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Employee Satisfaction

How Can You Better Care For Your Employees? Focus on Mental Health

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How Can You Better Care For Your Employees? Focus on Mental Health

by Kate Vandeveld

Stress and anxiety in the workplace have a major impact on both performance and employee happiness, and most working Americans experience both daily. So why aren’t we doing more about it? Or, perhaps more importantly, why aren’t we even talking about it?

There is significant stigma around discussing mental health, and this increases even further in the workplace, given expectations and definitions of “professionalism”. Despite the widespread prevalence of workplace anxiety, employees still don’t discuss it for fear of being perceived as lazy, incapable, or undependable by their peers and superiors.

In reality, it’s actually when we don’t address mental health in the workplace that work really suffers. In fact, fifty-six percent of employees say that stress and anxiety sometimes impacts their workplace performance, and fifty percent say it impacts the quality of their work. Those numbers are significant, and it’s time we address them.

In light of this, as companies are considering implementing employee wellness programs in increasing numbers, we encourage them to consider programs that address mental health, specifically. Here are a few options to get started:

Provide Free Mental Health Assessments

For those who are struggling with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, it can be difficult to even take the first step of acknowledging it, much less actively addressing it. Whether you provide employees with access to a confidential online assessment tool, or bring professionals into the workplace to offer anonymous screenings, encourage your employees to take stock of their mental health so they can address their needs accordingly.

Offer Employee Forums & Workshops

Perhaps the most important way we can break down the stigma around mental health is simply by talking about it as openly and frequently as possible. You can do this in your workplace by hosting employee forums and workshops in which respected guest speakers come in  to talk about how they’ve managed their own mental health. Recognizing that even the most successful professionals struggle with mental health can have a huge impact on the willingness of others to open up.

Build Internal Infrastructure That Supports Employees

When feeling stressed and anxious, employees often avoid speaking to their direct supervisors or teammates about it. Instead, they may opt to forge ahead with their work, so as to avoid being perceived as a burden or a weak link. Create other options by developing new internal check-in systems that allow employees to voice concerns about their roles, certain projects, and work-life balance, and adjust when necessary. You can do this by connecting your employees with HR representatives or building in regular reviews with other employees that they don’t work with directly. On the flipside, you can also provide trainings to leaders in your business or organization to ensure that they enforce work-life balance and have reasonable expectations of the employees on their teams.

Offer Access to Yoga & Meditation

Practicing yoga and meditation can have a significant and positive effect on relieving stress and anxiety. Both practices decrease symptoms of physiological arousal, like increased heart rate and blood pressure, and encourage feelings of mindfulness and calm. In your workplace, you can provide a workshop on meditation for stress relief, and encourage employees to practice these techniques on their own. If you’re able, you can offer employees time off during the day to take an off-site yoga class, a meditation break, or even provide in-office yoga classes several times per month.

 

Before you determine which program is best for your team, its crucial to first do an internal assessment. Ask your employees to weigh in anonymously on what causes them stress and anxiety, and encourage them to be open about how they manage those feelings. Taking this time will teach you a lot about how you can best address mental health in your specific workplace.

Do you know of a particularly innovative or unique employee wellness program centered around mental health? Tell us about it – here’s how:

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How & Why We’re Building a Culture of Kindness

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How & Why We’re Building a Culture of Kindness

“Being kind to our fellow human beings is a precondition to becoming truly successful. Goodness and kindness are the single most important factors when it comes to how successful we will be in our lives.”

- Stefan Einhorn, The Art of Being Kind

Too often, we hear that to be successful, we have to push ourselves (and others) to the edge. We need to work harder, study longer, sleep less, and sacrifice more.

Unfortunately, this mindset can lead to a disconnect with our loved ones, miscommunications with colleagues, impatient behavior, poor self-care, and a multitude of other issues.   

At WhyWhisper, we see success as a better world – one that is filled with opportunity, justice, and support. And we believe that making this happen doesn’t start with working harder or making more sacrifices – it starts with kindness. There’s a chain effect that occurs when we put kindness out into the world: it travels. And if we all commit to being kinder in our day-to-day lives, then as a society, we collaboratively achieve success. 

This year, our team is consciously working to develop a culture of kindness. We’re challenging ourselves to commit to, and reflect on, at least one kind act per week, with each of us defining for ourselves what kindness really means.

