Fostering Workplace Well-Being Amid Today’s Stressors

BY Wanly Chen | February 13, 2024

With 81 at-home baseball games a season, Atlanta Braves’ executive vice president DeRetta Rhodes knew her employees would need to catch a break during their shifts.

Introducing the wellness room: a room that mirrors a living room, equipped with a sofa, TV, and refrigerator for anybody who simply needs time to rest. “It’s about creating space for individuals who need to be able to take care of themselves,” Rhodes said. “In the wellness room, people have the opportunity to go and take a relaxing break if they need to.”

In a recent survey, 77% of employers saw an increase in mental health concerns, with 16% anticipating an increase in the future, indicating that health and wellness will continue to be a pressing issue for employers and employees in 2024.

Rhodes’ approach is one of many other health and wellness strategies employers are taking to meet their employee’s needs. At From Day One’s Atlanta conference, leaders joined moderator Kelly Yamanouchi, business reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss their health and wellness focal points for the new year.

Changing Traditional Financial Processes

Whether it’s due to the rising cost of living, inflation or the flexibility of remote work, more workers are working two jobs than ever before. Eight million Americans reported working more than two jobs this past January alone. For workers who take on a second job to make ends meet, timely pay matters, says Jon Lowe, chief people officer of financial services company DailyPay.

“Today, the number of people who have more than one job is quite high and that creates a very high degree of stress. If you were a bartender around Christmas, you probably made a killing. But come January, when you’re working your part-time job and bartending on the side, there’s this degree of very high variance that we start to see,” Lowe said.

With more than 60% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, employers need to rethink the two-week pay cycle, Lowe said.

“When we look at this idea of earning wage access, we need to be disrupting this idea that two weeks is the right cadence to be paid,” Lowe said. “Today, we’re able to offer access to tools that technology allows us to do, where it recognizes the evolution of what work looks like and allows that degree of flexibility to be able to go and tap into resources that otherwise would not be available.”

Building Wellness into the Culture

For Kimberly Rath, vice president of home builder company PulteGroup, wellness programs play a key role in building a healthy foundation for a company.

The full panel of speakers from left to right: Steven Lester of Mayo Clinic, Josh Crafford of Synchrony, DeRetta Rhodes of the Atlanta Braves, Kimberly Rath of PulteGroup, moderator Kelly Yamanouchi of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Jon Lowe of DailyPay (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)

“At PulteGroup, we build homes. If you think about how wellness comes to life for you, a lot of what you do or how you take care of your well-being is done in your home,” Rath said. “At work, it’s similar. Wellness is the health of an organization and how people show up for work. If we’re strategizing how we take care of our employees and build great places where people work, we're going to get so much more from our employees.”

From higher retention to increased productivity, employers can yield the benefits of happier and healthier employees. At healthcare clinic Mayo Clinic, professor of medicine and cardiologist, Steven Lester, M.D., discusses how supporting employees both in and off work can strengthen the overall performance of businesses.

“As an organization, we are optimizing our business performance by incorporating well-being into the design of work,” Lester said. “We have programs supporting the financial, physical and mental well-being of our employees at work and we are also thinking about how we identify and allow people to have purpose, meaning and belonging at work.”

Leading With Empathy

An overwhelming 90% of U.S. employees believe empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction, underlining the strong value employees place on leaders who lead with purpose and care.

One part of empathetic leadership is active listening which helps in engaging with employees, Lester said. “We want to be actively listening to the needs of individuals and give them that safe, comfortable opportunity to engage and be heard, and know that the organization is here to support them and their well-being,” Lester said.

With the emphasis on supporting employees, leaders will need to shift their priorities, Josh Crafford, vice president of technology learning and development, of financial services company Synchrony, said.

“We're teaching leaders to be coaches and mentors and not care as much about the numbers,” Crafford said. “The numbers will come but the happier, safer and the more secure and connected your workers feel, the more productive they will be.”

Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.


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There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to improving mental health. At From Day One’s Boston benefits conference, a panel of industry leaders shared how they promote mental well-being in their own lives.Jodi LaMae, benefits principal, global total rewards at biotech company Boston Scientific, enjoys hot yoga and walking her dogs. Navin Vettamvelil, senior director of total rewards at software company SoftServe, tries to swim four times a week, which he considers underwater meditation. Other responses included boxing, daily meditation, Muay Thai, and cooking.Mental health benefits are no longer a nice-to-have. Recent research shows that 77% of workers are very (36%) or somewhat (41%) satisfied with the support for mental health and well-being they receive from their employers. In a 2024 survey of 50 benefits leaders across the U.S., 94% of respondents say offering mental health benefits is “very important” to prospective employees—nearly triple the rate of benefits leaders who said this a year earlier.“It’s imperative that we let employees know that mental health is just as important as physical health. A lot of preventive medicine is covered, but many charge for therapists,” said Shawna Oliver, the AVP and head of global benefits and wellness at Manulife. “It’s important to signal to your employees ‘we want you to do this.’ The minute everyone starts talking about it, that’s when barriers start coming down.”Despite the strides made in the workplace, misconceptions and stigmas remain. “As a vendor who works for hundreds of employers, I found that there’s a recognition that mental health and substance abuse are highly stigmatized,” said Yusuf Sherwani, CEO and co-founder of substance abuse management clinic Pelago. “These are not things that people choose. 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A lot of people aren’t getting the right care, she says. “When I was in training, we created a revolving door between primary and specialized care,” she said. “When 60% of adults have a chronic condition, that does not work. At Parsley, we treat the root cause to see if we can slow down the revolving door.”She reports that 25% of their users have two or more conditions. “When we look at the mental health component, I want to ask why everyone is so anxious. It’s not all in our heads. We sit 11 hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle will cause anxiety, insomnia. We’re not a set of organs in jars.” Investing in mental health benefits has a significant impact on ROI.“A lot of times when we say we cover mental health care people look at me like it’s a money pit,” said Oliver. The reality is that it’s less than 1% of the budget, and on top of utilization going up, she reports that short-term disability dropped. “Benefits are not a silo. 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Angelica Frey | April 09, 2024

How to Make Reskilling Part of a Corporate Culture of Learning

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They found that meeting regularly, monthly rather than sporadic, and transparency work best. “We put on the screen every single month exactly what we’re tracking,” he said. “We were very open and transparent about the hurdles we’re facing, where we fell on our faces and where we succeeded.”That regular, open communication has helped alignment fall into place. “It’s not a two month process. Sometimes that takes place over a year. And so acknowledging that continuing to push forward even when it gets hard and discouraging, that’s what’s really going to make the biggest difference.”The company recognized that managers needed a way to recognize team members, so they instituted the ZAGG Champion Awards, a gift card as a way to say good job. The hope is that as the employee enjoys the gift card with a loved one, they can connect the dots that they earned this reward for working hard on a project. Hope for GrowthKnowing what’s possible can help employees find meaning in their everyday work. For panelist Tracie Kalmar, head of human resources at ApplicantPro, the hope of growing in the company needs to start at hiring. “My favorite demographic to hire right now are women returning to the workforce after a break to raise their family or to go to college,” she said. Since there is a gap in their resume, they worry. But Kalmar offers hope. During the interview process, she shares how others have started in one position, but then grown into another position. So even before day one, potential employees can see where they could go. She continues this regularly by emailing open opportunities weekly, plus sharing internal promotions. “I love talking about it. I can actually say I see it happening. And it’s real.” Seeing those doors open for others helps new employees have hope and find purpose in what they are doing.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | April 05, 2024