In this article, you will learn three strategies for encouraging employees to take advantage of company well-being programs:
emphasis on better communication about well-being programs and mental health
creating a culture of acceptance for poor well-being and seeking support
increasing accessibility to well-being programs
Part 3 – encouraging employees to make use of company well-being programs
Investing in well-being programs to support employee well-being is no guarantee of employee engagement. How can the organization encourage them to avail themselves of these opportunities so that both sides can benefit?
Expectations vs. reality
Research clearly shows that employees are looking to their employers for initiatives related to their well-being. Employers are increasing investing in well-being programs and developing strategies that include better and more comprehensive solutions, including ongoing access to valuable workshops and online training. But it turns out that in most organizations, employees do not participate in these programs, despite earlier declarations. Gartner reports that only 32% of employees take advantage of the physical health initiatives, and 23% of available emotional support.
Such statistics do not augur a bright future for well-being programs. Businesses need to see the effectiveness of their investments reflected in figures and profits. There is therefore a risk that investments in well-being may soon be on the back burner. Ragan’s Workplace Wellness Insider already reports that in December 2021, 63% of employees felt “strongly supported” by their employer, compared to 78% in December 2020. At the same time, employee mental health is deteriorating and stress related to work and external situations (economic crisis, armed conflicts) is increasing.
How can we escape this stalemate where employees do not participate in the solutions offered, despite their deteriorating well-being, leading to reduced commitment to work? The only solution is to increase the effectiveness of well-being programs and solutions throughout the entire organizational culture. How can this be done?
Encouraging employees to take advantage of company well-being programs
Taking care of employee health and consistent actions leading to the improvement of their well-being is and will be for the time being one of the leading trends in HR and L&D. Despite worrying statistics, companies need to find a way to provide effective support because the price for neglecting this area can be too high. Therefore, efforts to encourage employee participation need to be comprehensive and thoughtful. Carolina Valencia, Vice-President at Gartner HR, suggests adopting three strategies at once here.
1. Emphasis on better communication about well-being and mental health programs.
According to Gartner’s research despite the fact that 96% of companies implemented some sort of employer support program, only half of employees knew about them. Moreover, employees often deny, suppress or ignore their struggles with poor well-being and mental health. If they do not admit to themselves and loved ones that such problems exist, they will not do so in the workplace. So before HR can encourage people to attend stress management training, it needs to build communication around what is and is not ‘normal’ well-being, and only then inform them of the coping techniques that available in tough times. The starting point in developing an effective marketing and information campaign, however, must be management, including line managers, who are always the first link in the chain that connects employees to any top-down initiatives.
2. Creating a culture of acceptance for poor well-being and seeking support.
Leadership based on empathy and understanding of others is key to building trust for any initiatives proposed by organizations. Yet only 49% of employees feel that their superior understands the issues they face on a daily basis. Left alone with their fears and stress, they are more likely to look for another employer than alternative support within the company. However, when difficulties and ways of overcoming them are openly discussed in an organization, and an example is set from the top, a curtain of silence is lifted from mental health and coping challenges, giving permission to seek help.
3. Increasing access to well-being programs.
There are two issues at stake here. Firstly, the well-being programs offered must be physically accessible to all employees. Online options are of course the most widespread at the moment, but it is also important that it is easy to join a training course or a challenge, that it is possible to opt out and that it is attractive in terms of format (including microlearning).
Secondly, Gartner indicates that as many as 38% of employees have not taken part in any well-being training offered due to lack of time. So it is worth thinking about joint, team or even global initiatives, which will tear employees away from their desks at a given time. But above all, it is worth listening to the voice of overworked employees – why do they have no time, what burdens them most, how can we help them? This is, once again, a task for leaders who, in order to create a culture that supports employees, must also sometimes accept changes at the organizational level.
Companies which want to fully reap the benefits of well-being programs implemented by HR departments should also understand that the very availability of such proposals for employees, even if not fully utilized, has value. The very awareness that they are available and building communication which gives employees a clear signal that “we care about you” is often an effective motivator. It is worth taking advantage of it.