Sometimes, Employee Wellness Programs can take advantage of “special
situations” that happen and which offer an excellent opportunity for staff
member education and support, at little or no expense to the employer. Not only
do these situations help staff members personally, but also they are an opportunity
for the employer to be seen in a positive light. For example:
A company had several staff members with cancer, as well as a number of staff
members with family members with cancer. Their HR staff had received numerous
questions about what to say to a coworker with cancer, as well as hearing about
how difficult it was for the caregivers to manage work and home demands. They
thought that it would be a great idea to initiate a lunchtime monthly “discussion/support
group” to talk about the struggles, frustrations, and fears that people
were facing. This activity was included under the umbrella of Employee Wellness
Programs that the company provided.
The group was facilitated by a rep from the Employee Assistance Program, but
it was not a therapy group, nor was it promoted as such. It was informal and
staff members came as they could fit it into their schedules.
Did it solve all their problems? Of course not, but it did give them a place
to vent, talk, and get some information and support. It was a powerful statement
from the employer saying, “We care about you and we’d like to help
you with this,” and the staff members were very grateful. Effective Employee
Wellness Programs clearly convey this type of message to their staff members.
Another employer had an staff member who was autistic and often exhibited some
odd or unusual behaviors. He had some significant difficulties and had to be
out of work for several months. As time came for him to return, coworkers became
anxious about what to expect.
The employer had someone come in to talk about autism and how best to deal
with a person with the disease. It was a general discussion, and there was no
discussion of the staff member’s personal information. However, coworkers
felt much more prepared to handle his return.
An staff member with epilepsy told her coworkers about her condition in case
she had a seizure. The employer then had someone from an epilepsy advocacy group
come in and educate staff members about the illness and what to do.
You may believe taking steps like this are not the responsibility of the employer,
that it is not your business. But physical and mental illnesses affect just
about everyone and are natural elements of Employee Wellness Programs.
Workers who are preoccupied and worried about someone having a seizure or catching
HIV from a coworker are not focused and productive. When you spend time informing
and supporting staff members, you not only have productive staff members, you
also have their respect.