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.

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.

Anxiety, gastric ailments associated to stress, and work isolation — among others — are not new issues within the work environment. But the COVID-19 pandemic has given them a special underlining.

Before COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) already considered that 75% of the workforce in México, for instance, suffered from stress. After 18 months of the pandemic, reality hasn’t changed and mental health problems within the workforce have worsened due to issues such as loss of employment, extended work hours, or work overload.

Whether for lack of health or employment, the pandemic and its effects in work and personal lives shot México to first place among the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for having the highest levels of anxiety.

With symptoms such as depression, the outlook is similar to that of anxiety. Before the pandemic, this ailment affected 3% of the Mexican population. The pandemic raised the number to 27%, therefore moving México from 13th to third among those economies that make up the OECD ranking — the highest increase within the group.

Although employers all over the world have responded with initiatives such as mental health days or weeks, two- or three-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or access to therapy apps, it’s still not enough. There are also, in some ways, doubts toward the profitability in this matter or the uncertainty of what to expect from the implementation of a wellness program.

But institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have documented that the companies that invest in knowing the emotional needs of their employees, as part of an emotional and physical wellness strategy, achieve twice the innovation and increase their yearly earnings by 25%.

While it is true that not all leaders are (or have to be) corporate wellness experts, it is also important not to ignore the impact on workers’ health. Employee wellness was vital (and challenging) before the pandemic, and now it is even more critical.

In México, 45% of the population has bad quality of sleep and 5% of adults suffer from insomnia, according to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (the oldest in the country), with research collected by the psychology department from the beginning of the pandemic.

If companies provide employees with the tools that enable them to disconnect, especially when working remotely, it stands to improve the overall working environment, positively impact retention, increase productivity, and even lower healthcare expenses for the company.

The Positive Psychology Approach to Employee Mental Health

Another possible approach to improving employee wellbeing comes from positive psychology, a discipline focused on the scientific study of wellness, which posits the importance of making changes in daily events that generate anxiety for employees, such as the way leaders provide feedback.

According to Gallup research on employee burnout, employees who agree with their performance metrics are 55% less likely to suffer exhaustion. Leadership styles that can cause employee burnout tend to focus on negative feedback (e.g., what needs to be fixed). This way of acting, in terms of emotional studies, implies centering only on the past. Instead, leaders should focus on what employees do well and identify opportunities for improvement.

Also, moving away from a micromanagement leadership style to achieve results can help build employee confidence. Far from making workers sick, it can improve employee wellness by empowering them to make informed decisions based on the skills and expertise they have developed throughout their careers and lives. That is one of the many lessons I learned while achieving my master’s in positive psychology at Tecnológico de Monterrey in México.

Meaningful change starts with providing all people — regardless of their profession — with the tools to exploits their strengths. Over the past few years, before and during the pandemic, several companies in México have incorporated actions to increase employee health and wellness.

Later this week, I’ll share some standout examples.

We've entered the season for #TYCTWD aka Take Your Child to Work Day.  The official day this year is next Wednesday, April 26th.  Kronos celebrated our day this week.  It's school vacation week in Massachusetts - where we are headquartered - and this makes it a little easier for the parents of the 8-11 year olds we invite to manage their vacationing children for the day.

Kronos has celebrated this day for many years, and we've learned some lessons about how to do it right.  Not sticking religiously to the "official" day is one of those lessons.  You can learn a few others in this helpful article from Kronos Chief People Officer Dave Almeda, How to Plan a Great Take Your Children to Work Day

I took my mother  to work with me once in 1992 - where I was teaching a seminar in Hong Kong.  She of the double major in Chemistry and German stayed home with my siblings and me, a product of her generation.  She struggled mightily with my decision to go back to work after my daughter was born in 1988.  I took her on that trip to Hong Kong so we could have an adventure together, but the outcome was much more important than that for both of us.

During that trip, I was leading an international team of consultants on a training mission around the world.  My mother sat in on one of the sessions that I taught.  That night, four years after the birth of my daughter, she told me that although she'd doubted my decision to be a working mother, she'd decided that day that I'd done the right thing.  She told me that she'd never had the experience of having a roomful of adults pay attention to what she had to say, and that I'd be nuts to ever give that up.

In response to a post I wrote 10 years ago, about whether #TYCTWD was still relevant, my then 20 year old daughter posted the following comment:

As my mother mentioned, I'm not necessarily looking to go into her profession, nor is my brother; and we have both spent days at our parents' offices where nothing more happened than we sat quietly and did homework while they carried out their normal business. The most important part of any TYCHWD is not exposure or inspiration, but something several others have mentioned: bonding. Just because I may not have gotten the clearest idea of what my mother did each day, it doesn't mean that I didn't get something out of TYCHWD. If anything, the plugged-in, on-the-go, never-stop world we live in requires more things like TYCHWD, because honestly, we kids will take what time we can get.

In the last 10 years, smartphones have become ubiquitous and the "plugged-in, on-the-go, never-stop world" my daughter referenced then is spinning even faster.  Organizations have gotten a little more flexible, and more fathers as well as mothers are taking advantage of that flexibility to spend more time with their children.  And yet, I bet many of those children attending #TYCTWD events this year would share my daughter's perspective that anything that allows them a little extra time and attention from their working parents is more relevant than ever.



As we enter a new year, it's always interesting to reflect on what we accomplished and what mattered most to us in the prior year so we can change course as needed in the year to come. Here at the Workforce Institute @Kronos, we saw some significant changes in 2017.   We launched The Workforce Institute in Europe,  redesigned and relaunched our website, and welcomed new board members who'll help us expand our perspective. 

Throughout 2017, we continued to publish articles and podcasts to share those perspectives.  Some of the topics you found most interesting this year included implementing an unlimited vacation policy, the future of workplace technology, and manager effectiveness.  Whether you're currently snowed in or just need a break from being back to the grind, we hope you'll take a few minutes to read through the top 10 most popular posts we published here at The Workforce Institute in 2017.  And if you have topics you'd like us to write about in 2018 - or even better, if you're interested in contributing to this blog yourself - please let us know by commenting on this post.

Thank you to all of our guest authors in 2017, and Happy New Year!

tweetchatWe had a very engaging tweet chat today regarding workplace culture and who defines it, based off our recent survey data. We had quite a few thought leaders weigh in on why HR, managers, and employees have very different opinions about workplace culture; who drives it and why; what's important to creating a great one; and what can destroy workplace culture.

You can view the entire tweet chat below (as well as here), or search via #KronosChat on Twitter. We'd love to know what you think about workplace culture and who defines it - tweet us using #KronosChat, or comment below to share your thoughts.

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