is a great first step to increase participation. Communicate about this improved benefit to position yourself as an employer whom cares for employees’ well-being.
3. Student Loan Assistance
With the average student loan debt at more than $37,000, this financial burden weighs on your workforce. Employees are putting off retirement savings, home buying, and starting families because of their debt. Currently, about 23% of companies offer some form of student loan help. This improved benefit would make you an employer-of-choice, especially with Millennials and the upcoming Gen Z.
Communications about a student loan relief benefit should begin with the recruitment phrase. If your company has booths at university career fairs, create and distribute marketing collateral to attendees. Mention the benefit in job ads to attract potential employees. Include it in on-boarding communications for new hires who may have missed the message.
No matter how you chose to provide student loan relief, communicate the benefit early and often. Don’t neglect your current employees when you craft messages. 86% of workers would remain with their employer for 5 years if they got help with student loans.
The benefits you offer go a long way to make you an employer that talented employees gravitate towards. With unemployment rates low, we’re in a buyer’s market for jobs. But if you don’t communicate your offerings, current and potential employees won’t see you as an employer of choice. Create a plan to get the word out about your improved benefits and you’ll make 2019 a successful year.
February is Heart Health Month. Employee health is an important all year, but this month might inspire you to consider how you can incorporate wellness into the workplace. One possibility is to add on-site fitness programs.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Workers are busier than ever. After work making dinner, helping kids with homework, and settling on the couch with This is Us bump exercise off the to-do list.
What if exercise was integrated into the work day? The convenience of working out in the office limits excuses and motivates employees to take care of their heart health. There are both small- and large-scale options to build on-site fitness programs for employees. Consider your employee population and budget to roll out a successful initiative.
Walk Your Way to On-Site Fitness
A walking club is the simplest way is to start. Walking is a low-impact activity that shows positive results mentally and physically. If there is safe space to walk near your office, encourage employees to step outside during their lunch breaks. Walking and talking with colleagues creates bonds and fosters employee morale.
Add friendly competition into the mix and organize a steps challenge. Workers compete to earn the most steps with the winner awarded a prize. Trion Group, Inc. hosted our own challenge and the winner earned a gift card.
Beyond rewards, the financial overhead for this style of on-site fitness is low. There is no equipment or instructors. Workers can use their smartphones to track daily steps.
On-Site Fitness is at the Head of the Class
If you want to take on-site fitness to the next level, hire an exercise instructor to teach a class. Start with a weekly class. If interest peaks, consider adding new options. Chose a class that requires limited or no equipment. So, Zumba yes, SoulCycle no.
Some popular times for classes include lunch time, early morning and late afternoon. Early birds might come in for a 7 am aerobics class. Others want to shake off the mid-day slump with a lunch class. An end-of-day class is a strong option for on-site fitness programs for employees as it lets workers go home after to shower.
This option requires open, indoor space, so it may not be available to all companies. Space for the class should be removed from other workers so the noise won’t bother them. Let all employees know class times so they can schedule meetings and phone calls accordingly.
Make sure proper legal protections are in place. Only hire insured instructors, preferably those certified in their specific fitness area. A lawyer should write waivers for employee participants that release the company from liability for injury.
Hit the Gym for On-Site Fitness
For the ultimate in workplace exercise, create a corporate gym. Buying equipment for employees is a hefty price commitment up front. However, the continual costs are low.
A gym would let workers exercise at their own pace at the time that’s best for them. Employees can squeeze in a session on the elliptical to clear their heads before that big presentation. Workers are more loyal to employers that look out for their well-being. 80% surveyed in one study said a workplace wellness program would entice them to stay with the company.
If budgets are a concern, partner with other companies in your building to buy equipment for on-site fitness. Workers would share the common exercise space. A corporate gym is an incentive to convince new companies to come into the building. As with classes, draw up a legal waiver for employees to sign before using the equipment.
On-site fitness programs for employees require an investment of time and money, yet could offer long-term cost savings. For every dollar spent on workplace wellness, employers saved $1 to $3 per employee on annual healthcare costs. Engagement in corporate fitness programs reduces sick days and increases productivity, which affect the bottom line.
One-third of prospective employees said free exercise classes would impact their decision to accept a new job. A little more than one-fifth said the same thing about an on-site gym. In the current employee’s market with its low unemployment rates, any advantage is a smart move.
