The COVID-19 pandemic challenged our mental wellness in a myriad of ways. It also challenged employers to better support mental health at work. As a result, companies are embracing progressive new benefits supporting employee mental wellness.
These wellness practices change the game on when, where, and how team members work. Companies are using what they learned this past year, when those perimeters were dictated by the pandemic. While some companies have implemented firm post-COVID return to work plans, others are slowing the transition back to physical offices or experimenting with how to define a work week. They’re trying new programs for the well-being of their people.
Many of these initiatives launched in 2021, and they are already impacting individual corporate cultures, as well as changing the way we think about work at-large.
And, employees supported by their companies are expressing their thanks publicly and amplifying company values. Ultimately, the companies that best support their employees and guard against burnout are best positioned to keep those people in a global climate of turnover.
Here are some of the innovative ways companies are supporting employee mental wellness, with examples of employees sharing stories that show their appreciation, as well as the policy’s impact on them personally.
Rethinking the traditional work week
Swiggy, the leader in on-demand delivery of food, groceries, and more in India, is also becoming a leader in prioritizing employee mental health. They’ve rolled out a whole suite of services and initiatives in 2021 for team member wellness. Like many companies, they are experimenting with a four day work week, but what’s unusual is they are giving employees the option to pick which four days of the week they work.
We know from several major work studies published recently that employees want the freedom to choose above all. Whenever you can add freedom and flexibility of choice to policies, you’re scoring points with your workforce (and potential candidates).
As a result, lots of Swiggsters have shared their gratitude on social.
After experimenting with four day work weeks in the summer, Stories Inc. knows first hand that they can work. Service levels and productivity stayed the same, even with less time at work. Most importantly, we heard from our team members that this modification to the work week enhances their wellness.
Additionally, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and to thank the team for all their hard work during the pandemic and our economic recovery, Stories Inc. is closing the office the Thursday before Memorial Day to extend the long weekend.
Closing the office
The best way to know what programs and policies work best for your workforce is to ask them.
When IT marketplace platform Thumbtack surveyed its employees during the pandemic for mental wellness feedback, they expressed that it’s hard to truly unplug when everyone else is still working and that office closures work more effectively than floating days off.
To prevent employee burnout, Thumbtack closed the office for several days last summer. And this summer, they’re closing their offices for one week over the summer. Other companies like Bluecore and PerfectServ are doing the same.
The best way for team members to recharge is to know all their colleagues are off, too. If you think you’re missing something, or someone is waiting on you for something, you can’t totally disconnect.
Offering remote work options with employee choice
Airbnb has made it easy for people to work from anywhere, and they’re experiencing a boom in remotely-working consumers using their platform. Once the pandemic took hold, Airbnb closed its offices to protect employees’ physical health. Now, offices have reopened, but employees can choose to work remotely through the end of August 2021. When Airbnb made that call in August 2020 they set a cultural precedent — they were the largest tech company to extend the remote work option for the longest period.
Airbnb hasn’t officially released a formal remote or hybrid work policy for employees beyond August, but company leadership has expressed that their business and culture models are changing to support working from anywhere.
“My thoughts are, employees are in charge, not companies … if a company says ‘these are our rules,’ they’re not going to have the talent… I think what the market is saying, what people are saying, is they want to have more flexibility. [At Airbnb] there is no question that there’s going to be a lot more flexibility. We have not put out our go-forward policy for work from home, but I have told our employees, our new policies are absolutely going to involve a lot more flexibility. And I think for any company who says like we’re going back to the way things were… I think that’s just defying laws of human nature. I don’t think any of us are going exactly back to the way things were.”— Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO
Airbnb is far from alone in this thinking. PriceWaterhouseCooper chairman Kevin Ellis says he wants employees to have control of their schedules through flexible working “the norm rather than the exception…we want our people to feel trusted and empowered.” To that end, the global accountancy firm is allowing employees to work from home a few days a week… and start as early or as late as they like!
And, they’re closing offices early on summer Fridays.
Choose-your-own-adventure framework for mental wellness
Hubspot, famous for its progressive culture practices and policies, got creative for Mental Health Awareness Month 2021. They provided employees with a variety of mental wellness options with the expectation they would implement their favorite for the month. All involve taking time away from work to recharge and strengthen personal well-being.
Capture the stories
There’s definite mental health value in creating these initiatives supporting employee mental wellness. There’s employer branding and recruitment marketing power in the announcement. But don’t stop there. When you offer team members tangible, innovative and real mental health support, you’ll also have team members who want to share their stories. This not only further promotes your innovative policy over time, beyond the big splash, but candidates can see exactly how the program is improving the lives of its people.
Those are the stories that their colleagues want to hear as they recommit to your company post-pandemic, and they’re the stories candidates are looking for as they look for cultures that will support them.
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