In an industry where the age of the workforce is higher than average and recruiting younger workers is a challenge, HR strategies that promote employee health and wellbeing can have a positive effect on your workplace and bottom line.
Employees who feel supported and enjoy their job will want to go to work and perform well. However, developing a culture that values health and wellbeing takes a proactive approach. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Culture is the base
Ensuring that health and wellness becomes part of your organizational culture involves both formal HR policies and everyday workplace practices.
The policy level involves a review of benefits plans, including disability leaves and accommodations, flexible work opportunities, compassionate care leave, etc. Take, for example, ONE for Freight, our Top Fleet Employer’s Program 2017 Top Small Fleet. They offer their company drivers and office staff paid mental health or wellness days on top of their regular sick days. They have made a conscious investment to recognize that employees need as much time off when they don’t feel well mentally as they would if they had the flu. Do your policies about health and wellness reflect the culture you want to create?
You can ask the same question about workplace practices. Offering healthy snacks in your driver lounges, encouraging employees to take their lunch breaks, promoting your Employee Assistance Program, making sure employees feel comfortable disclosing their life challenges to you, and incorporating fitness and physical activities into team-building and leadership training are ways to proactively address health and wellness.
Knowing your workforce
Your workforce demographics should inform your wellness policies and practices.
For instance, if you have routes that involve extended periods away from home, can you take steps to match those routes to drivers who want that type of work-life balance?
Innovative fleets that implement such steps are reaping the benefits of active and engaged employees. For example, Challenger Motor Freight, our Top Fleet Employer’s Program recipient of the 2017 Achievement of Excellence in Innovation, organizes “lunch and learns” for employees on topics like work-life balance and offers extensive health and wellness support to their employees through the Healthy Trucker program.
Respecting the demographics of your workforce will help you shape an approach that is relevant and valued by your employees.
Shifting health concerns
HR managers are developing health and wellness policies to manage issues they may not have planned for or confronted before.
One is mental health. In any given week, 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to a mental health issue, and the cost of a disability leave is about twice the cost of a leave due to physical illness. And a U.S. study showed that truck drivers are more prone to depression and anxiety than other occupations due to the time alone and away from home.
A comprehensive mental health and wellness policy should also address training managers and other employees to recognize these issues. It sends a clear message to your employees that their mental wellbeing matters to you.
Another health issue for HR managers is the increasing rate of cancer diagnoses among employees.
Recent studies show that Canadians 50 years of age and over account for nearly 90% of all cancer diagnoses. Keeping in mind that the average age of a Canadian truck driver is 49, chances are high that your employees or their loved ones will face a cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis, should they choose to disclose it, will affect their colleagues as well.
How you handle medical issues of your employees—from explaining their care and benefits to managing the impact their absence might have on productivity and morale—should be an important part of your plan.
As with everything in HR, a plan only works when everyone knows what it is. Anchor your health and wellness approach by including specific policies and procedures in your HR strategy. Communicate them to all employees (prospective and current). They need to know what they are, what is available to them, and that they will be supported.
At a time when the industry is struggling to attract and retain a skilled workforce, it simply makes sense that you also ensure a healthy workforce.