It’s little wonder that wellness is a hot topic among learning and development (L&D) professionals. More than a year into the pandemic, there is an overwhelming need to provide employees with guidance, strategies and resources to help them successfully manage stress and boost their well-being. Failing to provide effective wellness training risks an increase in employee burnout, a loss of professional development and reductions in organizational success.

In lululemon’s 2021 “Global Wellbeing Report,” only 29% of 10,000 survey respondents reported a strong sense of well-being across their physical, mental and social health. Moreover, only 15% strongly agreed that their employer “offers resources that support their overall wellbeing.” These survey results confirm a need for companies to be more proactive in training their employees to build skills that foster wellness in addition to the skills they need to fulfill their role.

As an L&D professional, you can rise to this challenge by creating and deploying programs that prioritize your colleagues’ well-being. But rather than relying on past initiatives, it’s crucial to adopt new strategies and create training programs to meet this moment and that are grounded in an understanding of holistic health.

Think Holistically to Boost Engagement

Well-being and engagement are highly reciprocal, and employees who feel well are more likely to perform well. The key is to design training that addresses the “whole person” through the various dimensions of wellness: intellectual, emotional, physical, occupational and social.

To help employees navigate the ways the pandemic has challenged their well-being, your organization may need to invest more time, money and energy in employee mental health. This investment might include training on topics such as stress management, resilience and mindfulness. Making sure these initiatives are personalized to meet employees’ specific needs will increase the odds of their success.

Recognize Organizational Challenges

Convincing corporate leaders to fund holistic wellness training may be your first challenge in creating a new well-being program. Many leaders lack awareness of the long-term benefits of wellness training. As a result, they may initially prefer to focus budgets on topics they feel more clearly move the needle, such as selling skills and product training.

Even when employers are willing to fund wellness training, many limit their expenditures to short-term programs, like health fairs, or initiatives that provide little guidance or support, such as gym membership reimbursement. Unfortunately, such programs can place too much responsibility on the employee and often don’t address workers’ overall wellness.

Make a Case for Well-being

The onus may be on you to help leaders understand the far-reaching impacts that a holistic wellness initiative can have on employees. As L&D professionals, you’re often asked to build a business case and gain leadership buy-in for skills and product training initiatives. Wellness training is no different. Consider taking the following three steps to overcome organizational resistance:

1. Create a Wellness Training Committee

Form a committee to advocate for the program. Include stakeholders who represent each group of employees that the training will impact — participants, facilitators, management, accounting and others. Consult with subject matter experts (SMEs), and be sure to consider all opinions carefully, including the ones that challenge your proposals.

2. Survey Employees

Conduct a survey during the planning stage like you would when conducting a needs analysis. Seek to understand employee perceptions of wellness, their current baseline and practices, and their desired healthy behaviors. This survey will ensure you’re planning relevant and impactful wellness training options.

3. Create a Plan

Develop a plan that includes your program objectives and desired outcome, a timetable for rolling out deliverables, the resources it will need, and a proposed budget.

Tailor Your Program to Maximize Engagement

To ensure your plan is personalized and engaging, prioritize the topics and areas of wellness uncovered by your survey. Then, consider adding topics that address the stressors raised by the pandemic and remote work conditions. Some in-demand topics to explore include:

Stress Management

Teaching techniques employees can work into their daily routines, such as belly breathing and meditation, may be the most important topic to cover at this time and should be at the heart of any program you develop.

Work/Life Balance

The rise in remote work has made training focused on creating equilibrium between employees’ personal and professional lives more relevant — and needed — than ever.

Home Office Stretches

Providing instruction on stretches employees can complete while working from home can enhance their physical, as well as mental, health.

Building Resilience

Helping employees cope with the stress of this moment in a positive way can boost happiness in both their professional and personal lives.

Ensuring Healthy Eating

Training employees about good nutrition — which can improve cognitive performance and reduce symptoms of depression — can be an important part of any holistic training initiative.

Engaging in Difficult Conversations

Increased reliance on virtual communication has made these engagement skills particularly important, even in organizations that have provided instruction in this area in the past.

Receiving Feedback

Giving employees strategies on how to perceive and receive feedback openly and non-defensively — particularly when engaging virtually — can lead to personal and professional growth, which enhances well-being.

Enhancing Emotional Intelligence (EI)

A focus on the essential “people skill” of emotional intelligence can improve teamwork, empower employees to handle tough conversations, build resilience and better enable them to effectively blend work with home life.

There’s a Wellness Program for Every Budget

Fortunately, wellness training programs are scalable. They can range from a series of short, on-demand modules to a large-scale initiative with a full curriculum. Regardless of how big or how small the endeavor is, the current moment provides you with an opportunity to enhance your colleagues’ well-being at a time when they need it.

Want to learn more on this topic? Sign up for the virtual Training Industry Conference & Expo, and attend Chapin and Hollace’s live session.