Expand employee wellness programs to cover your entire staff

It is the responsibility of senior management to create an environment where all employees and contractors feel comfortable discussing the challenges they face. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, more and more business leaders are realizing they need to be thoughtful and sincere when it comes to helping their employees manage stress and reduce burnout professional. According to the Wellable Labs annual report Employee Wellbeing Industry Trends Report90% of employers are increasing their investment in mental health programs, followed closely by stress management and resilience programs (76%) and mindfulness and meditation programs (71%).

The pandemic has radically and permanently transformed the global workforce, and business leaders need to address “workforce wellness” by extending what they offer their employees to their freelance contractors to maintain high levels of engagement and low turnover rates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs in January 2022 alone, many to work for themselves as independent contractors. They have become an integral part of the workforce, especially in the professional services industry, a broad category that includes creative agencies, IT services companies, management consulting firms, architecture and engineering and integrated services divisions of product companies.

Related: ‘Unprecedented’ Number of Americans Considering Self-Employment

It’s a trend that started before the pandemic hit in 2020 and has accelerated over the past year. Annual MBO partners state of independence reveals that the number of full-time and part-time self-employed increased by 34% in 2021 to 51.1 million, compared to 38.2 million in 2020.

This trend has triggered a break with traditional workforce management processes and signals the emergence of new workforce ecosystems that provide access to new talent and require a better understanding of how to operate. in today’s networked economy. Offering self-employed wellness programs is one way to attract top entrepreneurs and differentiate your brand.

A high rate of job satisfaction among the self-employed does not immunize them from the stresses of living in a time of recurring COVID-19 outbreaks, runaway inflation and global economic uncertainty. They are just as likely as their employed counterparts to experience a sense of burnout that can impact their productivity and ability to consistently produce quality work. As a result, it becomes virtually impossible for companies to maintain a reliable capacity of contract workers for short or long term projects.

It is the responsibility of senior management to create an environment where all employees and contractors feel comfortable discussing the challenges they face with their team leaders and each other. Equally important is creating opportunities for team members to connect informally to keep them engaged while working remotely.

Reimbursing people for gym memberships or yoga classes, providing in-person and virtual access to mental health professionals, and hosting fun group activities like a hiking club that promote fitness and socializing are some great ideas for promoting a corporate culture of well-being – but only if people use them.

Consider launching a consistent, company-wide marketing campaign that educates and encourages employees and contractors to use wellness resources, PTO flexibilities, and benefits such as subscription discounts at the gym. Also, make it clear to all senior managers and team leaders that they have a responsibility to encourage full-time and contract employees to take advantage of these resources. They should also schedule recurring one-on-one wellness meetings to discuss feelings of high stress, overwork, or underappreciation. Train managers on how to identify the subtle warning signs that an employee or entrepreneur is in crisis and how to express empathy for what they are going through.

People are often reluctant to communicate that there’s too much work on their plate, and working remotely as an employee or independent contractor can heighten fears of repercussions. An effective workforce wellness program teaches people how to use their time effectively and determine if they have time to take on another task or project.

When people know how to accept an assignment, they avoid putting unnecessary pressure on themselves. This means asking about the scope of the work, the client’s or manager’s expectations of the end result, the budget, and the timeline. The more clarity someone has about the parameters of a new assignment, the more likely they are to feel confident in accepting it or, more importantly, explaining why they can’t.

Of course, middle managers, vice presidents, and everyone else on your staff should feel comfortable discussing their feelings of high stress and overwork with their colleagues. Again, senior management needs to embed workforce wellbeing into the corporate culture. That means everyone, including the CEO, should participate in company-sponsored activities, take advantage of services like access to mental health counselors, and take time off work to recharge.

Just as important as taking an afternoon, a day or a few weeks off is how people actually spend that time. Remote work, even part-time, too often blurs the line between work time and personal time. The way you leave work on Friday and prepare for the week ahead on Sunday evening can be the difference between being able to relax and take time for activities that promote mental health and well-being or simply dreading the start of another crushing work week.

Unplugging on the weekend requires effective action planning. Create a Friday afternoon routine that helps you disconnect and encourage your co-workers to do the same. For example, send a note to your team members — including contractors — thanking them for the great job they’ve done over the past week. Remind them to log off over the weekend and encourage them to spend a few minutes on Sunday evening planning for the week ahead, perhaps following a process like time0blocking their calendars or simply create a list of their priorities. You’ll help them relax on the weekends and go to bed on Sunday night, ready for the week ahead. Tell them to close their email and Slack or Teams apps, including those on their phones, and then you do the same.

Extending wellness programs to contractors can present legal challenges in the United States, such as terms dictate when a contractor should be considered an employee who is entitled to full health benefits. It is important for employers to be aware of their status when adopting a more inclusive mindset.

One option to consider is to create an “entrepreneur resource guide” that provides information on wellness and training programs that entrepreneurs can take advantage of on a voluntary basis so that they are aware of the resources at their disposal. provision. Providing this information helps create a closer and hopefully longer-term relationship with entrepreneurs.

The need for independent contractors to prioritize their health and well-being is coming to the fore. Companies like jumper provide people who work for themselves with a wide range of resources and programs to help them adopt healthy lifestyle habits and cope with stress and anxiety. I expect more employers to make concerted efforts to do the same, alone or in partnership with a third party. We will see a major change in the way employers treat their contractors.

Integrating physical and mental wellbeing into the company ethos will help the leadership team’s focus on wellbeing ripple through the entire workforce ecosystem. ‘work. A workforce wellness program that addresses the physical, mental and emotional well-being of employees and contract workers will improve productivity and retention rates, as well as labor market recruitment efforts tight today.

Ray Grainger is executive chairman and co-founder of mavenlink.

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