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Employee Wellbeing

The Key to Establishing a Corporate Culture of Caring


Industry leaders weigh in on the latest trends in employee benefits and wellbeing. They explain why a compassionate corporate culture can help organizations attract and retain top talent.

Arianna Huffington

Founder and CEO, Thrive Global

Why is company culture so important for employee wellbeing?

It’s important because we now know an enormous amount about how stress and burnout affect us, both at home and at work. The science is clear that when we prioritize our wellbeing, we’re more creative, productive, and resilient, and we make better decisions. Wellbeing isn’t just a perk; it’s a competitive advantage. And there’s a direct connection between the health of a company’s bottom line and the health and wellbeing of every company’s most important resource — its people.

So in the same way wellbeing boosts our immune system, culture serves as a company’s immune system, giving it the resilience to meet inevitable challenges.

In 2022, why is it crucial for employers to effectively support their employees from a holistic approach?

With most companies moving to an ever-evolving hybrid model of work, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine work and productivity — not going back to the way things were, but shaping an employee experience that prioritizes human skills: empathy, resilience, collaboration, team-building, and creativity. It’s clear that the workplace of the future is going to be defined by constant change. And it is equally clear that these qualities are what allow individuals and companies not just to navigate uncertainty and change, but to grow, get better, and thrive.

Dave Jacobs

Co-CEO, Homethrive

In 2022, why is it crucial for employers to effectively support their employees from a holistic approach?

There’s no denying it: happy, supported employees are also productive, loyal employees. That’s why it’s crucial for employers to holistically support their teams, especially those who care for family outside of the office.

For every 1,000 employees, organizations likely have 200 who double as family caregivers. They spend nearly 4,800 hours a week on related activities. Of those, 40% are highly stressed and 33% are poised to leave. While caregiving support may have once been nice to offer, those days are over.

Also gone are the days of offering an EAP to employees as a catchall solution to navigating their complex lives outside of the office. Providing parents or adult children with a stipend to help offset the cost of child or eldercare, while helpful, also doesn’t solve the problem. It’s simply a Band-Aid over what’s often a gaping wound. Employee caregivers often suffer silently and are drowning, spending precious time coordinating care for their loved ones, whether that’s ordering and delivering medications or meals, tracking down healthcare providers and therapists, or sifting through hundreds of Google searches to find a wheelchair. 

How can caregiving benefits effectively increase employee retention and prevent burnout?

In the face of the “Great Resignation/Great Recalibration,” companies must creatively attract and retain quality, dedicated, and diverse talent. Keeping to the status quo won’t cut it.

Whether you know it or not, family caregivers are an ever-growing portion of your team. The crunch of our times requires unique solutions that align with the demographic shifts in your organization. One in five employees care for a loved one, often juggling those duties during work hours, struggling to keep up with a never-ending checklist. They spend nearly 24 hours weekly caring for loved ones, and nearly 2 of every 3 say caregiving responsibilities are having a negative impact on their work. Nearly 70% say being employed makes caregiving much more difficult, which leads to burnout. 

Caregiving benefits help employees feel supported by the organization in their times of need, allowing them to be more present and productive at work. They can save employees hours of work and reduce their intent to resign. If you’re striving to be a top workplace of choice, a caregiving benefit is no longer a “nice to have.”  It’s a “must have.”

Can you speak on the relationship between caregiving and employee wellbeing?

Caring for a loved one is a labor of love, but it’s also extremely stressful. Whether you’re securing long-term care for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s, navigating a cancer diagnosis with a spouse, or researching therapists for a child with special needs struggling to talk, caregiving can take its toll.

When you combine caregiving duties with a demanding career, it’s the recipe for a perfect storm. A delicate balancing act is playing out in organizations across this country as employees struggle to be there for their loved ones while being present and productive on the job.

Consequently, employee caregivers suffer disproportionately from mental health issues and other chronic conditions. Forty percent say they’re highly stressed; 40% suffer from at least two chronic conditions; nearly half feel exhausted; and nearly 60% are clinically depressed and anxious. Sadly, it’ll force 1 in 3 employees, disproportionately women and minorities, to leave their careers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Just as maternity and paternity leave and backup childcare stipends are now the norm, caregiving benefits should be the rule, not the exception. Employers can’t afford to ignore this growing elephant in the room. Doing so could push seasoned, quality employees out the door.

Joe Grasso, Ph.D.

