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HR guide: Biggest employee wellness trends for 2021

HR guide: Biggest employee wellness trends for 2021

With the shift to remote working and a pandemic on hand, more leaders Priya Sunil spoke to are focusing on mental, physical and financial wellbeing in 2021, along with creating a safe remote work environment.

The shift to work-from-home arrangements, and cost-saving measures in 2020 has brought with it challenges for employees – be it lesser opportunities to keep physically fit outdoors, adjusting their financial priorities, the lack of socialisation with friends/colleagues, and more. As a result, not only has physical wellness become a matter of concern, even financial and mental wellness are being taken more seriously than ever before.

Come 2021, employers aren’t simply sitting back and watch their workforce work on these concerns – instead, the most progressive ones are already taking action and charting out their key strategies and investments for the year ahead.

Thus, in this story, Human Resources Online reached out to leaders from Dell Technologies, Eaton East Asia and more, to find out what they are looking to add to their 2021 employee wellness strategy, as well as what they foresee in the space moving forward. Excerpts below.

Mental, physical, financial health to be a top priority

Samprita Majumder, Consultant, Benefits, Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell Technologies

We will continue to deepen support for the wellbeing of our team members, empowering them with the ability and flexibility to choose the work style that best fits them.

That said, we are aware that issues related to burnout can occur. At Dell Technologies, the mental health of our team members is a priority. We continue to identify tools and resources while leveraging our long-standing expertise in remote working to ensure that team members have continual access to assistance and support.

For instance, all team members can find the necessary tools and resources to support their mental, physical and financial wellness within our Digital Wellness Platform.

We also continue to offer leadership training programmes to help our leaders prioritise transparency, set performance expectations and ensure that team members feel connected and included as we continue to adapt to the new realities of the workplace.

Nicole Schwerdtfeger, Human Resources Manager of AdNovum Singapore

Our people have always been our utmost priority and this will continue in 2021. We will be prioritising (i) healthy work-life balance, (ii) remote employee wellbeing activities and (iii) giving our employees a voice as part of our workplace wellness programmes for 2021.

While our teammates are working from home, we aim to avoid burnout by ensuring that overtime hours are compensated and their entitled unused leave are consumed in the year.

Remote team-building activities and exercises will be continued regularly next year as we continue to work from home partially and have less social interaction. AdNovum has a global and local event committee in charge of planning remote team events and to also connect teammates from all offices.

Regular survey sessions are conducted bi-annually to hear from our teammates. We had two surveys done in the COVID-19 period to understand the employee experience and requirements during the pandemic. Such engagement with the teammates will be continued and increased in the upcoming year as we continue to navigate through the unknowns.

Cloris Gu, HR Director, Eaton East Asia

Key areas of focus:

Mental health: All employees must feel supported and have a sense of connection even when remote working. We’ve been implementing team bonding initiatives to keep employees engaged, and will continue to do so given that remote working will remain the norm in the near future.

D&I: We hope to be a company where all employees are able to freely contribute and be empowered. Our latest biennial global employee engagement survey saw that 81% of employees were proud to work at Eaton and have a sense of accomplishment in their work demonstrating the value of an inclusive workforce.

Through ongoing programmes such as Women Adding Value at Eaton (WAVE) and inclusion employee resource groups (iERGs), we want to create safe spaces for fresh ideas, innovative approaches and best practices to thrive.

Safe working environments: Even with a vaccine in sight, we want to ensure that employees, especially those that continue to work in the field are well-protected. We will continue to monitor the situation in each country and align our practices with the latest guidelines.

June Chui, HR Director, Asia Pacific & Japan, Pure Storage

The top three priorities for Pure Storage are employee wellness, both physical and mental; providing a safe remote work environment; and creating a differentiated approach to cater to the diversity of our employee base.

Prior to the global pandemic, we had already put in place an online wellness programme on Grokker, that provides our employees with a range of online classes covering activities such as physical exercises, meditation and healthy cooking. We also provide our employees with access to LinkedIn Learning for work-related skills training.

