Although I believe supporting the mental health and well-being of employees needs to be an all-year-round activity, Employee Well-Being Month – which takes place every June – is a great opportunity for improving workplace well-being by getting your teams active, engaged, and inspired.
Employee Well-Being Month was launched by Virgin Pulse in 2009 and has gone on to be embraced by a wide range of organizations.
The pandemic was of course a huge driver of decreasing employee well-being, with the American Psychological Association (APA) warning, “we are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”
Employee Well-Being Month 2022 comes after nearly two years of pandemic lockdown, but that has done little to curb the sense of uncertainty and turbulence in workplaces right now.
Throw into the mix other factors like the sense of unease generated by the global economic and political crises we are going through, and it’s clear that business leaders have a role to play in fostering better well-being.
Many businesses are leading the way in creating a work environment that puts people first, especially the health of their employees.
The great thing about initiatives like Employee Well-Being Month is it is a way to tap into a broader culture of mental health awareness. It’s a great way to kickstart a conversation about mental health amongst your employees, making them feel more comfortable and accepting of talking about it.
If you’re looking for inspiration you can look at news reports and social media content to get a peek at how other companies are getting engaged with wellness activities. However, not every well-being activity is valuable, and some initiatives can even be harmful, like putting emphasis on fostering cosmetic changes like weight loss – which can lead to accusations of body shaming and encouraging eating disorders – or using strict “wellness schedules” as a stick with which to beat ‘unproductive’ workers.
Fortunately, though, I’m here to help. In my work helping companies implement wellness programs, I’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t.
So let’s take a look at some powerful (and hopefully fun!) ideas to try out this Employee Well-Being Month.
Having an entire month to organize well-being activities gives you a decent stretch of time to try out new ideas, stimulate worker engagement, and shake things up a little. Try out some of the suggestions below for more inspiration.
You could kick off your Employee Well-Being Month with a team ‘lunch and learn’; a formal gathering over work-provided food (make sure it’s something tasty and healthy!) where you invite a subject matter expert to give a talk to inform or inspire.
Lunch and learns can be on any topic, but you could, for example, invite a wellness expert to give a talk about how to make positive changes in your life, how to improve your sleep quality, or how to be happier at work and in life.
It’s important that lunch and learns aren’t just another work meeting in disguise, and are genuinely geared to help your employees improve their well-being.
Many companies understand the importance of supporting the ongoing training and development of their employees, but this is often with a focus on improving work processes and increasing productivity.
However, there are real well-being benefits to be gained from encouraging staff to learn new skills or hobbies, regardless of their relevance to your company.
Learning new skills keeps our minds active, improves memory, and builds confidence – among many other benefits, including boosting overall well-being.
Some skills that can be excellent well-being boosters include:
Whatever skills you encourage your employees to learn, they should remain in the driving seat, and seek out interests that they’d like to have a go at. People should never be or feel forced into taking on additional duties outside of their job description. Learning new skills should be fun.
Whilst the popular idea that it takes 21 days to form a new habit is a bit of a myth (it can be anything from 18 days to three-quarters of a year according to research), a month is still a pretty good length of time for your employees to explore what making small-but-powerful changes to their lives – like practicing mindfulness 5 minutes a day, or replacing junk food with healthy snacks feels like.
Perhaps you could start each day with a guided meditation session led by a team member or a mindfulness facilitator, or you could offer a variety of interesting healthy food options to introduce your team to the joys of healthy eating – showcasing nutritious dishes from different national cuisines can be a way to keep this interesting.
Another way to encourage positive behaviors at work during Employee Well-Being Month is to host weekly sports events in your offices, host virtual or in-person mindfulness workshops, or take your team on a fun fitness team outing – this could be anything from hiking to dance classes.
Just remember, that not everyone will want to take part in these activities. Promoting them and encouraging staff to join is good, but avoid applying any pressure.
Greater well-being isn’t just achieved by making positive improvements to our own lives, it can also come from giving back to society by contributing to social and charitable causes.
Paid employee volunteer days, sometimes called Employee Volunteer Programs (EVPs), can give your staff what psychologists call a “helper’s high”, that positive emotional buzz we get when we work in selfless service to others. Studies have shown this well-being boost has real effects on our brain chemistry, strengthening the immune system and lowering stress hormone levels.
Alternatively, your workplace could sponsor a charitable organization for a month. You could hold fundraising activities in your office; this could feature anything from an office bake-off, charitable board game competition, dance competition, and all kinds of fun ideas.
If you’re not sure which causes to support, or activities to offer, simply ask your team for their input, it’s a great way to get them involved in your work's well-being initiatives.
A study by UKG’s Workforce Institute found that employees who feel listened to by their employers are happier, more productive, and have much higher retention rates. They found that 63% of workers felt their voice isn't being heard by managers or their employer, and are therefore “less likely to maximize their talents and experience at their workplace — and more likely to seek those opportunities elsewhere”.
Employee Well-Being Month is a great opportunity to engage in an employee listening exercise. This can take the form of anonymous surveys, one-on-one check-ins, or holding a workplace Town Hall Meeting on improving well-being in your workplace.
Meditation and mindfulness – these practices are all about redirecting our attention to stimuli that help us slow down, get distance from demanding thoughts, and reset our minds and bodies to be better able to deal with the challenges the world throws at us.
If you follow this blog you’ll have heard a lot about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices at work. Well, Employee Well-Being Month is a perfect opportunity to start bringing a touch of zen to your office suites. Mindfulness can easily be taught via in-person or virtual seminars or workshops, and meditation sessions can be a great way to guide your staff into a calmer, more reflective, and peaceful frame of mind.
Mindfulness and meditation don’t have to take up loads of time either, even 1-5 minute mindfulness breaks can help employees get perspective, break out of unhelpful habits, and become wiser, more thoughtful team members.
Employee Well-Being Month is an opportunity for your workplace to get the benefits that come from improving the well-being of your staff. It’s a great launchpad for creating happier, healthier, more engaged, and more productive employees, and it can help your leadership teams be better leaders and role models.
There’s no better way to get your Employee Well-Being Month off to an impactful start than by inviting a wellness professional to meet with your teams and set the keynote for a month of emotional development and personal and professional growth that will bring benefits for months and years to come.
It’s easy to book me to meet with your teams, and I’m always happy to hear from you – so get in touch today to kickstart your journey to better workplace well-being.