Here are some of our examples: 

  • Take time to stop and help someone who needs it. When someone asks for directions, or needs support crossing the street, stop and help them, kindly and patiently. Odds are, it’ll change their day.
  • Cook or buy a meal for someone who’s hungry. Instead of just brushing by the next person who asks for your support, take a minute to stop somewhere and buy them a hearty meal.
  • Write a Letter to someone who might need a little cheering up.  Too often, we forget how much it means to receive a letter of encouragement. Think of someone who’s going through a hard time (whether you know them or not), and write a note to let them know you’re in their corner.
  • Take care of yourself. When we’re busy or overwhelmed, self-care is often the first thing to go. It shouldn’t be, but it is. And the fact is, when we don’t care for ourselves, we also can’t take care of others. Think about how you can be kind to yourself, then set aside the time to do so.
  • Pick up some trash. How often do you walk by a piece of garbage on the street, slightly annoyed that people still litter? Next time that happens, instead of getting annoyed, pick it up (safely, of course).
  • Focus on your community. When we’re thinking about large-scale social impact, we can sometimes forget to consider our own communities. Who do you interact with everyday, and how can you show them kindness? Tip your local barista more than you usually would. Have a conversation with your neighborhood crossing guard. These seemingly small acts will likely have a chain reaction.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting that these small acts should take the place of working toward substantive, sustainable change. After all, providing a meal to someone who’s hungry does not solve a large-scale problem. But in that moment, it does make all the difference to that person, and that’s undoubtedly impactful.

If you’re inspired to be more conscious about kindness, we’d love for you to join us in our challenge. Follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and post your kind acts with #WhyWhisper #workonpurpose. You can also get in touch with us via email, or in the comments below. We look forward to seeing the good that we can accomplish together this year!

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What We Learned in 2015

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What We Learned in 2015

What We Learned in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

2015 was an exciting year! We worked to expand access to integrative healthcare for communities in need, designed programs to support new mothers, expanded awareness of clean energy initiatives in New York, and so much more. We connected with inspiring individuals who are working to change the world every day. We made big internal changes (that we’re excited to share with you in 2016!). And, perhaps most importantly, we learned a lot.

Along the way, we’ve been sure to share many of our takeaways with you via our blog. As 2015 comes to a close and you’re kicking of 2016, be sure to check out the posts below to find insights on the subjects (both personal and professional) that are most relevant to you!

Start with Yourself

This year, we learned a lot about the importance of taking time for self-care and self-improvement. The positive effects of taking care of yourself extend to all areas of your life -- from mental health to workplace effectiveness. Self-improvement looks different for each individual, and can encompass anything from taking time off, to making more responsible purchasing decisions, to educating yourself about things that matter to you. To help you get started, here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Learn from the Experts

We believe one of the best ways to learn about social impact is by example. This year, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with and learn from innovative and effective leaders from nonprofits, social enterprises, and corporations. Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned:

 

Share Your Message

One of our focus areas at WhyWhisper is helping nonprofits and socially conscious businesses spread the word about their work. From developing voice and messaging guidelines to implementing an effective social media strategy and beyond, there are so many ways you can ensure that people know about the impact you’re making. If you’re looking for tips, start here:

 

Think About Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The concept of building social impact into existing business models is on the rise, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Businesses and corporations can make significant headway in addressing social issues, and we look forward to seeing (and helping) more of you follow suit next year. If you’re interested in learning more about CSR, here’s some of what we’ve shared this past year:

 

Increase Your Impact

We’re constantly exploring ways that organizations and businesses can make internal changes that have a positive effect on their workplaces and on the world. Here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Take Action

We’re also always looking for ways to help our community bridge the gap between caring about a particular issue and actually taking action. When you’re short on resources, or don’t really know where to get started, it can be tough to make moves. We’ve put together a number of posts about how you can take action around different issues – and some are as easy as talking about the issues online! Check them out:

 

Words of Wisdom for Freelancers

At WhyWhisper, we set out to build a different kind of work structure. As such, our team is comprised of consultants who work remotely and independently, taking on projects that are personally meaningful with teammates who support and inspire. But freelancing has its own challenges, and we’ve learned a lot along the way:

What’s your biggest learning from 2015? We’d love to hear about it, and share with our community. Here’s how to get in touch:

Happy New Year to our incredible community! We’re so lucky to learn from you every day, and can’t wait for all that we’ll do together this year. Feel free to connect with us anytime – we love to hear from you.

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How Can We Improve Mental Health in the Workplace?

Mental Health in the Workplace -- WhyWhisper Collective

Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year? As many of us recognize, many mental health issues fly under the radar as a result of the stigma that surrounds them.

