Five HR trends for all-round employee health

An engaged employee is healthy in both body and mind. What changes can 2016 expect in this area and how can HR get on board?

While wellbeing initiatives are effective ways to build a fully engaged workplace, they don’t go all the way. In fact, it is better to also cultivate a healthy emotional culture at work, Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, wrote on Forbes.
“Physical well-being cannot be the sole priority anymore, because people bring their entire selves to work, emotions and all,” she said. “Care that addresses both mind and body is crucial. Optimised workforces aren’t merely healthy. They’re also whole and fully engaged in their mission.”
Bruce listed five trends she sees for 2016 that will push towards a more holistic workplace culture.
Building resilience to stress
“Remedies and interventions like deep breathing tackle end-stage manifestations of stress. They manage symptoms, but they can’t get at the inner cause,” Bruce said. “It’s a false bargain. The true antidote to stress … is resilience.”
To help with this, HR can bring in cognitive behavioural therapy to teach staff how to manage their thoughts and actions when setbacks and adverse conditions arise.
“Think about the last time you were stressed. You were late, maybe stuck in traffic. Did your thoughts spiral toward catastrophe?” she asked. “Or did you take control of the situation by making a phone call, sending a text, making provisions for your tardiness?
A compass to personalised work culture
Instead of creating a map which tells employees what is being offered in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, Bruce says that more employers are moving towards a ‘compass’ based approach, letting staff chart the course themselves.
“Right now, what’s ‘in’ for workplace health is an individualised, compass-model culture of choice,” she said. “Everyday empowerment is more important than strict guidelines.”
When staff members are allowed to make their own decisions, they will become more invested in the outcomes gained. By finding meaning and significance at a firm, employees are more than three times as likely to stay there, Bruce added.
Thriving instead of coping
“It’s not enough to just get by, to banish the fever or the sniffles and groggily return to your desk,” Bruce wrote. “This year, it’s about more than simply healing and regaining a delicate baseline.”
HR’s focus should be on optimising their employees in a holistic manner including happiness, productivity and health, she added.
With thriving as the new goal, Bruce said that employees were more likely to stay with a firm. This can be through small actions such as being encouraged to take regular breaks – improvements which aim at boosting mental and physical health as well.
Awareness over knowledge
While quantitative values such as output and productivity will always be important, businesses have a new shift towards more qualitative characteristics, Bruce said.
“There’s new importance placed on values-based leadership, personal performance, and the capacity for collaboration. Watch for values to become a litmus test for hiring and rewarding people, as opposed to pure technical strength.”
Thinking of balance as a verb
While work/life balance isn’t anything new, Bruce says that many businesses are changing the way they think of the word.
“Balance is not a noun. It’s a verb. It’s an active, ongoing state,” she said. “People so often strive for balance – and strive, and strive, and strive some more. But it’s not an end goal.”
Now, HR is realising that balance is more a way of being rather than an end state. Instead of questing for balance, employees should be encouraged to act in a balanced manner every single day.

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