Senior Director, Workforce Transformation, Lyra Health

In 2022, what are some key wellbeing initiatives employers can offer that can effectively increase retention and prevent burnout?

For years, employers have tried preventing burnout with self-care programs and personal wellness perks that focus on fixing the worker rather than fixing the work. But decades of research show that the work itself is almost always the root cause of burnout. The employers that retain healthy and engaged employees are the ones that excel at the fundamentals — giving employees greater control of when, where, and how they work, along with reasonable workloads, a sense of connection and belonging, and opportunities for career growth. That’s why the most effective wellbeing initiatives in 2022 will be those that take responsibility for curbing burnout at the organizational and team levels.

This means taking a risk management approach to burnout and turnover by collecting data to understand where the risks lie and what aspects of the work experience are driving those risks. Once organizational leaders have the data, they need to share it with managers and provide them with training on effective management practices that cultivate psychological health and safety on teams and prevent work from inflicting burnout on employees. Then, managers and organizational leaders alike need to reassess risk over time to make sure that the actions they’re taking to improve the work experience are successful at keeping the risk of burnout low. It’s not splashy, but it’s effective at yielding a win for the business in the form of greater productivity and retention, as well as a win for employees who are healthier, happier, and more engaged.

Can you speak on the relationship between corporate culture and employee wellbeing?

Our mental health is shaped by our environments, including the workplace, which means corporate culture directly influences people’s wellbeing — for better or for worse. Corporate cultures can foster positive wellbeing when there are policies and practices in place that cultivate psychological safety, champion civility and respect, fully recognize and reward work effort, and ensure that employees are provided with necessary resources, role clarity, and a feasible workload so that they can succeed in their jobs.

What is the main challenge HR professionals and leaders are facing today when it comes to empowering employees in a hybrid work model?

Employers need data on how the hybrid work model is affecting employees in terms of burnout risk, wellbeing, and performance, and what specific aspects of the hybrid work experience are causing the greatest impact. The lack of measurement in these areas prevents employers from taking a data-driven, strategic approach to tailoring work support for hybrid workers that keeps them engaged. 

Christine Muldoon

Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, WebMD Health Services

In 2022, what are some key wellbeing initiatives employers can offer that can effectively increase retention and prevent burnout?

Employee stress is on the rise, and today’s workforce is expecting more support. It’s time for employers to proactively prevent burnout, rebuild a positive employee experience, and nurture employee wellbeing. According to our research, 7 in 10 employees surveyed believe employers should offer a mental health program, 54% feel caregiving support should be an employee benefit, and 40% of respondents believe it’s an employer’s role to help foster social connections.

The great news is employers are taking steps to strengthen their company culture, build a greater sense of belonging, and foster meaningful connections in the form of team-based activities, group coaching, and dedicated wellness champions to help rebuild a sense of community. Employers are evolving company policies and benefits to support employees’ personal needs by giving them more flexibility in when, where, and how they work. This added support provides more opportunity for work-life balance and personal wellbeing. Employers are also focusing on training managers to be empathetic leaders, to better interact with employees, and to recognize signs of burnout before it results in turnover. All these strategies have proven to provide higher job satisfaction, improved job performance, and lower levels of turnover, sick days, burnout, and feelings of loneliness.

Can you speak on the relationship between corporate culture and employee wellbeing?

Happy, productive employees are vital to the success of any business, and a healthy workplace culture plays an important role. At WebMD Health Services, our philosophy is that your wellbeing program must be an extension of your culture. As it evolves, so too, should your wellbeing program. There are many factors that influence workplace culture and create a culture of wellbeing. Have empathy and compassion: this is an essential skill for understanding the needs of others. Lead by example: we believe it’s important to encourage leadership and managers to role-model healthy behaviors and boundaries. When leadership is actively engaged in wellbeing, engagement is higher. Promote a culture of wellbeing: a wellness champion network can be your boots on the ground, effectively communicating your program and providing valuable encouragement and support. Make it easy to be healthy. Embrace a culture of authenticity and openness for employees to feel a sense of belonging and to feel safe to bring their whole selves to work.

When people feel genuinely supported and comfortable enough to set boundaries and advocate for what they need, they’ll be able to bring their best selves to work and ultimately be happier, healthier, and more productive. It’s a win-win.

What is the main challenge HR professionals and leaders are facing today when it comes to empowering employees in a hybrid work model?

