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Preventing the Winter Blues: Why You Should Check in on Wellness

Preventing the Winter Blues: Why You Should Check in on Wellness
Posted on Monday, September 23, 2019 by Rae Shanahan
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Fall is in the air, and with it, the ways we work and spend our down time are changing.

wellness-benefits-in-fallThe respite of summer vacation is giving way to more standardized routines and a recommitment to work, school and extracurricular activities (for adults and children alike!). 

As we fall back into the structures that keep our lives moving forward, autumn can be a great time for seasonal housecleaning. For HR departments, this can mean refocusing on company priorities and workplace culture before Annual Enrollment becomes the focus for the remainder of the year. But where can an empathetic HR leader direct those efforts to have the most impact?

It’s worth starting with an acknowledgment that fall isn’t always as sweet as apple cider and pumpkin pie—for many Americans, autumn marks a shift into a more challenging time of the year. Nearly half a million people in the United States suffer from winter Seasonable Affective Disorder (SAD), a period of depression that usually starts in fall and is marked by heightened sadness, anxiety and irritability. SAD goes beyond the standard cold-weather feeling of being cooped up inside for too long—it can be a debilitating condition that leads to social isolation, restlessness and trouble with focus.

What an unfortunate coincidence, then, that just when folks may be impacted by the onset of annual SAD, businesses are feeling the pressure of the impending fourth quarter. Annual budgets and yearly reporting will soon be due, and the next year’s marketing plan needs to be prepared. On top of this pressure, many industries have a regular uptick of activity come fall.

This approaching stress of the season underlines the importance of revisiting policies to keep employees mentally healthy, socially engaged and productive at work. We know from Businessolver’s 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study that benefits are still one of the top ways to keep employees satisfied and healthy in the workplace. This fall, revisiting your company’s wellness benefits in particular will build a solid foundation for your employees to maintain their health and happiness. Here’s where to start:

  • Gym memberships. It’s been proven that exercise can reduce anxiety and depression and lead to improvements in mood. Yet for many employees, gym memberships can be cost prohibitive and they may find it difficult to fit gym visits into busy schedules. Employer sponsorships of gym memberships, in which employees pay a reduced fee or are reimbursed for their gym payments, can help incentivize this crucial element of healthy living.
  • Mental health coverage. Medical benefits that provide coverage for talk therapy and other healthy tools lead to more connected workplaces that de-stigmatize mental health issues, particularly when 80% of employees, HR professionals and CEOs say companies view those with a mental health issue as a burden. Consider an EAP option in your medical benefits or ensure your HR staff is trained to find appropriate assistance should employees disclose a mental health issue.
  • Healthy meals. Companies don’t need to break the bank to have an impact on helping their employees make healthy choices. Providing simple snack offerings like fruits and vegetables can help reduce the chance that employees reach for less-healthy options.
  • Flex Hours. As the days become shorter, your employees may experience shifts in their daily wake-up times and even energy levels. Allowing your employees to set their own start and stop times each day—within reason of course—gives them power to create schedules that work best for their bodies. Ultimately, employers benefit when their employees have increased focus and come to work at their very best.

The arrival of fall may mean busier schedules, but with the help of HR leadership, it doesn’t need to be met with trepidation. With deliberate planning and empathetic programming, employers have tools at their disposal to empower employees to build healthy habits that support their well-being until the temperature starts rising next spring.

As the workplace continues to change, so do your options for offering benefits. Find out more about the latest option below. 

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