It’s no newsflash for HR and benefits professionals that reducing the negative effects of stress is a challenge, especially for employers looking to build a better experience for employees with a higher-performing workforce.
While companies with effective well-being strategies have made meaningful strides in reducing behavioral and biometric risks — eating habits, physical activity, as well as blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI — fostering emotional well-being in general, and reducing stress in particular, remains stubbornly challenging for employers.
That’s because stress is different. It’s not a behavior. It’s a complex interaction between our environments, our minds and our bodies.
It turns out the effects of stress on health have a lot to do with an employee’s mindset. In other words, how we mentally frame our body’s reaction to stress matters. In fact, “the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress,” says health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. “When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”
So, what can you as an employer do to turn the tide on stress, and build better resilience in your workforce? Here are five tips to build greater resilience.
1. Add people to your digital health strategy. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to use great digital apps that teach mindfulness and resilience skills. However, be sure to provide live connection to an expert as an option. Digital and live together create a force multiplier. At RedBrick Health, we provide both one-time health navigation sessions, as well as ongoing health and life coaching to our employees, alongside a rich array of digital health engagement options.
2. Model mindfulness before meetings. We start important meetings with short, simple mindfulness exercises. Phones down, computers closed. These short, focused experiences calm scattered minds and bring scattered energy together, creating a sense of connectedness to each other and to our shared purpose. Mindfulness breaks can be as simple as a breathing exercise, a stretch break, or an inspiring success story.
3. Leverage your corporate social responsibility initiative. Helping others represents a powerful recipe for resilience. As part of our employee well-being initiative, we promote a wide array of options to give back: food banks, community kitchens, holiday adopt-a-family team gift wrapping and more. And we reinforce these directly as integrated elements of our employee well-being program.
4. Create opportunities to make gratitude a habit. Make it a cultural norm to build teamwork and solve hard problems together. Create venues for recognition that your people find meaningful. We do this in multiple ways, including posting walls where people can leave thankful notes for each other (sort of an old-school social media post).
5. Reduce the barriers to accessing the benefits you already have. You may or may not have health and life coaches, but you likely have an employee assistance program. And you may even have a telemedicine benefit that includes tele-therapy. Showcase these front-and-center within your well-being platform or app. We customize our own employees’ digital well-being platform experience to promote these benefits and use digital marketing messages to both encourage and de-stigmatize their use.
Bottom line: The growing load that life places on our employees and ourselves isn’t likely to let up any time soon. By altering your playbook in specific ways that recognize the key differences between stress and other behavioral risk factors you will become more effective in your efforts to create a stress resilient — and happier — workforce.
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