Those who are silently affected by mental illness can experience issues and limitations everywhere – especially in potentially stressful environments like the workplace. So while we continue to fight against this stigma, we encourage employers to take measures to care for the mental health of their employees.

Beyond its negative effects on individuals, failing to address mental health issues in the workplace is bad for business. Mental illness is the number one cause of disability leave for American business today, and untreated mental illness costs the U.S. more than $105 billion in lost productivity each year.

Luckily, there are ways in which companies can provide support to their employees – here are a few of them:

Address mental health openly & honestly

This might be the most important thing for companies (and individuals!) to do when it comes to mental health. Because of the stigma around mental health issues, it’s difficult to discuss and address openly and honestly, and it means that a large number of cases go undiagnosed and untreated. But in reality, mental illnesses are common in the United States, and we aren’t helping anyone by staying quiet about it.

Workplace environments can be stressful, and stress can be a trigger for mental health issues. Instead of brushing it under the rug, we need to talk about it and open up a dialogue about how workplaces can help mitigate that stress, support their employees, and encourage them to take care of themselves.

If you are unsure about how to talk to your employees or coworkers who you think may be struggling, here are some tips.

Include comprehensive mental health care in your benefits package

Given how prevalent mental health issues are these days, it just makes sense for employers to offer mental health care benefits that are as comprehensive as possible. As of 2010, the Affordable Care Act has provided one of the largest expansions of mental health coverage in generations, requiring businesses to include mental health care in their benefits packages in some capacity. That said, the level of mental health care that is covered is rarely comprehensive or long-term.

Helping employees get access to the mental health care that they need may increase costs upfront, but early detection and treatment of mental illness can also prevent crises and reduce health care costs later on. Encourage employees to recognize signs of anxiety and depression in themselves, and then seek professional help that is subsidized by the health care plan that you offer.

Implement an employee wellness program

One great way companies can prioritize their employees’ mental health is internally, through employee wellness programs. Until recently, many of these programs were centered on discounted gym memberships that employees could opt to use. While encouraging individuals to stay active in this way definitely has positive mental health effects, there are further steps that employers can take to support their workers’ mental health.

For example, employers can actively encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, whether it be a longer lunch period or several smaller breaks. Or they can provide yoga, massage or meditation at particularly stressful times of the year, or at regular intervals. Another option would be to offer employees the opportunity to work remotely, as needed. Before making any decisions, think about the specific individuals you work with, and what you think would be most beneficial to them. You could even do a survey to determine what their needs are and how you can meet them.

 

Know of a business that is taking action to support its employees’ mental health? Tell us about them and what they’re doing! Here’s how:

If you want to join the conversation around mental health in general, we put together a list of some incredible digital resources to help you get started. 

 

 

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How to Be Authentic About Social Responsibility

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How to Be Authentic About Social Responsibility

by Kate Vandeveld

Last week, we talked about Starbucks, a company that wasn’t initially developed as a social enterprise, but that has effectively integrated social impact into its business model. Their strategy for external impact is thoughtful and comprehensive, and they actively invest in their employees. Because of this, the results of their multi-faceted strategy is positive for all involved. 

On the flipside, as you may know, Volkswagen is currently in the midst of a CSR-related scandal.  This September, the German car company admitted to cheating in emissions tests in the U.S. by installing devices in their engines that detected when they were being tested, and changing their performance to alter results. The company did this in order to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel emissions standards. As a result of their false reporting, Volkswagen was viewed as reputable when it came to CSR. While we can’t call it merely a PR stunt, the company’s desire to be seen as environmentally responsible likely played into its decision to cheat the system, which is exactly the opposite of the point of CSR.

The Volkswagen situation brings up a question of authenticity when it comes to social and environmental responsibility. What does it mean for a company to be authentic when it comes to impact? Here’s what we think:

They make it part of their mission

One major difference between a truly socially conscious company and one that is in it for the positive PR, is whether or not their strategy is an integral part of their mission, or merely an addendum, an afterthought. Whether or not a company is socially conscious from the start, or chooses to implement CSR programs down the line, it’s important to pay attention to how entrenched they seem to be in their impact. Companies that are really impactful don’t just implement a program that allows them to meet a certain social or environmental goal, they make it a part of their operations and integrate it into their mission.