America’s growing opioid addiction crisis affects all areas of life, including the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the economic impact of opioid addiction is more than $78.5 billion a year. This estimate includes costs of healthcare; lost productivity; addiction treatment; and the involvement of the criminal justice system.
While the monetary cost is immense, the toll on human lives is more concerning. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that every day an average of 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, a group that forms the core of the workforce.
Addressing the opioid epidemic is a sensitive topic for many employers. They may fear legal ramifications from mishandling an employee suffering from addiction. However, silence or reactive company policies will not yield the changes needed to reverse current trends.
Here are three suggestions to safely and proactively address the opioid crisis with your employees.
1. Educate Employees on the Risks
Misinformation is a major reason the opioid epidemic remains a persistent problem. Many employees continue to associate opioid addiction with illegal narcotics, such as heroin. In 2015, an estimated 591,000 people in the United States suffered from a heroin-use disorder. By comparison, over 2 million people suffered from prescription opioid-related addiction. Communication pieces that effectively educate employees on the dangers of prescription opioids are essential.
2. Empower Employees in Prevention Efforts
Encourage employees to have open conversations with their primary care physician. Employees have a right to question their healthcare provider if he or she prescribes an opioid. They should learn about alternative ways to treat and manage pain. Your company’s prescription drug carrier can provide resources about covered alternate pain medications.
3. Provide a Path to Recovery
For many employees who struggle with addiction, the biggest barrier to recovery is not knowing how to take the first step. Your company can provide this essential resource in the form of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The National Safety Council notes that 70 percent of all U.S. companies provide EAPs. Yet “many employees don’t understand the value or may fear negative ramifications if they seek help.” An EAP connects employees with the best resources for addiction recovery that are aligned with your benefits program.
Your messages can minimize the stigma of addiction and encourage employees to prevent opioid misuse. Then your company will provide a vital contribution to the ongoing struggle against opioid abuse.
Happy New Year! It’s time to prepare for a new journey for our well-being, both physically and mentally.
Well-being is encouraging myself and others to be remarkable, mindful, and live with a purpose. So, I’ll jump on my soap box and shout to the world: “Hey! Does your company support a wellness program for its employees?”
Well, if they don’t, I challenge you to stand on your soap box and get involved this year. Take ownership of your and your co-workers’ well-being. Create an employee wellness movement that drives change.
It’s time corporations listen and take interest not only in employees’ medical expenses, but in their whole person—productivity, engagement, loyalty, and job satisfaction.
Create a friendly, comfortable, open environment for your employees to develop a wellness movement. Your goal should be fostering a culture that is engaged, focused, and enthusiastic about living with a purpose.
Health care costs are going up every year. By incorporating robust wellness programs into your benefits plan, you encourage employees to take control of preventable diseases. Did you know that according to Health Affairs Magazine, workplace wellness programs support the prevention of cardiovascular disease?
It’s simple to create an employee wellness movement within your company. Remember listen . . . create . . . inspire . . . reward.
Develop a comprehensive survey to evaluate your employees’ understanding of how wellness affects every moment of their lives, at home and at work. Pose questions which are personal and caring. Ask how they would like to improve their health and professional development. Engage management to create a safe environment for your colleagues to get involved.
Your employees are hungry for health and wellness information. According to the Pew Trust Research Center, 35% of adults have gone online to find information on a medical condition.
Create employee wellness communications to educate, engage, and motivate. All communications should be targeted and multi-channeled with their frequency and placement.
Programs can start small, then grow into movements that drive behavioral change, enrich lives, and create productive, satisfied employees. Here is a case study on an insurance company that started a small wellness program and embraced the benefits of creating a culture of wellness.
Your employees work hard. Promote wellness by designing a work environment that drives behavioral change. A targeted, robust employee wellness program will inspire co-workers at every level. You will begin to hear chatter of wellness achievements and increases in behavioral change. These are the start of the benefits of a wellness movement.
Reward your colleagues for reaching their goals with caring and meaningful incentives. You will begin to see a community that recognizes success and celebrates each other. Your colleagues will come to work more productive, enthusiastic, engaged, and healthier. These are the benefits of educating and inspiring your colleagues into a culture of well-being. You did it! It’s an employee wellness movement.
The bottom line is, don’t just focus on the financial part of your benefits. Focus on the whole person. At Trion Communications, we have the tools to help create an employee wellness movement within your company. For more information please call or click to speak to one of our communication experts. We will help you get on your soap box and create a culture of well-being.
Remember to be remarkable, be well, be mindful, and live with a purpose.