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Improving Employee Wellbeing — Noteworthy Examples from México

Today’s post comes to us from one of our newest board members: author, journalist, and speaker, Ivonne Vargas Hernández, and it’s part one in a two-part series. Check out part one here.

Early this week, I discussed the state of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace (particularly in México), and the importance of companies caring for their employees — especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, I’d like to highlight a few companies in México that have implemented successful programs to help improve employee wellbeing.

Volkswagen’s Emotional Wellness Plan for Faculty Workers

In 2018, the México HR team at German automotive company Volkswagen surprised corporate with the proposal to develop a wellness toolbox. The mission was, and still is, for each department to design (at least) two positive actions that can be implemented yearly.

To date, more than 70 ideas companywide have been compiled through this strategy. Examples include putting up messages to recognize an employee; designing an event where the employees have 12 minutes to share with co-workers something that offers wellness to their lives; and even organizing virtual funeral services to offer support for those employees who lost a loved one during the pandemic.

The idea is to break with the stigma that personal and working life are disassociated, as well as to increase the level of wellness, commitment, and intent of the employees.

In the case of Volkswagen, focusing on wellness opened the door to being noticed by headquarters by presenting a model that integrates actions oriented on having happier, more committed teams. México became a role model for the entire company with this dynamic.

Natura: POV from Latin America

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brazilian cosmetics group Natura has promoted workplace flexibility among its employees with hybrid working schemes and has invested in health to drive talent retention.

Breaking with the paradigm that flexibility means only not going to the office, it is one of the practices that HR promoted through limits in work schedules and campaigns with an inclusive point of view. For example, there were designated forums for parents focused on issues such as joint responsibility while raising children, time management, and family tasks, among other topics.

Natura also cut down the training connection time, with the idea to focus the learning according to each employee’s profile. People used to dedicate seven and a half days to training. However, the average is now five and half days, with a higher level of commitment to finish the training and gain specific knowledge.

Banregio Bank’s Wellness Program

The pandemic has decreased productivity among employees by between 10% and 15%, according to the Global Wellness Institute. Even though, according to information gathered by Instituto de Ciencias del Bienestar (Wellness and Happiness Science Institute in México), something as normal as requesting an employee to “jump” from one task to another, without clarity about expectations and adequate training, can cause mental blocks that damage productivity by up to 40%.

Keeping in mind these metrics and the development environments, Mexican bank Banregio decided to offer a more holistic focus to the wellness program, designing activities to take care of physical and emotional health through emotional health/life experience talks, family days, and developing a “Human Library” concept. The idea was to invite all employees — including executives — to share a difficult, challenging situation they have experienced, so employees could learn about how that person moved forward in the experience.

One of the biggest challenges in the company was to show that vulnerability is a part of everyone — including managers. Banregio developed a special session where every leader chose an experience and talked about fear and vulnerability. This helped changed employees’ perceptions about their leaders and, ultimately, their behaviors.

While these examples describe specific initiatives in México, companies across the world have made progress on the mental health front, with many new programs initiated as a result of the pandemic. However, there’s still a long way to go. We all stand to learn from these successful concepts and programs and to develop more innovative ways to help improve employee wellness at our own organizations — today and in the future.

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