When the pandemic hit us, while a lot of tech companies had chosen to simply close their offices until the middle of 2021 in most cases, Pure put in place very deliberate safety measures to re-open our offices in places where we were allowed to.

We acknowledged that not all employees have a home environment that is conducive to work and required an alternate workspace outside their home to maintain productivity and mental wellbeing.

Terry Smagh, SVP & GM, Asia Pacific & Japan, BlackLine

Key areas of focus:

Staying connected with co-workers: It’s critical for us to stay connected as remote working or a hybrid approach will still be the default working arrangement. We’ve introduced virtual coffee chats and themed lunches, happy hour trivia and drinks, and will look at more initiatives to help employees have fun even at work.

Employee assistance: We want employees to have happier and more productive personal and professional lives. This includes helping out with their non-working needs too. Employees can tap on our Employee Assistance Program to connect with counsellors who’d be able to help them in areas such as financial services or legal-related assistance. They’re also able to use resources such as tips on how to adapt to WFH with young children via our BlackLine Community Help Network.

Employees are also able to volunteer for the network to help other colleagues cope with the pandemic.

Telehealth: Employees can use our telehealth services to access medical care and resources for mental wellbeing via virtual consultations.

Sajjad Parmar, Head of Reward APAC, eBay

Views by Sajjad Parmar are from a generic viewpoint and are not representative of eBay.

Companies in 2020 already had to deal with emotional health challenges and this will continue into 2021. There are issues pertaining to the pandemic and how employees are coping with it in many countries months at a time. I also believe, we are coming to a tipping point around burnout of working from home with no flexibility. Recent employees surveys are pointing to longer working hours, reduced face to face engagement and increased isolation. Companies have to continue to support employees from a multi-dimensional emotional health perspective.

Organisations will need to start educating their employees around financial wellness and its impact on overall wellbeing.

Topics such as budgeting, emergency funds, short-term savings and long-term savings have all become very relevant and must be looked at.

Family/community wellness programmes that help manage challenges at home will become important. With work-from-home becoming a norm, ensuring employees integrate well into this new structure and manage their families equally well will become important.

Shailesh Singh, Director & Chief People Officer, Max Life Insurance

The Top elements that Max Life will prioritise for the coming year to enhance its workplace wellness experience will include the following:

  • Ensuring physical comfort and safety at workplace, guidelines of which are already being followed across all Max Life offices;
  • Building adept workplace design which helps ensure social distancing and monitoring through digital tools;
  • Remote access from home through collaboration tools; and
  • Focus on stress management and drive the employee assistance programme including WebEx sessions conducted by leading consultants, and offering mental and emotional wellbeing through Dr. Insta.

The top employee wellness trends leaders foresee in 2021 and beyond

Samprita Majumder, Consultant, Benefits, Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell Technologies

The pandemic has magnified issues related to overall employee wellbeing, as the boundaries between work and personal commitments continue to blur with remote work here to stay. These are important issues that must be addressed when supporting a remote workforce. We foresee that more organisations will either continue or start planning and deploying the necessary tools that their teams need for optimal security, collaboration and productivity. Providing meaningful support to address mental health through innovative resources such as meQuilibrium, a digital coaching platform, and Enrich, a financial wellness education platform, or improved access to care will be critical.

Dell Technologies continues to see our unique decade-long flexible culture, coupled with the right technology infrastructure, as enablers to unleash innovation and fulfill work and personal priorities for our people.

Nicole Schwerdtfeger, Human Resources Manager, AdNovum Singapore

Working from home has always been an entitlement for employees of AdNovum, thus the transition during COVID-19 was a rather smooth one. The #1 trend that will define employee wellness in 2021 and beyond is the shift for many companies to permanently extend the flexible work-from-home arrangement. It is likely that remote work is here is stay for many companies, even as companies in some countries have reopened and employees are now gradually returning back to offices.

