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Embed employee wellbeing into your company culture and enjoy big payoffs

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Jake Flaitz and Jan Bruce
Jake Flaitz is Director of Benefits and Wellbeing at Paychex and was named meQ Resilience Champion of the Year for his work stewarding and championing resilience. Jake has served as Director of Benefits and Wellbeing at Paychex since 2006, where he oversees the wellbeing of 16,000 employees. Jan Bruce is a disruptor, entrepreneur and force for growth. Recognizing the science of resilience as the new essential for human and organizational capability, Jan co-founded meQuilibrium (meQ) the No. 1 digital platform to deliver resilience at scale to workforces globally.

Paychex survey of small and medium-sized businesses revealed that more than 40% of employees surveyed experienced some combination of mental health, performance and stress issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. They reported problems such as depression, lack of motivation, reduced focus, insomnia and decreased teamwork. This demonstrates that employers must make a renewed commitment to employee wellbeing through new policies and, importantly, must look ahead to pinpoint problems, gain insights on improvements needed and maintain accountability around employee wellbeing.

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Paychex has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to embedding wellbeing into company culture. Right before the pandemic hit, the company began a pilot program with meQuilibrium (meQ), the wellbeing and performance platform that focuses on building workforce resilience. Having a resilient workforce was essential to managing through the pandemic, and in the last few years savvy employers have become increasingly aware of its essential protective benefit.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” At its crux, resilience is the ability to manage adversity, bounce back from setbacks and make the most of work and life. For example, employees may face difficult day-to-day situations like a tough interaction, sales call or a rejection. Resilience is all about how to reset in those moments to still be at your best in the next interaction, without getting waylaid and distracted.

Resilience isn’t just navigating day-to-day challenges on the job—it’s also the ability to put setbacks behind you and not take them home. Employees can’t have strong wellbeing if they don’t have the physical and emotional stamina it takes to do the job, as well as the resilience to manage adversity. You can’t have one without the other.

Why data is essential to a successful workforce wellbeing program

Science-based predictive analytics enables employers to proactively address and successfully identify employee wellbeing and behavioral health risks, and employ data to drive behavior change that helps reduce turnover, increase engagement, and improve workforce productivity and performance. With the help of meQ’s data and evidence-based analytics, for example, Paychex is able to track, almost in real-time, employee stress levels, depression and burnout risks, and the physical manifestations of stress. This allows Paychex to address risks through programmatic offerings and facilitated conversations designed to address challenging situations. Real-time data and analytics give organizations the ability to drive targeted behavior change across the organization, mitigate risk and positively impact employee wellbeing and performance—and ultimately improve business results.

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Meaningful data can have an even greater impact on employee engagement and turnover. At Paychex, the employees participating in meQ experience 18% less turnover than those who aren’t, and participants take fewer leaves of absences. Those are great indicators that the company is on the right track, and that supporting people can create a positive business impact.

While other information systems look at pay claims or examine wage data, they do not inform about the health of the population like a wellbeing solution can. For example, Paychex uses meQ workforce analytics heat maps to visually pinpoint workforce burnout risk, low motivation, negative outlook, self-doubt and work overload across various business segments and departments. This data enables HR leaders to detect and reduce risk by uncovering early warning signs within their population that can lead to employee burnout, turnover and absenteeism.

A focus on wellbeing is foundational

Early on, Paychex began to explore the interplay between emotional wellbeing and mental health, and physical health and job satisfaction. The pandemic served to accelerate these conversations because so many employees have been negatively impacted. Three years later, the effects of the pandemic and the associated stress, fear, anxiety and exhaustion are still being felt. Companies that want to get ahead of the curve when it comes to helping employees respond to life’s ups and downs are realizing that a focus on wellbeing is foundational to surviving and thriving, for both individuals and the organization.

Middle managers, in particular, are experiencing stress from all angles, including from their direct reports—and they’re also often on the firing lines with clients. When they have support for their wellbeing, that not only helps them personally, but by extension drives their work as managers and allows them to become true champions of workforce resilience.

If managed successfully, wellbeing benefits are a business imperative today. A holistic wellbeing program that addresses employers’ greatest risks amid rising rates of mental health challenges, burnout and turnover allows companies to help their people take care of themselves and their customers. An emotional wellbeing program and its associated data give organizations the opportunity to maximize their investment and provide stakeholders across senior leadership a deep understanding on where to invest in their people.

The goal of any wellbeing program is to get employees engaged in their own wellbeing so they can perform and live at their best. When wellbeing is embedded into the company culture, it results in improved coping skills—especially during stressful times—ensuring a higher-functioning organization. If your people can improve their coping skills and become more resilient, they become more engaged, more productive and are less likely to miss work or quit their jobs. The bottom line: Organizations with resilient workforces perform better—an investment in our employees’ wellbeing generates a positive return to the business, and we have the data to prove it.

Gain insights on wellbeing trends at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, May 3-5 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.