Employee Health and Wellness: Tips for Targeting the Winter Blues at Work

by Laurie Ruettimann | Posted | Industry Buzz

Employee Health and Wellness: Tips for Targeting the Winter Blues at Work

Now is the winter of our discontent.

This winter North America was besieged by an outbreak of the flu virus and the dreaded polar vortex. In Western Europe, heavy winds and record rainfall created adverse conditions throughout the continent. And a nefarious winter fog engulfed our friends and colleagues in Northern India.

Plain and simple, our global weather stinks. Bring on the sunshine and the tropical drinks!

Unfortunately, HR leaders around the world have a serious job to do. They are tasked with improving worker productivity, lowering exposure to rising healthcare costs, and creating a healthy and more engaged workplace, while simultaneously battling head colds themselves.

Good luck with winter, everyone. You can catch me by the pool.

Strategic human capital professionals are hearty folks, though. They know that employee health and wellness matters to the “whole employee” as well as the bottom-line, too. That’s why, in concept, group HR directors around the world are chomping at the bit to create a culture of wellness that includes addressing health-related issues that accompany the winter weather doldrums.

But nobody knows how to do it.

Even in the best of circumstances, wellness can be a squeamish subject. Most talent acquisition professionals would rather discuss strategy issues in the boardroom than hand-washing tips for the bathroom; however, hand-washing is correlated to higher levels of employee engagement at healthcare facilities.

And while many people have read about norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships, there are plenty of HR professionals who can attest to the fact that stomach viruses can spread faster than gossip at work, decimating employee productivity and wiping out janitorial budgets.

I also know many human capital leaders who are concerned about seasonal affective disorder and the toll it can take on otherwise successful employees but don’t know what to do about it. Seasonal depression is a serious issue and can create potential anomalies on employee engagement surveys, too.

Technology cures that can foster employee health and wellness

Thankfully, emerging cloud-based solutions and tech devices make it easier than ever for HR and recruiting leaders to stay on top of wellness trends while recovering from the latest blast of arctic air.

  • The International Consumer Electronic Show featured a number of new wearable tech devices that blow your old pedometer out of the water. Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike have cool watches, apps and community forums where local HR generalists and employees can create grassroots fitness communities and challenge one another to meet nutrition, fitness and even sleep goals.
  • HR professionals at companies such as Apple, General Mills and Google are incorporating meditation and mindfulness into daily operating procedures. Inexpensive and accessible apps such as Buddhify and Headspace are being used to combat seasonal affective disorder and encourage employees to achieve a sense of calm and peace during dreary winter months.
  • Global HR professionals can monitor widespread flu outbreaks with Google Global Flu Trends. This tool uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity, which correlates to documented cases of flu activity. This is a great website to use when planning corporate travel, board meetings, or executive retreats.

I like to think that progressive human capital leaders can apply a little common sense to employee health and wellness, too. For example, it’s often a red flag when a candidate asks to reschedule an interview. During a seasonal outbreak of influenza, though, it can be a blessing.

When someone is sick, recruiters can think creatively, assume good intent, and suggest alternative solutions such as Skype and FaceTime to keep the hiring process moving in a timely manner.

So take heart, my good friends! If you blend a sensible approach to wellness with a healthy dose of technology and hand washing, we might just make it to springtime.

Maybe I’ll see you by the water in Turks and Caicos. 

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