The entire workplace and employee wellbeing should therefore be largely focused on having a robust virtual wellness programme, that can cater to a remote workforce. Companies will have to examine their critical competencies required to digitally collaborate and connect. This includes virtual learning and development tools while staying virtually engaged with employees.

Cloris Gu, HR Director, Eaton East Asia

Mental health has been highly discussed in 2020 and is set to be a key emphasis next year too. Around a third of workers in Asia-Pacific were reported to be facing an increasing rate of burnout this year due to blurred lines between their professional and personal lives, and much more needs to be done to address this often-overlooked issue.

COVID-19 will continue to pose new challenges for businesses and HR teams will need to step-up and become strategic facilitators, helping both the business and its workforce to manage these disruptions safely. To do this, we will continue to collaborate across teams and countries to understand the various local challenges, while working with business leaders to ensure that the necessary tools and resources are deployed to empower employees and help them navigate the ongoing uncertainty.

June Chui, HR Director, Asia Pacific & Japan, Pure Storage

We feel strongly that the #1 trend will be differentiation. Wellness means different things to different people and our approach has to be broader than ever before. Remote working environments will vary from person to person. For example, some employees have very young children, some are extroverted and struggle more with the isolation of a home office. We've seen fatigue setting in with online meetings as well and different people deal with this in different ways. So we definitely need to have an extremely broad approach towards supporting the diversity in the workforce.

Terry Smagh, SVP & GM, Asia Pacific & Japan, BlackLine

Mass remote working has allowed more flexibility in how we work but can also cause burnout due to reasons such as being unable to disconnect. Around 60% of respondents in Mercer’s Healthy Minds at Work Assessment reported not knowing how to pace their workloads. Many workplaces will likely implement or expand on initiatives to ensure their employees’ mental wellbeing are taken care of, especially with more conversations around this matter. This can include working with external parties to offer counselling support, meditation, group exercises or even welfare packs to let employees know they are appreciated.

This applies for BlackLine too. I work closely with the management team to ensure our employees are truly enjoying their working experience. We’re actively exploring other initiatives to build on our current programs, so employees can enjoy a more holistic pool of resources that further support their wellbeing.

Sajjad Parmar, Head of Reward APAC, eBay

Views by Sajjad Parmar are from a generic viewpoint and are not representative of eBay.

It is that employee wellness is not a single dimensional issue. Wellness has multiple pillars and each as important as the other. Having financial worry will cause emotional stress. Family wellness will impact your engagement and productivity. Physical health obviously is important but cannot be looked in isolation. Holistic wellness in my view needs to take centre stage and each elements needs to be considered and looked at. We may not be able to solve all problems but even if we can provide an avenue for employees on these important pillars we end up in decent place.

Erika Zauner, CEO, HealthKick

Since the majority of employees are still working from home, HR teams must provide resources that will help their staff maintain a better balance and support total wellbeing – mental, physical, social and financial. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of providing a wide range of offerings to meet the unique wellbeing needs and the flexibility of each employees’ lifestyles. Comprehensive wellness programmes not only result in higher employee engagement rates by 12%, but also help foster a positive company culture where individuals feel their employer understands them.

Many workers are also battling additional stressors, such managing childcare or finding new ways to stay active and socially connected, making it challenging to prioritise wellness. Health and wellness services provide employees the tools to avoid burnout and secure a healthy work-life balance, allowing them to use livestream fitness classes, meal kit services, or mindfulness apps, when it works best for them.

Shailesh Singh, Director & Chief People Officer, Max Life Insurance

Remote work with a focus on flexible work schedules will be one of the biggest trends of 2021. As we enter the ‘new normal’, centralised communication driven via collaborative digital tools will hold the centre stage. Emphasising on pertinent work-life balance, this trend is expected to enhance productivity and ensure higher customer satisfaction. 


Lead photo / 123RF

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