A globally informed approach to employee wellness can change company culture for the better
Employee wellness benefits and flexibility are some of the most sought-after perks by U.S. workers, but farther abroad, organizations in other countries are steps ahead of the U.S. in finding the right balance between benefits and bottom-line gains.
Here's what U.S. business leaders can learn about employee wellness and retention from their international counterparts:
Find the true meaning of "leave"
Weekends are not enough to provide the balance and rest well-rounded workers need. However, for decades fast-paced and unsustainable company cultures have been celebrated and slowly accepted as normal for many workers, particularly in the U.S.
Change is coming. Around the world, there are signs that more balanced company culture and adherence to using paid time off benefits does not limit success or mean that it is out of reach. International workers have time off traditions built into their social structure and culture – for example, many European countries take the summer months at a slower pace. French workers have mandatory five weeks of time off each year, which many take during July and August. Spain is well-known for its "siesta" tradition of midday rest, but this is practiced more widely around the world in the Mediterranean and hot climate countries like Greece, Israel, Nigeria, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Some international workplaces are thinking even farther beyond vacation time and experimenting with four-day workweeks – trials held in Iceland, for example, saw success and a measured improvement in employee satisfaction and mental health.
Change up your pay periods
The stress employees feel day-to-day may not just come from workplace issues caused on the job – external lifestyle factors contribute to overall burnout many people feel. Events like tax season and economic inflation are difficult to influence from an employers' perspective, but employers can help their workers get resources to help.
Companies in other countries have successfully implemented one strategy: changing up pay periods from biweekly or monthly pay to weekly pay. Companies in countries including India, Australia and New Zealand have instituted a weekly pay schedule to get workers their wages faster and help alleviate the stress of paying the bills every week. This cadence and the promise of financial security every week can make a massive difference in workers' overall wellbeing. Statistics show that alleviating financial stress can have a material impact on success and output on workers: one study found that financial stress costs companies roughly $4.7 billion per week of productivity loss.
Business leaders can also offer financial wellness tools to help educate and equip their employees with the proper knowledge for addressing financial stress. These resources can be incorporated into HR benefits platforms or become part of internal events for employees.
Family values translates to employee values
The recent global health crisis brought work into the home and simultaneously brought families closer to the workplace. One of the challenges facing employers during the "Great Resignation" is employees' willingness to find once again (and finance) childcare options to return to the office while knowing it's possible to be productive at home. Though these decisions are highly personal, employers can relieve some of the burden of choice on families through family-focused benefits.
Business leaders that put family first can effectively future-proof their workforce and increase their economic growth potential. According to a Gallup survey, the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary, so the cost of losing employees from inaction on providing family benefits can impact a business' bottom line.
This issue extends beyond companies in the U.S.– a UNICEF study of the world's wealthiest countries and family-friendly policies showed that world leaders like Switzerland, Canada, Japan and the U.K. ranked low alongside the U.S. Globally, there is work to be done. Countries that provide flexible, nationally instituted paid family leave and offer working parents early-age childcare options ranked highest within this study, including Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Germany and Denmark.
No matter the solution, business leaders need to create change at the deepest levels of a company's culture – and the change must come from leadership. Business leaders should empower employees to develop and choose time off plans that work best for them, and at the same time, cultivate a culture that encourages wellness and shares employees' values. Additional support and resources for stressors outside of the workplace ensure workers come ready to work and contribute their full effort in while on the job. With any solution, flexibility, choice and an attitude of encouragement are key.
This material is provided for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk. Please consult an independent legal or financial advisor for specific advice about your individual situation.