They report on their successes and failures

When implementing strategic changes in any capacity, you’re bound to experience failures or missteps along the way. And generally, talking about it is the last thing you want to do when a new program or strategy isn’t as successful as you hoped it would be. But in this case, it can be a good thing. Reporting on your successes as well as your failures when it comes to CSR strategy shows that you’re paying attention, and that you care about the efficacy of your programming and making a real impact. And perhaps the most important thing, as evidenced by the Volkswagen fiasco, is that you stay honest in your reporting. Social change is difficult to enact, and your earnest effort to be impactful is what truly matters.

They evolve their efforts over time

Deciding to integrate CSR programming into your business model is only the first step; contributing to positive social or environmental change is an evolutionary process.

To start, it might take some time for a company to hone in on which strengths they should focus on in order to be as impactful as possible. And even if you’re clear about how you want to focus our efforts, you’ll want to evolve as time goes on. When you set clear goals, and then report on and analyze your results, you can use that information to continue to change and develop your approach and strategy to be more effective.

 

Do you know of a company whose CSR strategy has been particularly effective, or one who you think could be impactful with some support? Share with us – we want to learn about them! Here’s how:

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5 Reasons to Implement an Employee Wellness Program

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5 Reasons to Implement an Employee Wellness Program

by Kate Vandeveld

If you ask a WhyWhisper team member why they opted for the consulting lifestyle instead of a traditional 9-to-5, they’ll likely tell you that one of the many reasons is to take care of themselves better, both mentally and physically. When you’re working eight or more hours every day, especially at a desk, it can be difficult to find the time to move around or do the things that keep you healthy. But it’s so important!

That’s why we’re so into the recent growth of corporate employee wellness programs that are helping those in more traditional workplaces stay healthy. These days, 70% of employers offer wellness programs – and no longer are they only in the form of gym memberships. There is a plethora of options available to companies who want to create programs that work well for their employee population.

And these programs aren’t just good for employees – they are good for the businesses that implement them, too. Here are some of the reasons why it’s worthwhile to invest in employee wellness:

Attracts Top Talent

Wellness programs are no longer just a competitive advantage for companies – they’re the norm. Prospective employees actively look for these programs when comparing benefits packages, and having them in place could change the type of talent your company is able to attract. The programs subsidize health maintenance costs for employees, and, perhaps more importantly, they also show them that your company cares about them – and that matters to them.

Decreases Turnover

Not only does having a great employee wellness program in place help attract top talent, it also helps to retain it. Studies have shown that when companies care about their employees’ health by offering them opportunities for improved mental and physical wellness, workplace morale increases. Employees that are happier in the workplace and feel a greater sense of loyalty to their employers are less likely to leave, which is good for everyone. Turnover is expensive; studies have shown that the cost of turnover is generally anywhere from 16 to 21 percent of an employee’s annual salary. 

Increases Productivity

On the most basic level, when employees are mentally and physically healthier, they’re more energetic and productive.  In fact, some studies have shown that this is where your company’s employee wellness program will yield the greatest return. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Services reported that at companies with employee wellness programs, workplace productivity increased by anywhere from 2 to 52 percent. This number definitely will vary depending on your programs and your employees, but any increase in productivity is a good thing.

Reduces Insurance Costs

A study by Harvard Business Review showed that the money spent on implementing employee wellness programs comes back to the company in the form of lower insurance costs. The U.S. Department of Health and Services reported that employee wellness programs that include physical activity of some sort reduce healthcare costs by anywhere from 20 to 55 percent, and short-term sick leave by 32 percent. Those numbers alone are enough to prove that, financially, employee wellness programs are worth the initial investment.

Gives You a PR Boost 

Beyond the internal benefits that you’ll see, offering an employee wellness program makes your company look good. It’s something you can talk about on your website, to investors, and in annual reports. The best part is, this isn’t a PR stunt that will look good to the public but do little internally. As we’ve noted, the internal benefits are clear.

As you would expect, the ROI on employee wellness programs depends on a number of factors: the research done in advance, how much a company invests in its programs, and the employees themselves, to name a few. But across the board, the tangible benefits of implementing an employee wellness program are there, and they are worthwhile.

Have you seen (or participated in) any unique or particularly cool employee wellness programs? Tell us about them! We want to spread the word. Get in touch by sending us an email, commenting below, or reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business

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Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business

by Kate Vandeveld

When people discuss “success” in business, the focus is most often on the bottom line. Numbers are tangible measurements of success that make sense to everyone. At WhyWhisper, however, we also spend a great deal of time defining success in terms of impact: How much are companies doing to make the world a better place, what effect is it having, and what does it look like in practice?

