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Employees’ Wellness Habits Are Changing
[photo of feet of person walking]

Before the pandemic, I walked at least forty minutes every day that I went into the office (20 minutes each way to and from the train station). No matter what the weather —rain or shine, snow or sleet— I walked. I have never been big on going to gyms, so walking was the one way that I was guaranteed to get in exercise each week. Now that we’re amid a pandemic, I’ve found solace in walking. Instead of going to/from the train station, I walk around my community. Typically, I walk early in the mornings before I begin my workday. It has become a way for me to enjoy some quiet time. It also allows me to connect with other people, as I say hello with a wave to those in my neighborhood. I even made a new friend (socially distanced, of course). I have noticed that many of my neighbors have also begun walking routines.

It appears that we are not alone. According to the 2020 UnitedHealthcare Wellness Checkup Survey results, more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said that walking had become their preferred exercise routine during the pandemic. The survey examines people’s opinions about health topics and preferences, providing insights to help improve well-being and disease-management programs offered by employers. Survey results indicate that Americans are making positive wellness changes. Listed below are other findings from the survey.

The majority of employees say wellness programs have improved their health and productivity.

– 77% of survey respondents who are employed and have access to wellness programs said the initiatives had made a positive impact on their health

– 48% said the programs motivated them to pay more attention to their health

– 38% said they helped lower stress

– 36% said they increased physical activity

– 33% reported improved sleep

– 17% of respondents said wellness programs helped manage a chronic condition such as diabetes

– 17% said health initiatives helped detect a disease or medical issue

With open enrollment coming soon and so many people currently focused on their health, now might be an excellent time for employers to increase wellness programming or better promote the ones already offered. Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare chief consumer officer, commented, “The UnitedHealthcare Wellness Checkup Survey highlights the importance of implementing robust well-being programs that may foster whole-person health, reduce absenteeism and curb care costs.”

Keep in mind that new initiatives do not have to be cost-prohibitive. The responsibility does not have to fall all on HR staff. Perhaps employers could pull together a wellness team of staff who volunteer to create programs that reflect your employees’ best interests and health goals. They could suggest weekly or monthly challenges or activities for staff to participate in whether they are still working at home or back in the library/office. You might even tap into the talents and strengths of your staff. There may be someone on your team who practices yoga or mindfulness. Why not ask them if they are willing to lead weekly online sessions. Asking your staff for ideas could reenergize your team while encouraging and motivating them to practice good self-care habits.