The pandemic has been deeply affecting the mental health of people around the world. In April, nearly one in seven adults in the U.S. said he or she was often or always lonely, 25% more than two years prior. Researchers have also found that almost 50% of adults experienced depression, anxiety or a combination of the two during the outbreak in China.

These and similar statistics are bad news for employers for multiple reasons. Companies care about their employees and prefer their teams to have high morale. It’s also widely known that mental health issues affect employee productivity and engagement — as well as company profits.

To address this issue, more than half of employers offer some kind of wellness program, which often includes wellness training. Wellness training may include learning modules delivered on the company learning management system (LMS) that teach meditation, share strategies for managing stress, and provide exercise programs and videos. They tend to focus on science-based ways to improve wellness and mental health.

But just because wellness training exists doesn’t mean companies or employees are using the training to its fullest potential. This article touches on some common errors companies make when using wellness training as part of their efforts to improve employee mental health.

1. Not Allowing Employees to Complete Training on Company Time

Unlike software training or cybersecurity training, wellness training may seem like something that employees should complete on their own time. After all, it’s personal. Meditation and breathing exercises are not directly connected to company activities.

However, while wellness may not directly relate to an employee’s tasks, it directly affects employee performance. Encouraging employees to complete wellness training on the clock opens up the possibilities for how they use it. Imagine giving employees the ability to do a 10-minute meditation on their mobile device after a stressful meeting or encouraging them to start their day by doing a few yoga poses with their co-workers over video conference. If companies can trust their employees’ working styles, they can also trust them to be reasonable with their freedom to complete this training on the clock.

Companies can go even further and set aside a few hours on a regular basis — perhaps once a month — for employees to complete wellness training. This strategy is especially useful at companies that are extremely fast-paced. Employees at busy companies may feel like they never have time to learn about wellness, but if there is company-approved time set aside, teams can take it into account when setting deadlines and arranging schedules. Employees can improve their mental and physical health guilt-free.

2. Not Integrating a Social Element

Not all wellness training needs to be social. For example, employees are unlikely to be interested in discussing their depression with their co-workers. However, a social element provides an opportunity to help employees reach their wellness goals. Support from others makes it more likely that employees will achieve the goals they’ve set. Company-sponsored meditation groups or exercise hours can help employees find that support in their co-workers. They may find it easier to keep up these wellness activities on a regular basis if they are doing them as a group.

There are a lot of different ways to integrate a social element into a wellness program. It can be in the form of an LMS discussion board or chat channel where employees can share with each other and ask for tips. Some companies even host events like a planking competition or offer rewards for individuals who meet milestones on the way to their goals.

The goal is to create a supportive, lighthearted, shame-free environment where employees feel empowered to improve themselves.

3. Not Gaining Manager Buy-in

Even if a company goes all in on creating the best wellness program in the world, if an individual’s immediate supervisor is dismissive of it, then that individual will be less likely to participate.

Imagine this: A company rolls out a new wellness program, and a team manager’s first reaction is, “This training had better not get in the way of meeting your deadlines.” The employees on that team are going to get the message that wellness is a waste of time and that they will be seen as lazy or unproductive if they participate.

Companies need to gain manager buy-in by sharing why it’s important to the company that employees invest in their wellness. Specific instructions on how much time to set aside to dedicate to wellness and on how to encourage employees to participate is key. Companies can even encourage managers to have a direct conversation with their employees to clarify that participating in wellness training will not negatively affect their jobs. Even better — when managers participate themselves, it sets a positive example.

Wellness Has the Potential to Change Company Culture

A well-implemented wellness training program can make a difference in employee mental health and morale, leading to happier, more productive employees and a supportive company culture. Side-stepping these common mistakes will enable any company to be successful with its wellness program.

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