Q&A with Debbie Bellenger, Manager of Health and Wellness, Pinnacle Health Management
Health and wellness benefits are evolving because of COVID-19. An estimated 57% of senior leaders are assigning a higher priority to care benefits to better support employees’ work/life balance due to the pandemic, according to recent findings from the Harvard Business Review (HBR). We talk with our Manager of Health and Wellness, Debbie Bellenger, to gain more insight into what this means for employers.
Since many businesses implemented a work from home policy:
- An estimated 70% of Americans gained an average of 29.6 pounds in 2020 
- Nearly 53% of Americans have become less active in 2020, and 47% of American workers have also delayed or canceled health care services 
- Nearly 85% of employees said their well-being has declined, 45% of employees reported increased anxiety, and 22% reported an increase in stress 
There has also been an increase in patients reporting neck, back, shoulder and wrist pain.
- 4 of 5 workers were experiencing some kind of musculoskeletal pain
- 23% said they experienced musculoskeletal pain most or all of the time
- 50% complained of low back pain
- 36% reported neck pain
- 28% reported shoulder pain 
Bottom line: If there were ever a good time to focus on your employee health and wellness programs, it’s now!
What kinds of challenges are employers facing because of the pandemic?
Employers face the challenge of keeping employees engaged, especially remote workers, and making them feel like they are part of something and not completely isolated. “Zoom fatigue” has also become a huge an issue for many remote workers. Employers are also facing onboarding hurdles, as there are a number of new employees hired during the pandemic who have yet to meet their colleagues in person. Some will also face the challenge of getting employees back into the office due to the lingering fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
Do you have any recommendations on how employers can help establish a healthy work/life balance?
Start by creating and embracing a culture of wellness in the workplace that promotes health and wellbeing. They can achieve this by promoting healthy habits in both their personal and professional lives. The environment must also support and reward health behavioral changes and progressions. Here are a few simple ways employers can get started:
- Start meetings with a brief conversation and friendly chit chat. You don’t have to dive straight into work. It loses the human element.
- Check in with employees regularly to see how they’re doing professionally and personally.
- Create and offer wellness challenges that engage employee participation at an individual level and on a team level. These challenges can include regular check-ins to measure progress, and it will help employees stay motivated and feel valued. Offering incentives and prizes to increase engagement at the outset is equally important.
What are some things employers tend to overlook when it comes to the health and wellness of their employees?
It’s important to understand that we are all human beings at our core, not human doings. Here are a few things employers should keep in mind:
- The need for socialization for extroverts. According to one study published by Industrial Psychology, introverts and extroverts are roughly 50/50 in the workplace. While introverts may be more comfortable with working remotely, extroverts aren’t quite used to the isolation. Frequent contact and interaction can help extroverts replenish their energy, productivity, and sense of belonging.
- The need for employees to belong to something special. A study found that if workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits (a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days).
- The need for employees to be acknowledged, recognized and encouraged. Make sure employees receive constructive feedback and encouragement so they know they’re on the right track. One study has found that only 51% of American workers were satisfied with the recognition and encouragement they received from their employers.
What are some helpful tips you can offer to help relieve burnout, stress, and anxiety for their workforce?
- Encourage employees to utilize their PTO to rejuvenate.
- Create wellness challenges, and offer incentives and prizes that promote self-care.
- Check in with employees regularly.
- Set reasonable goals and expectations, and re-visit those goals weekly. If an employee is struggling and needs assistance to reduce stress and anxiety, work as a team to support one another.
- Encourage your team to share their challenges that may be hindering work and recognize its effects and probable solutions.
- Try encouraging wellness fit breaks during lunch hours.
If you’re interested in improving the health and wellness of their workforce, Pinnacle’s Health Management program can help. Our program offerings include Asthma, Depression, Diabetes, Hypertension, Hyperlipidemia, and Weight Management. Additional support programs include Cancer Awareness, Mom-to-Be, Nicotine Cessation, and Wellness. Our programs are unique in that we can integrate our programs with your vendors and can also customize programs to offer incentives for employee participation in conjunction with our health and wellness programs. Click here for more information: www.pinnacletpa.com/health-management-wellness-programs.
 American Medical Association
 American Psychological Association
 Recent survey conducted by Jennifer Moss, author of the forthcoming book, “The Burnout Epidemic;” Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley; Susan E. Jackson of Rutgers; and Michael Leiter of Deakin University
 Charity Versus Arthritis Report
 Harvard Business Review