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Companies are offering new benefits to address burnout and mental wellness

August 18, 2022, 1:10 PM UTC
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Leaders are employing more personalized and premium benefits to address burnout among employees.
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Good morning—Amber here! Today, Fortune’s Paolo Confino continues our National Wellness Month coverage by chronicling the latest wellbeing-focused benefits employers are offering to workers. Premium benefits and perks that were once reserved for executives are now being offered to all employees to cut down on burnout and turnover in the workplace. Read on below.

Employers of all sorts keep looking for new ways to adapt their benefits packages to cater to the evolving needs of an increasingly hybrid workforce. Traditional perks like swanky gyms, sumptuous cafeterias, and onsite medical care are not so appealing for employees who rarely go into the office. Now, HR departments are reevaluating the benefits they offer as employee priorities shift toward a growing demand for flexibility in their work-life balance.  

In practice, this means more companies offering benefits that address contemporary workplace concerns like burnout and mental wellness. Most are supported by digital tools and accessible at an employee’s own convenience. 

One digital tool is Wysa, an enterprise platform that provides mental wellness support via an A.I. chatbot. It seeks to address what it calls “the mental health middle,” or individuals who aren’t clinically diagnosed but “need something more than mindfulness,” according to founder and president Ramakant Vempati. Accenture, one of its clients, utilizes Wysa to better understand the key drivers of stress and anxiety across its global workforce. 

The other emerging trend in wellness benefits is an effort to democratize resources, like individual performance coaching, that were previously only made available to the most senior of C-suite executives. Companies like Bravely and EZRA offer even the most junior of employees access to certified coaches that provide career development advice.

“Usually for cost reasons [coaching] couldn’t get in the hands of people at different levels and often those people are members of underrepresented groups,” said Sarah Sheehan, co-founder and president of Bravely. 

A more accessible coaching platform gives employees the opportunity to receive guidance on how to develop skills that ward off burnout, says EZRA’s founder and CEO Nick Goldberg. He views coaching as a key way for employers to support workers in finding more balance in their work and personal lives, both of which have become more important to employees over the course of the pandemic. 

Companies that offer employees EZRA’s professional coaching, like Nestle and Kraft Heinz, reported 14% higher retention rates and 18% increase in productivity, according to Goldberg. 

Both Goldberg and Sheehan believe the future of workplace wellness benefits will continue to trend toward more personalized support. “When you–the individual–walk through the doors of that resource, it [should] feel tailored to you,” Sheehan said. 

Thus, avoiding what Goldberg calls “the one-size-fits all trap.” 

Access will also continue to play a major role in addressing employee wellbeing needs. Vempati believes an increasing number of benefits in the coming years will be accessible to employees via their smartphones, laptops, and a myriad other devices. 

“[The future] is definitely hybrid in terms of an increased use of digital versus human,” says Vempati. “And a lot more about meeting people where they are, rather than driving them where you find it convenient to provide services.”

Paolo Confino
paolo.confino@fortune.com
@paolo1000_

I want to hear from you! What are the biggest HR challenges and priorities today? Reach out to me at amber.burton@fortune.com. I’m hosting 15-minute desksides with HR and DEI executives. You could see your response in a future newsletter.

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes and insights from the field.

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent weeks speaking with leaders about the shifting nature of the CHRO role. One emerging expectation, even as more leaders take on diversity and inclusion titles, is that DEI be embedded into the CHRO role as well. It’s no longer acceptable to solely delegate diversity and inclusion strategies to another leader. HR leaders are called to play an active role in creating solutions for diversity and inclusion right alongside them.

Recently, I spoke with Dan Kaplan, senior client partner for Korn Ferry’s CHRO practice, about what executive recruiters are looking for in today’s CHROs. According to Kaplan, executives expect their people leaders to not only make DEI a core part of their duties, but also help take it to the next level. 

“DEI is a subset of innovation.There is an expectation that your head of HR ought to be calibrating for best practices… And so the expectation today is you're going to take a bigger, bolder approach. [For example], how do you start to partner with colleges in a way that helps develop talent? There's an expectation that instead of doing the same old approach that doesn't yield results, leverage the assets you have, get creative and solve problems. And whether that problem is around DEI, whether that problem is around compensation, whether that problem is around turnover, or the labor shortage, [CHROs must] find new, interesting and creative approaches to solve problems.”

Around the Table

- One easy way to support employees during tumultuous times is by creating workplace rituals. Workplace strategist Erica Keswin shares what leaders can gain from understanding their own rituals, and how to use them to improve psychological safety, purpose, and performance among workers. Harvard Business Review

- In 10 of the largest U.S. cities, office occupancy averages are about 44% of what they were prior to the pandemic. Despite the slow return to physical workspaces, experts are still confident once-bustling business districts will survive the shift toward remote and hybrid work. Cities will simply be forced to transform, as they historically have in the past. Bloomberg 

- Bay Area workers who fled to “Zoom Towns” during the pandemic are still there, but the local workforces are dwindling. Marketplace examines what has happened to the labor force in one small town in Northern California two years after the onset of the pandemic and influx of new residents. Marketplace

Watercooler

Everything you need to know from Fortune. 

Return to (home) office. Bosses wagered that a looming recession would make it easier to coax employees back to the office. Instead, it appears the opposite occurred. Employees are working from home more often than at the start of the year, according to a recent survey from Basking.io. —Nicholas Gordon 

Walmart’s inflation indicator. Walmart’s latest earnings report can be looked at as a litmus test for retailers trying to figure out consumer sentiments amid rising inflation and uncertain economy. Based on its most recent report, it appears the superstore is faring relatively well despite uneasy conditions. —Colin Lodewick 

CEO confidence. CEO confidence continued to freefall in the third quarter, according to a metric compiled by The Conference Board and The Business Council. Eighty-one percent of the surveyed CEOs now say they are preparing for a recession over the next 12-18 months. —Alan Murray

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