As we emerge from nearly three years of Covid-19, when we were forced to adapt to both the medical and psychological aspects of the pandemic, employees and employers are realizing the need to address health and wellness in a much more holistic way than in the past. With the growing recognition that employee well-being includes factors ranging from the mind-body connection to financial wellness, HR teams are helping enlightened employers identify where they can most effectively address their employees’ wellness needs and are finding the best solutions to fit those needs.
At From Day One’s conference in Miami, a panel consisting of HR leaders explored new approaches to this trend toward wellness, and responses to its greater need in a post-Covid world. As the moderator, newscaster at Miami’s NBC 6 Constance Jones, pointed out, “Most people want a place where they feel good, where they’re listened to, where their mental health is taken as a part of the interaction for the day.” The good news is that most workplaces, 80% in fact, have some kind of formal wellness program in place. But that’s just a baseline because, as Jones continued, “Obviously, wellness is important for making sure your employees feel safe at the job, but you also want to give your employees hope for the future.”
“Our caregivers got into health care to take care of people, to restore them, and make them better. And they saw more death and despair than they had seen many years prior,” said Adriene McCoy, SVP and chief HR officer at Baptist Health. The first way to address this pervasive source of employee trauma was simple. They stopped talking so much about Covid, “which is just restorative in and of itself,” said Adriene.
“We began connecting our employees back to the mission of the organization, and back to the values of the organization: why we’re here, how we’re here to support the community, and what that means for them.” This was meant to remind their staff why they became caregivers to begin with. It’s a monumental task, Adriene says, which will be done through many meetings one group of staff at a time. “This January to March, we’re going to do it for all 27,000 employees.”
Like health care workers, FedEx delivery personnel were facing their own mental strain, with exposure to the unknown being practically part of the job description. At FedEx, the dialogue on company wellness “is more about open and honest conversations with our frontline workers, letting them know they were appreciated, and trying to feel empathy for the situation,” said Don Stenger, a FedEx manager of strategic talent acquisition and reporting. They also listened to their employees and tried to address individual needs as best as possible.
One of the main themes to emerge from these dialogues was “about maintaining connections–both personal and professional social connections–within the company.” In a word, it was about maintaining “cohesion,” said Stenger. At FedEx, they were “emphasizing connection and support within the community, to counteract the long-lasting feelings of isolation and disconnection from the pandemic itself,” he said.
One Medical, a membership-based, primary care practice, approached the divisions and social isolation brought about by Covid-19 by utilizing the company’s strengths. Already regularly emphasizing the close and continuing connections their providers nurture with clients, At One Medical they’re “making sure that we’re looking out for one another,” said Ray Schuler, One Medical’s head of client success.
Another significant result of Covid-19, extending the reach of providers, was telehealth and treating patients in ways tailored to their individual needs, but at a safe distance. “We learned how to work remotely, and we learned how to work remotely really well,” Schuler said.
Before the pandemic, Stay Active Miami, a program focused on the wellness of City of Miami employees, “hosted 21 to 26 in on-site fitness classes,” at various locations around the city, said Jair Espinoza, group manager of benefits for the city. “Then Covid-19 comes down. So we pivoted, and we started offering fitness classes virtually seven days a week instead of just classes on weekdays.” The flexibility of doing this digitally allowed them to reach more employees than before. “So we expanded the timeframe. And the number of classes and participation increased.”
Miami also attempts to address individual needs through employee assistance program (EAP) services, which are even extended to for typically non-eligible employees, including part-time or seasonal workers like lifeguards. By assisting employees in resolving personal wellness issues that may be affecting their work performance, and opening the EAPs to as many as possible, the city government sought to have a large impact on communal employee wellness, Espinoza said.
The gamification of HR services, possibly encompassing an employee’s entire evolution within a company, is a particularly interesting and pioneering avenue to address wellness. Kristian Bouw, the chief technology officer of Cravety, an employee-experience platform, explained why by bringing it back to the fundamentals. “You spend the majority of your adult life, where?” he asked. “At work. So this means that HR professionals have an incredible amount of responsibility over the basic health of the people you’re leading, in some ways certainly more than even a primary-care doctor.”
“The platform that we've worked on,” said Kristian, “ has a set of what we call pathways. So when a new employee gets onboarded, there’s kind of an initial onboarding pathway. Then, if we identify they’re interacting with things more in certain areas, the system identifies that and responds with new, tailored pathways more suited to their strengths and goals in the company.”
The company’s software “essentially creates all these kinds of skill trees or paths, so if someone comes in and they decide that they want a leadership role, for example,” it nudges them along, like a video game, to help them reach their goals. As another panelist put it, the gamification of wellness is a “pizza tracker” for your health.
Sean McCaughan is freelance writer and design critic in Miami. He was the founding editor of Curbed Miami, which he helmed for four years. He has written for the New York Times, American Way magazine, Ocean Drive magazine, and many others.