6 Surprising Ways Your Boss Can Support Your Health and Wellness
By Jennifer Owens
Late nights, never-ending emails, back-to-back conference calls, looming deadlines. Your job is stressing you out and it's affecting your wellness.
That's likely no surprise to you, but here's what might be: There are simple things your employer could be doing today to support your mental and physical health.
But why would they want to?
Ask a human resources leader and she'll tell you that employee burnout is a chief concern of hers, fueled by the always-on culture of work today. Study after study finds that high stress can contribute to everything high absenteeism and increased health insurance rates to low morale and employee loyalty.
Believe me when I say, it's a worry.
Of course, we've all seen those snazzy high-tech offices, complete with onsite gyms, treadmill desks and nap rooms. At Google, you can even earn points toward an at-work massage.
But as great as those benefits might be, there are six simple ways your employer can impact your wellness for the better right now. Here's how.
Stop late-night emails. Remember the good ol' days when mail arrived only once? Today, it arrives continuously as email, demanding your attention or at least breaking your concentration. In 2012, Volkswagen made headlines when it shut down it email servers after business hours to certain groups of employees. Since then, other employers have followed with similar email policies, stressing the need for employees to find down time. (If there's an urgent issue, you can always call or text.) Try it yourself by using plug-ins like Boomerang, which allow you to pause your in-box as well as schedule emails to send only during business hours.
Encourage (and track) use of sick days. For those with access to them, telecommuting and flexible work can be a godsend, but can also lead to a decline in sick day usage—as in time you actually take off work to recover from illness. A LinkedIn survey found, for example, that employees took an average of 2.5 sick days in 2018 (and I suspect many of us were still checking emails and texts during that time). By tracking sick day use, employers can see whether employees are actually putting their policies to use. Encourage your team to get the rest they need before they return to the productive work you want.
Lead by example. Earned vacation policies are not enough if your employees don't see their managers taking advantage of them. Indeed, too many Americans leave paid time off on the books, believing we just can't get away. Model the behavior you wish for your employees, whether it's working out, taking a quiet day away or encouraging "walking meetings" that get people moving. If you do it, so will they.
Encourage calendar (and time) management. Here's a simple rule to consider: No more back-to-back meetings. Just because a slot is open on your calendar, doesn't mean it needs to be filled. Stacking meetings one on top of each other means you and your employees have no time to prepare, pivot or produce. Instead, overbooked employees will (rightfully) try to multitask during their meetings, just to keep up with their overpacked schedule. Set fewer meetings and make them count.
Don't bother us on Monday morning. One of my favorite time management tips comes from productivity expert Laura Vanderkam in her book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. Vanderkam suggests setting aside time at the beginning of the week to work on long-term projects and big ideas rather than waiting until Friday, which tends to become everyone's catch-up day.
Ask about our wellness as well as our deadlines. While wellness should be baked into your company's ongoing employee engagement surveys, here's an even easier way to underscore its importance: Ask how your team is feeling, how they are supporting their wellness today and, even, how the company might serve their health goals. You might be surprised to find that simple changes—say, like starting the workday 30 minutes later to allow time for an exercise class—can go a long way in putting wellness back on someone's to-do list.
Wellness doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing affair. Instead, make it a habit that is easy to keep and your company will reap the benefits of increased productivity, higher morale and better engagement.
Please join me on our HealthiHer Facebook page to share how you're pulling wellness to work at work—and taking time for yourself to be #BeHealthiHer.
Because, as always, we're stronger together.
Jennifer Owens is senior vice president of digital strategy for HealthyWomen. Previously, she launched Spring.St, served as editorial director of WorkingMother.com and founded the Working Mother Research Institute, where she published more than a dozen studies on the intersection of gender and work and led the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, among other initiatives.