I think about my first job and what brought me there — the job, the benefits, and the salary. Today, individuals join a company because of those things plus company culture, but they stay because of the meaningful connections created with the people they work with. Those connections are more challenging now.

HR leaders are testing new ways to bring the human element back to work even as early as onboarding. Check out social media and you will see new employees showcasing welcome gifts they received from their new employer. Some — like WebMD — have implemented peer coaching for social learning and development to create peer connections. Others have reimagined everything from live work events to virtual water cooler chats, Slack channels, and Zoom-based happy hours. Wellness challenges are another strategy to bring your hybrid workforce together in a healthy, fun, and competitive activity. But what’s really working? I think we’re all going to have to test different solutions before we find what works best for empowering our own employees, whether they’re working from home, in-person, or finding some combination of the two. Again, it will come down to your company culture — it’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach!

Heidi Anderson

President and Chief Growth Officers, Nox Health

In 2022, what are some key wellbeing initiatives employers can offer that effectively increase retention and prevent burnout?

I would say right now the importance of not only physical health, but also mental health is incredibly important. Of course, we’re very focused on sleep. When we think of sleep, it’s ubiquitous, but it’s also elusive, and it’s connected to almost everything. Studies have shown that you will die more quickly with no sleep than you will with no food. We believe sleep is vitally important and that employers should put it on the map because sleep is connected to physical and mental wellbeing. Good sleep heals the body and the brain. Poor sleep is tied to high cost, chronic conditions, lost productivity at work, safety issues, and mental health concerns. From decision-making and vitality to energy and productivity, we think prioritizing your sleep is vitally important, and offering your employees a solution that will care for them and help them get good sleep is really important.

Can you speak on the relationship between corporate culture and employee wellbeing?

We’re all in a learning curve as employers identify the most important things to our employees both for retaining talent and for attracting new talent. Sleep is vitally connected to all of the above. Helping people recognize the power of good sleep, and providing them with an easy, customized, people-centric solution on good sleep, is really important. Now more than ever, it’s harder to attract and retain talent. We all thought people being at home during COVID was going to solve issues like poor sleep or they would eat healthier. However, we found the complete opposite to be true. If you prioritize your sleep, it will prioritize you. Thinking about that while returning to work, what does that new return to work look like? Providing people with that flexibility, but also supporting them with inside work and outside work is vital. I think giving people the opportunity to be flexible, whether it’s having nap rooms and meditation rooms at work or just shifting their hours, is really important.

What is the main challenge that HR professionals and other corporate leaders are facing today when it comes to empowering employees in this hybrid work model?

One is understanding the needs of their employees and what’s most important to them. Having the knowledge going in of what their employee base really wants and needs is important. It’s thinking about things from a preventative perspective that’s going to reduce costs and keep people healthier. We know our sleep is tied to higher cancer rates, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the exacerbation of chronic conditions like diabetes. Because sleep loss exacerbates all those things, benefits executives should think of a foundational solution, like respecting employee needs for good sleep, then providing them an easy solution to access good sleep. That is a way to think preventatively and really invest in the employees instead of just reacting to what they’re going through and what’s happening to them.

The other thing is flexibility: recognizing that certain benefits are going to work really well for employees and for others not so much. It’s about providing a variety of choices of benefits, programs, and solutions and then having the flexibility where employees can choose what works best for them and what meets their needs during every different time in their lives. It’s thinking about what choice that employer can make that will really help accelerate the efficacy, utilization, and the benefits of that cohort of benefits. We, of course, think of sleep as a character accelerator, because if you’re sleeping well, everything works better. It’s about flexibility and trying to identify those benefits that are going to make the rest of the benefits work better or harder for the employee.

How has COVID changed how people care for themselves?

COVID taught us a lot of things. It taught us that we can get really good care without necessarily having to go to the traditional model. At Nox, we believe that there’s a beautiful balance of getting face-to-face in a licensed brick-and-mortar space with a physician. But we also think that there’s a lot of opportunity in telemedicine to revolutionize the way that we gain access to healthcare. The advent and growth of telemedicine democratized healthcare and improved access for people. Healthcare is one of the last industries that has really put the consumer or patient at the center. Having telemedicine visits isn’t really a thing of the future; it’s a thing that’s happening. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that healthcare was able to accelerate leaps and bounds in leveraging technology and personal centricity to deliver an optimal experience.

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