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Optimizing Workplace Productivity and Wellness: HR Strategies for SuccessAuto Draft

Optimizing Workplace Productivity and Wellness: HR Strategies for SuccessAuto Draft

HR strategies, mental wellness, inclusivity, workplace productivity. These are more than just buzzwords. Together, they form the framework that results in a well-managed workforce of content employees or an environment of apathy.

It’s no secret that today’s work environment is a dynamic canvas, constantly shifting and demanding new strategies to optimize productivity and support employee wellness. As HR specialists, our role is pivotal in adapting strategies to optimize productivity while prioritizing employee wellness. 

As someone who’s been in HR services for years, I understand the challenge of adapting to these changing needs. That’s why Launchways is here to share some insights and strategies to navigate these changes effectively.

Flexibility: Embracing Change for Better Work Dynamics

Remember when the traditional 9-to-5 was the gold standard in Chicago? Well, times have changed. The rise of remote work and hybrid models has challenged the norms. Embracing this change by offering flexible schedules or remote options can significantly boost morale and productivity. 

In fact, flexibility has become one of the most common employee demands in recent years. According to Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI), it is the number one reason workers change jobs. Hybrid work schedules allow for better work-life balance. It offers a more relaxed, focused approach to tasks resulting in up to a 20% increase in employee satisfaction.

Efficiency: Streamlining HR Processes for Maximum Output

Efficiency – the holy grail of productivity remains the cornerstone of productivity. Embracing automation tools within HR operations can work wonders. From applicant tracking systems to onboarding software, automation minimizes manual tasks, letting your team focus on what truly matters. 

I remember when the recruitment process was time-consuming and arduous. It used to take weeks. With the integration of automated systems, we witnessed a remarkable reduction in hiring time. It cut that down by half allowing our team to concentrate efforts on engaging with potential candidates more effectively.

Inclusivity: Fostering Diversity for a Supportive Environment

Inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the cornerstone of a thriving workplace. Creating an inclusive workplace goes beyond fulfilling diversity quotas; it’s about valuing different perspectives and creating an environment where everyone feels respected and heard. 

Initiatives like mentorship programs focusing on diverse talent have proven instrumental in nurturing a sense of belonging and driving innovation through varied viewpoints.

Mental Wellness: Prioritizing Employee Health and Resilience

Employee well-being is non-negotiable. They are integral components of a productive workforce. Prioritizing mental health support programs and promoting work-life balance isn’t just a nice gesture – it’s crucial. 

Witnessing a colleague burn out due to a heavy workload and lack of support was an eye-opener. It really highlighted the urgency for prioritizing employee well-being. 

Implementing regular check-ins, wellness seminars, and flexible hours has helped us not only retain talent but also boosted overall productivity and creativity.

Automated Solutions: Revolutionizing HR Practices

Welcome to the age of AI and machine learning! The adoption of AI-driven recruitment tools has revolutionized HR’s hiring process in the following ways:

  • Enhancing decision-making capabilities through data analysis
  • Improving candidate sourcing
  • Offering insights for strategic planning

The implementation of AI-driven recruitment tools not only expedited our hiring process but also facilitated the identification of top talent, leading to reduced turnover rates. They don’t just make life easier. It’s like having a reliable assistant who never sleeps! 

Actionable Steps for HR Leaders

In this ever-evolving landscape, HR leaders hold the compass to navigate through change successfully. Embracing flexibility, streamlining processes, fostering inclusivity, prioritizing mental wellness, and integrating automated solutions are the pillars of building a resilient, thriving workplace.

Assess your current HR practices. Identify bottlenecks and areas where automation can lend a helping hand. Invest in tools that align with your company’s culture and goals. Remember, employee feedback should be your guide. Adapt and evolve based on their needs.

So, fellow HR practitioners, let us collectively steer our organizations toward a workplace that not only thrives in productivity but also champions the holistic well-being of every individual. Together, we can create a workspace where success and happiness coexist.

For more information, reach out to the professionals at Launchways.

Mental Health Ranks Highest in 2024 Workplace Trends

In recent years, the workplace landscape has undergone significant changes, largely influenced by the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we approach 2024, a new trend has emerged that is taking precedence in the minds of corporate leaders and HR professionals alike: mental health. 

Businesses have seen workers dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, or having problems with substance abuse. Unfortunately, the problem has worsened. In 2023, employers reporting mental health problems among their employees rose from 44% to 77%. As many as 16% believe the problem will continue to get worse.

Mental health concerns are not only impacting the employees of large corporations but also smaller businesses. To deal with this in 2024, employers are exploring strategies to prepare for mental health challenges that lie ahead for businesses of all sizes.

Mental Health Issues Also Affect Smaller Businesses

The growing awareness of mental health issues is not confined to large corporations; it extends its reach to smaller businesses as well. In fact, mental wellness challenges are often felt more acutely in smaller organizations due to limited resources and support systems. 

Several factors contribute to the impact of mental health on smaller businesses:

Close-knit Work Environments: Smaller businesses often have a more familial atmosphere, which can be both a strength and a weakness. While it fosters strong bonds among employees, it also means that mental health issues are more visible and can have a cascading effect on team dynamics.

