Employee Well-Being and the Rise of the Chief Wellness Officer

Raise your hand if you were offered (or offered) a virtual yoga class during the pandemic.

Chances are, there are a lot of hands raised. While yoga has extensive benefits in both stress management and physical health, it is less impactful when not combined with a more holistic approach to employee well-being. The good news is organizational leaders are taking notice.

In fact, 21 percent of employers offer wellness programs (e.g., gym reimbursement, yoga classes, nutrition advice) according to an April 2021 survey conducted by isolved.

While more common in health-related organizations wanting to prevent employee burnout and improve patient experience, companies across industries are seeing the value in a position dedicated to employee wellbeing. In this first article, we’ll look to why this role is becoming increasingly popular. In the second article, we’ll address what considerations to make if hiring for a dedicated wellness position.

Employee Experience as a Business Priority

According to isolved’s recent report, 92 percent of HR leaders said that employee experience is a top priority for them in 2021. Why? As the pandemic changed working norms, HR leaders are increasingly worried about remote work environments, stressed and overworked employees, and adverse or destructive employee behaviors.

Read More: How to Use Payroll Software for Simplified HR Practices

When considering where wellness fits into employee experience, HR leaders must consider how the term is categorized at work. Wellness can take many forms but, generally, it’s agreed that workplace wellness considers six key dimensions: physical, emotional, financial, social, occupational, and purpose.

Wellness as a Cross-Functional Initiative

As the workplace continues to change and evolve, prioritizing employee wellbeing is a must. This is why wellness has gotten the attention of nearly every department with grassroots efforts seen across industries like:

  • Offering Zoom Happy Hours for social wellness
  • Launching employee-generated learning programs for occupational wellness
  • Providing literacy education for financial wellness
  • And one company even changed performance review processes during the pandemic by giving the highest possible ratings for “showing up” – for emotional wellness

Many of the innovative wellness initiatives provided during the pandemic weren’t even from HR. People recognized the need to support their colleagues and put in the work to do so.

As the world comes out of the pandemic and employee experience (EX) captures the attention of the CEO as much as it does the CMO, HR leaders will need to work cross-functionally for their EX programs to include the wellness benefits employee’s value. Much of the strategy in ensuring the upkeep of employee wellbeing will fall on the shoulders of HR teams, which are increasingly looking to add an ally to help.

Eyes on a New Role

As workplaces continue to grapple with change, some companies have incorporated the role of a Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) into their executive team to bring everyone together and champion employee wellness. In fact, in the previously mentioned survey, 34 percent of respondents indicated the organization where they work has a chief wellness officer.

What does a CWO do?

While this largely depends on the organization, the idea behind this emerging position is to create a specific role that prioritizes employee wellbeing. CWOs develop strategies and resources for employees as they look to better their mental, financial, and professional health as well as work to create an enhanced culture and purpose among organizations as remote work remains permanent and/or hybrid environments are introduced.

Solving the Wellness Equation

Employee wellbeing continues to change and evolve. Pre-pandemic employee wellbeing could be categorized as free yoga sessions, casual Fridays and subscriptions to online meditation apps. The reality of employee wellbeing post-pandemic is drastically different.

Employees now want a flexible employee experience – from flexible work hours, to PTO to customizable benefits. For organizations to succeed, they must get to the root cause of what their employees expect moving forward and cater to them from there.

Regardless of the adoption of a Chief Wellness Officer, or even a more junior role solely dedicated to employee wellness, employers need to prioritize employee well-being by realigning on organizational culture and employee priorities as well as understanding what resources are needed for success. Organizations that put their people first, adopt innovative technology and deliver a flexible employee experience will be the ones to succeed.

Join us for the second part of this blog series where we address what considerations to make if hiring for a dedicated wellness position.

Chief Peoples OfficerCMOEmployee BenefitsEmployee EngagementHR Leaders
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