Making Employee Wellness part of CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. (Investopedia). Do a search for any company or brand followed by those three words and chances are pretty good that you will be directed to a web page outlining all the good they’re doing for the community, charitable organizations, the environment, how they are engaging their employees in volunteerism, and what causes align with their own mission, vision and values.  

A research project I was working on a couple months ago had me compiling information on companies in the greater Chicago region and where they were in terms of CSR. These were companies with annual revenues in the billions, who I learned from my research, are making even more money as a result of shifting business during the pandemic (a food manufacturer of non-perishable and frozen food items and a document and data management company are two examples). 

One company I researched with over a billion dollars in annual revenue had only 200 employees. Where does a billion dollars go when you only have 200 employees? I read around that time how Jeff Bezos could give each Amazon employee (essential workers keeping his business going) a $105k bonus, and still only be down to the assets he had at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. Notice the word stakeholders, not shareholders, and yet…

A work place that holds its employees among its most valued stakeholders, is going to get that investment back. a happy employee is a productive employee. One study found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. When it comes to salespeople, happiness has an even greater impact, raising sales by 37%.” (Preston, C. 13 Dec 2017, Promoting Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone, Forbes)

My United Way affiliation years ago and again this fall afforded me an opportunity to see employers at their best. It would seem from what I’ve witnessed that companies who tend to care about their communities care about their employees. This is particularly important this year as people feel isolated working from home. The Center for Workplace Mental Health, offers some guidance for working remotely during COVID-19. Their list includes keeping a regular schedule, staying connected, keeping your immune system strong, practicing good hygiene, exercising and staying active, staying informed – while limiting media consumption, setting boundaries on work schedules, and practicing other means of self-care like meditation and yoga.

If you’re an employer, what can you do to help your employee stick to these practices? Probably most importantly, acknowledge that people are going to have difficulties and validate their feelings when issues arise (or before they do). Make sure that employees have opportunities to connect with their co-workers, direct reports, supervisors and even people from other departments. Encourage use of your Employee Assistance Program, and even consider making coaching available. Coaches can be a huge asset and help a virtual workforce stick to goals and practice self-care.

Working remotely for the past nine months (yes, NINE months!) has had its ups and downs. Being able to connect with my teams was most valuable. United Way of Metro Chicago did a great job of connecting people across departments in a weekly 15-minute Zoom, and a monthly remote staff activity that involves learning or just something fun (a Halloween Party for example).

Many employers have been doing wonderful things to keep their remote workforce healthy, happy and engaged. People Magazine published People’s 50 Companies that care: Employers who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic (D. Walters and D. Herbst, September 02, 2020). These companies understand the full extent of social responsibility.

CSR perhaps thought of as something more external facing, needs to include employee wellness as part of the equation. As the saying goes, “charity begins at home.” And if you’re not responsible for the well-being of the people who will make your business successful – or not – what’s the point? This holds true for all businesses, billion dollar ones and mom & pops.

My WFH space. Vernon Hills, Illinois. August 2020.

For more ideas, check out these articles on how to keep employees engaged and healthy through COVID-19:

List complied by Wellable, COVID-19 Employee Wellness Toolkit

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.