Limited Resources: Smaller businesses may lack the financial resources to invest in comprehensive mental health programs or hire dedicated mental health professionals. This limitation can make it challenging to provide adequate support to employees dealing with mental health concerns.

Stress and Workload: In smaller teams, a single employee’s absence or reduced productivity can significantly impact the overall workload. This can lead to heightened stress levels and burnout, further exacerbating mental health issues.

Lack of Awareness: Smaller businesses may not have the same level of awareness and education regarding mental health as larger corporations. This can result in a lack of understanding and a failure to recognize the signs of mental health challenges.

Given these factors, it is evident that mental wellness concerns are not limited to a specific company size or industry. Smaller businesses are equally affected, and addressing mental health issues is imperative for fostering a healthy workplace environment and sustaining employee well-being.

How Can Companies Prepare for Health Care Challenges Ahead?

As mental health takes center stage in corporate concerns heading into 2024, companies of all sizes must proactively prepare for the healthcare challenges that lie ahead. Here are some strategies that organizations can adopt to address mental health and promote mental wellness:

Create a Stigma-Free Environment

One of the first steps in addressing mental health in the workplace is to create a stigma-free environment. Encourage open conversations about mental wellness and ensure employees feel safe discussing their challenges without fear of judgment. This can be achieved through awareness campaigns, workshops, and training programs.

Implement Mental Health Programs

Offering mental health programs and resources is crucial. These programs can include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counselling services, stress management workshops, and access to mental health professionals. Companies should invest in these resources to provide employees with needed support.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible hours, can help employees better manage their mental health. These arrangements provide the flexibility to balance work with personal life and mental wellness.

Training for Managers

Managers play a pivotal role in supporting employees’ mental health. Provide training to managers on recognizing signs of mental health issues, having empathetic conversations, and connecting employees with appropriate resources.

Employee Wellness Initiatives

Wellness initiatives encompassing physical, mental, and emotional well-being can significantly impact. Encourage activities such as mindfulness and meditation sessions, fitness programs, and wellness challenges to promote overall health.

Evaluate Health Insurance Plans

Review and enhance health insurance plans to provide comprehensive coverage for mental health services. Ensure employees have access to mental health professionals and treatment without financial barriers.

Regular Surveys and Feedback Loops

Establish regular surveys and feedback mechanisms to gauge employee well-being and gather insights into the effectiveness of mental health initiatives. Use this data to refine and improve programs.

Inclusivity and Diversity

Promote inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, as a diverse workforce can bring unique perspectives and experiences related to mental wellness. Ensure that inclusivity is a core value of the company culture.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Discourage overworking and emphasize the importance of taking time off when needed.

The Takeaway

As we approach 2024, mental health has risen to the forefront of corporate concerns, affecting both large and smaller businesses. Recognizing the significance of mental health in the workplace is the first step toward creating a healthier and more productive work environment.

Companies can prepare for the healthcare challenges ahead by adopting a holistic approach that includes destigmatization, the implementation of mental health programs, flexible work arrangements, manager training, wellness initiatives, improved insurance coverage, employee feedback mechanisms, and a commitment to inclusivity and work-life balance.

In the evolving landscape of corporate priorities, mental health and human resources professionals have a vital role in fostering mental wellness and ensuring that employees thrive professionally and personally. By addressing mental health challenges head-on, companies can build a healthier, more engaged workforce and better equipped to navigate the demands of the modern workplace.

Anticipating the Rise of Employee Leave Requests

As organizations continue to navigate the evolving landscape of remote work, the anticipated increases in employee leave requests have become a prominent topic of discussion. During these unprecedented times, companies struggle to strike a balance that leaves them financially in the black while meeting their employees’ needs.

The surge in work-from-home and hybrid work schedules, driven by the recent global pandemic, has led to a significant shift in workplace dynamics. This could be a source of frustration for employers who assumed that their standard operating procedures would revert back to normal when the pandemic ended. Many companies are unsure how far they need to alter their regular practices to remain current with the changing times.

Based on the 2023 Employee Leave of Absence Forecast Survey by leading leave and accommodation management platform AbsenceSoft, human resource leaders have recently seen substantial increases in employee leave requests. In 2022, they jumped between 20 and 40% and are expected to increase again by up to 60% in 2023.

Why Is This an Issue?

According to researchers, even with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), the U.S. is unfortunately among the few countries that do not guarantee paid sick leave or family and medical leave for employees. Although FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, that leaves many workers and their families unprotected in their most significant times of need.

To further exacerbate the problem, many employers are exempt from FMLA due to the size of their business and the number of full-time workers they employ.

Since states can make their own medical leave rules, many are adopting far more generous regulations than the federal requirements given by FMLA. In fact, a number of states have created leave programs that guarantee paid time off to family caregivers and working parents.

However, this still leaves access to PTO at the employers’ discretion for most employees.

