In a typical year, the top causes of stress affecting employee well-being are generally money, physical health, work and relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, is anything but typical, and it has exacerbated many of these issues and more, including mental health, job stability, housing, care for kids and the elderly, and work/life balance.
“It is worth employers’ time to focus on the personal health of employees. It’s not just about being a good corporate citizen for the well-being of your employees, but it actually has a direct impact on the well-being of the organization,” said Cary List, president and CEO with FP Canada in Toronto, Ontario. List and Joanna Tukums, chief operating officer with FP Canada, talked about the major causes of stress and potential solutions to help employees improve their overall wellness during a Q&A in the March/April issue of Plans & Trusts and during the webcast “Supporting Employees’ Financial and Emotional Wellness During Challenging Times.”
As List and Tukums point out in their Q&A, the need to address employee well-being is important beyond moments of crisis and can help improve productivity and workforce well-being at any point in time.
Communicate to Help Manage Anxiety
Rapid communication and full transparency are crucial at the onset of a crisis. Messaging should also be repeated frequently. When possible, try to reassure employees regarding their finances and their health—both physical and mental health.
Another key element in managing anxiety is demonstrating empathy and recognizing the need for flexibility. Every workplace has different employees navigating different challenges. Encourage managers to engage in a dialogue with their employees on important topics and potential stressors.
Keep Employees Connected
With so many employees working from home, it’s important to make sure they feel connected to each other and to the organization. Having a “virtual water cooler” experience can help people find ways to connect—about business ideas, but also on a personal level. Weekly meetings for executives and middle managers can help keep employees engaged and informed on evolving business priorities.
Organizations could also consider frequent all-staff meetings with updates from leadership or outside speakers talking about health, fitness, diversity or other important topics. Some of these meetings should simply be focused on having fun too.
Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams can allow for breakout rooms or small group chats, which can be a great way to encourage more personal connections through the sharing of information, resources and nonwork topics.
Resources for Improving Employee Well-Being
Offer avenues for professional development, even in a crisis. When possible, relate these opportunities to the current situation. For example, FP Canada offered a session titled “Managing Overwhelm” to help employees deal with the stress of these times.
It’s also good practice to send regular reminders of available resources—for example, plan benefits, employee and family assistance plans, and in-house services like financial planners. Resource ideas stemming from the pandemic include providing funds for employees to purchase equipment to create an effective, comfortable home office and purchasing extra Zoom accounts and making them available to staff for personal use to connect with family and friends after work hours.
Key Takeaways for Improving Employee Well-Being
Honesty and transparency go a long way in helping employees through troubled times. Employers can be a great source of information for their employees, not only in terms of the business but also to share relevant news and resources during times of crisis. Also, don’t assume that employees will read or understand an information booklet or email. Take the time to explain important resources, and allow for multiple opportunities to engage with information.
By taking a holistic approach to employees, organizations can help them deal with anxiety related to finances as well as physical and mental well-being. There are inexpensive ways to share knowledge—including regularly scheduled emails—and small things can make a big difference.
Most of all, be empathetic. By taking these collective actions, your employees are much more likely to reward you with greater productivity and loyalty.
Related Reading: 7 Tips to Help Your Employees Build Resilience
Robbie Hartman, CEBS
Editor, Publications, for the International Foundation
The latest from Word on Benefits:
- What Retirement Plan Sponsors Need to Know About Spousal Consent and Remote Witnessing
- Legal & Legislative Reporter: Wrongful-death Proceedings Under an ERISA Plan
- Forfeiture Guidance for Retirement Plan Sponsors
- Trauma in Organizations: Mental Health
- Workplace Benefits Valedictorians: The Graduating Class of 2023 Wants These Benefits