Good health essentially begins at home, but workplace wellness initiatives can also contribute to overall healthier behavior.
A Gallup poll found that employees with high engagement and well-being scores:
- Missed 70 percent fewer workdays because of poor health
- Were 27 percent more likely to have “excellent” performance ratings
- Were 59 percent less likely to look elsewhere for a job within a 12-month period
Part one of this series, A Millennial’s Perspective on Retaining Young Professionals, provides an overview of generational differences. In my experience, young professionals place a particularly strong emphasis on their mental, social and emotional health.
Here are some suggestions for employers to help create an environment that is especially attractive to young professionals:
- Offer Decent Health Benefits
Many millennials have just started “adulting” and often can’t afford to pay for personal health insurance coverage. Providing employees with medical, dental, vision and other health benefits shows that you care. In a Fit Small Business survey, 34 percent of millennial employees chose health care as the most important benefit an employer can offer. Onsite services are another way to demonstrate commitment. At WorkCare, we often collaborate with companies that facilitate access to quality care by offering first aid, medical screening and health promotion programs.
- Support Mental Health Services
According to Mental Health America, depression in the U.S. is as costly as heart disease or AIDS, with more than $51 billion in annual losses from work absence and productivity lapses and $26 billion in direct treatment costs. Employers can provide support by looking beyond social stigma and educating employees about mental health-related signs, symptoms and treatment options. Employers who support mental health services report declines in accidents, injuries and job burnout rates. (Refer to Vitality Atlas, Vol. 3, No. 4)
- Provide Guilt-free Paid Time Off (PTO)
I once worked in an office job that allowed only one paid day off after working there for two years. I didn’t stay long. Employees who have a chance to earn a reasonable amount of PTO are less likely to feign illness or go job hunting. All employees deserve guilt-free PTO that allows them to recharge and return to work feeling refreshed.
- Invest in Career Development and Growth
The average tenure of a millennial employee is two years, Forbes magazine reports. The millennial mindset is not usually compatible with work that does not present an intellectual challenge. Young professionals appreciate opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge on the job. Asking about and responding to career goals is a good way to foster professional growth. Options include assigning mentors or giving employees the opportunity to obtain training or attend a conference in their field.
- Be Flexible
Flexible scheduling influences employees’ decisions about whether to take or leave a job, according to the Gallup poll. Most millennials care deeply about work-life balance. As feasible, try allowing employees to occasionally work from home, come in early or stay later, or extend their lunch break so they can visit the gym or take care of personal business. While this isn’t practical in some workplaces, many employers find even limited degrees of flexibility help improve morale and retention rates. Millennials are likely to show their appreciation with greater productivity and loyalty.
- Weed Out Unhappy Employees
Have you heard the joke about metaphorical zombies at work? No one is laughing. Employees who are unhappy at work can suck positive energy out of the workplace . Keep an eye out for these types of employees and intervene as necessary and appropriate. It’s likely they are infecting millennial workers who would otherwise be satisfied with their jobs.
- Say “Can you..?” instead of “I need you to…”
Millennials aren’t known to disrespect authority. On the other hand, they don’t respond well to demands. They value leadership and boundary-setting, but they also want to know why things are done a certain way. Millennials like to be brought into the conversation and decision-making process. In general, people respond better when they feel part of the team instead of just being told what to do.
- Show Appreciation and Give Constructive Feedback
Appreciation for a job well done will almost guarantee an employee will go above and beyond. All you have to do is say “thank you.” Recognition for accomplishments and annual reviews are welcome feedback. On the other hand, don’t hold back on constructive criticism when it’s needed. Be willing to coach. Waiting for an annual review to pour criticism on an employee who thinks he or she has been doing fine is demoralizing and unproductive.
- Bring Health and Wellness into the Workplace
At a former workplace, my employer served a lunch of high-calorie dishes at a Thanksgiving celebration. While the thought was appreciated, we were so exhausted after eating that nothing got done for the rest of the day. If you are going to reward employees with food, provide healthy options. Show you care by inviting volunteers to join cooking or weight-loss contests, a company softball team or charity walk. Free in-house flu shots, health screenings and subsidized gym memberships can help promote healthy lifestyles and reduce injury risk.
Investing in the millennial generation’s wellness and empowering employees to lead healthier lives can result in major positive outcomes. If you have suggestions on ways employers can improve the overall workplace health environment, please leave a comment below.
Alexis Lupo is Lead Proposal Writer and Marketing Associate at WorkCare.