This article originally appeared in the Cincinnati Business Courier, July 2020.
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a challenging year. We’re facing a global pandemic, political division and civil unrest as society collectively uncovers biases and reacts to inequality at unprecedented levels. All of these are impacting employees’ financial, physical, mental and emotional health — and in fact, they may be facing some of these challenges on a more personal level than you’re aware of as a manager or colleague.
Building a well-rounded wellness program
How you treat your employees in times of difficulty greatly impacts their loyalty. We all want to work at a company where we feel respected and supported. One way you can offer this to your employees is through a robust wellness program.
Wellness programs should be comprehensive, focusing not just on physical health, but on mental health and team effectiveness as well. So often we see wellness programs framed as gym discounts and physical health screenings — and these are certainly important, but there’s so much more we should be doing for our people.
Providing support for your employees begins with encouraging them in their self-awareness journey, ideally through a comprehensive self-discovery tool such as the Enneagram. The Enneagram describes nine distinct patterns (or types) of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Other systems that help you understand yourself have strictly psychological orientations that measure behavior, but that’s only one aspect of self-awareness. I choose to use the Enneagram in my coaching practice because it considers not just the psychological orientation, but also the spiritual and relational depth of a person. In other words, it helps you understand why you do the things you do. It’s more holistic. And as employees learn about themselves through the Enneagram, they’re better able to develop strategies for their own meaningful, lasting growth.
Much attention is given to the gender and ethnic makeup of teams, and rightly so. Inclusive organizations are twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial targets, and they are six times as likely to be innovative. Yet an element of diversity that is often overlooked is cognitive diversity – differences in perspective or information processing styles.
Understanding and appreciating the range of approaches your colleagues take to solving problems, managing conflict and delivering feedback will enable you to communicate more effectively with each other. As your team raises its collective level of emotional intelligence, it fosters cooperation, creativity, innovation and collaboration.
Unsurprisingly, people are stressed right now. According to the American Psychological Association, one in three employees typically feel stressed out during the day. Helping them manage this stress is vital to both their personal success and the success of your company. A strong employee wellness program includes efforts to help employees identify coping strategies in times of stress.
Mindfulness exercises can also help employees reduce anxiety. Focusing on breath and staying engaged in the present helps the body physically handle stress while granting mental clarity. An employee who feels strong in their body and in their mind is much better equipped to live a healthy life and give their work the effort and focus required.
Building team trust
In a time of social distancing and with more people working from home, many employees feel disconnected from others. And yet others may have felt some security in that aloneness and are a bit afraid to come back out and reengage. How do you build trust among team members in an environment when many are remote? What about when employees have differing feelings about returning to the office or venturing out from home?
Trust is necessary for high-performing teams, but so many of us feel it’s been violated. Trust has been shaken in our justice system, our government leaders and each other as we’re confronted with questions that range from “Where have you been?” to “Are you a threat to my life?” We have to connect building trust to our employee wellness offerings because if your employees don’t feel safe with their colleagues, they can’t bring their full selves to work each day.
These programs are more important than ever
People are hurting. They’re in need of support. Now is the time to try something new. A holistic employee wellness program that addresses mental health and team health will make a difference. Let’s challenge the idea that a wellness program should only focus on activities that lower insurance costs or directly drive money to the business. Let’s offer employees a full spectrum of help — I have no doubt we’ll see the benefits.