A subject that comes up often is that of employee happiness. Unfortunately, even outwardly impactful businesses and organizations will often overlook its importance. Meanwhile, studies have shown that when businesses treat their employees fairly and make decisions with compassion, it can positively affect their impact and their bottom line.

Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business

Last week, the White House hosted an event called Working Families: Champions of Change, which included discussions and panels with some of the country’s most inspiring advocates for employee fairness. At the event, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario spoke about the company’s efforts to treat their employees fairly, and why it’s been so crucial to their success. Her main takeaway? By offering fair benefits and showing their employees that they care about them, they make their employees happy, and instill a sense of loyalty that encourages them to work hard and stick around. All of this, she said, affects their employee retention and overall revenue.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating a company’s compassion and fairness:

  • Equal Pay: Paying people of all genders the same salary for equal work shouldn’t be a question – but unfortunately, it is. Today, women are still paid only 78 percent of what men are paid for equal work, on average. According to a report by the American Association of University Women, this problem exists in every state and occupation, is even more extreme for women of color, and gets worse with age. Companies that treat their employees fairly don’t operate like this; they pay men and women equal wages for equal work.

  • Paid Maternity / Paternity Leave: At the Champions for Change event, President Obama noted that in some employment situations, women aren’t even given a paid day off for the day that they give birth. It is crucial that mothers and fathers of new babies are given the opportunity to take time off for the birth of their child without sacrificing pay when it is most needed. Companies that value employee satisfaction prioritize post-birth parental leave.
  • Fair Benefits: Companies that prioritize employee wellness also offer them comprehensive health packages, if they are able. Some small businesses and start-ups aren’t able to cover healthcare costs, but as soon as a company has the capital to offer benefits, they should do so. Lack of healthcare coverage is a huge financial burden for individuals and families in the United States.
  • Paid Sick Leave: When paid sick leave isn’t an option, employees will continue to work while they’re ill, negatively affecting everyone around them. When sick people come into work, productivity decreases, illnesses spread unnecessarily, and morale can quickly plummet.
  • Career Advancement Opportunities: Factors that contribute to employee happiness are definitely not all financial. When employees have clear opportunities for career advancement, they are more likely to work hard to achieve goals and go above and beyond for their employers.
  • Work-Life Balance: Another non-financial indicator of whether or not a company is fair is the extent that it values work-life balance. Companies that expect their employees to work long hours and be available at the drop of a hat foster cultures of resentment and burnout. Instead of encouraging greater productivity, these companies push employees to work less efficiently for longer periods of time, which is detrimental to everyone in the long run.
  • Focus on Culture & Community: Companies that work to foster cultures of collaboration, kindness, and understanding in the workplace are much more likely to have happier, healthier employees. Stressful work environments can lead to a multitude of adverse health effects in employees that create a cycle of negative outcomes – both for individuals and for the company. At the end of the day, successful businesses simply care about their employees, and want to ensure that they are working under conditions that will allow them to thrive.
Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business via WhyWhisper Collective

When companies take these elements into consideration, here are some of the benefits that they see:

Higher employee retention:

When employees are happy at work, they tend to stick around longer. This is a very good thing, because high employee turnover has significant negative impact on a company. First of all, employee turnover can bring down company morale. When someone on a team leaves, others are often required to pick up the slack without a salary increase. Additionally, when employees see someone leave, it can cause a ripple effect leading to more employee departures.

Employee turnover also has a clear effect on a company’s bottom line. The process of seeking out, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding a new employee can be extremely high. Reported costs vary, depending on the study, but all indicate that it’s an expensive process, especially for higher level positions.

Increased productivity:

To put it simply, when employees know they will be rewarded for their work, they are much more likely to do it well. Incentivizing good work – whether it be with verbal praise, recognition to their peers, financial compensation, or career advancement -- makes a big difference in terms of employee productivity. Plus, most employees simply want to do better work for companies and coworkers with whom they have good relationships. By being fair to your employees, you will foster a sense of community, lessening any focus on office politics, and increasing the focus on output and impact.

Higher revenue and greater impact:

Both of these elements – employee retention and increased productivity – factor into a company’s bottom line as well as the level of impact they are able to have. In fact, according to a 2013 study by Aon Hewitt, for every one percent increase in employee engagement, companies can expect to see 0.6% in revenue growth. Because employee engagement increases with employee satisfaction, companies that treat their employees well will increase their bottom line.

What companies do you know that focus on employee satisfaction? We want to talk about them! Here’s how you can share with us:

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