Reasons for Increases to Employee Leave Requests 

As businesses seek to predict and accommodate these scheduling changes, it is helpful to understand what is driving them. The three main contributors to these leave request increases are related to the following:

  • Personal illness
  • Mental health concerns and burnout
  • Care for family members

Although flexibility with work schedules was initially seen as a necessary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become an essential employee benefit.

Why This Trend Is Likely to Continue

The ability to successfully navigate a balance between their workalike and home life has become a greater priority for many employees. In fact, it can significantly influence how long someone will remain with the company. The more they feel their individual needs are being met by their employers, the more likely they will experience a sense of loyalty to the company.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that many companies are introducing more paid time off in their 2023 benefits packages. This not only helps to retain current employees, but it also goes a long way to attracting potential new hires.

Navigating the Future

Over the past two years, retaining staff and recruiting new talent remains an ongoing issue for many companies, but managing staff time off has been by far one of the most difficult aspects of running a business. Calculating employee eligibility and ensuring compliance with a variety of laws, as well as company policies are two of the primary difficulties, making employee leave management one of the most challenging tasks for businesses. 

Plus, many corporate leaders have found it hard to effectively manage their employees’ absences. Some are still relying on outdated methods, like spreadsheets, calendar reminders, and sticky notes. This archaic approach has proven to be inefficient leaving 44% of HR professionals stating that their organization is only marginally or not at all effective at the task.

Unfortunately, many businesses are unprepared to counter the potential legal action that may result as a consequence of mismanaging employee leaves. Adopting administrative software that performs the duties related to managing employee leave can simplify the process while ensuring accuracy and compliance. Thereby, relieving the associated tension between HR leaders and employees.

In Conclusion…

As employee leave requests from concerns such as burnout, illness, mental health issues, and caregiving responsibilities increase, organizations must continue to address them. They can do this by promoting employee well-being, providing flexible policies, and fostering open communication to mitigate the impact of increased leave use. 

By recognizing and addressing these unique stressors, organizations can more effectively support their employees and maintain a healthy work-life balance in the remote work environment.

Simplifying HR for Small and Medium-sized Businesses: The Power of Managed HR Services

Running a small or medium-sized business (SMB) comes with its own unique set of challenges. From managing day-to-day operations to nurturing growth, entrepreneurs often find themselves juggling multiple hats. One crucial aspect that demands their attention is human resources (HR). However, HR functions can be time-consuming, complex, and overwhelming for SMBs. This is where managed HR services come to the rescue. In this blog post, we’ll explore how managed HR services can simplify HR processes for SMBs, allowing them to focus on what they do best.

1. Understanding the Basics of Managed HR Services:

Managed HR services provide SMBs with comprehensive HR support and solutions. Rather than handling HR tasks in-house, businesses partner with an external HR provider to take care of critical functions such as payroll management, benefits administration, compliance, talent acquisition, and more. This allows SMBs to access the expertise of HR professionals without the burden of building an entire HR department.

2. Streamlining HR Processes:

One of the most significant advantages of managed HR services is the streamlining of HR processes. By leveraging the expertise and advanced technology of the HR provider, SMBs can automate and optimize routine HR tasks. From managing employee data and attendance tracking to generating accurate payroll reports, the right HR service provider can simplify processes, reducing manual effort and eliminating errors.

3. Cost Savings:

For SMBs, managing HR internally can be costly. Hiring dedicated HR staff, investing in HR software and infrastructure, and ensuring compliance with ever-changing regulations can strain limited resources. However, with managed HR services, businesses can benefit from cost savings. By outsourcing HR functions, SMBs avoid overhead expenses associated with maintaining an in-house HR department. Instead, they pay a predictable fee to the HR service provider, often tailored to their specific needs.

4. Expertise and Compliance:

Navigating complex HR regulations and compliance requirements can be a daunting task for SMBs. However, with managed HR services, businesses gain access to HR professionals well-versed in employment laws and regulations. These experts ensure that the business remains compliant with the latest HR legislation, reducing the risk of costly penalties and legal issues. Moreover, they stay updated on industry best practices and can provide guidance on HR strategies tailored to the specific needs of SMBs.

5. Scalability and Flexibility:

As SMBs grow, their HR needs evolve as well. Managed HR services offer scalability and flexibility, allowing businesses to adapt their HR support as they expand. Whether it’s onboarding new employees, expanding benefits packages, or implementing performance management systems, an HR service provider can quickly adjust to meet changing requirements, providing SMBs with the agility they need to thrive in a dynamic business environment.

6. Enhanced Focus on Core Business:

By entrusting HR functions to a trusted HR service provider, SMBs can redirect their energy and resources toward their core competencies. This allows them to focus on innovation, business development, and serving their customers more effectively. Outsourcing HR responsibilities enables business owners and managers to dedicate their time and attention to strategic initiatives that drive growth and differentiate their company in the marketplace.


For small and medium-sized businesses, managed HR services offer a lifeline in simplifying and optimizing HR operations. By partnering with an external HR provider, SMBs can streamline their processes, reduce costs, ensure compliance, access expert HR guidance, and free up valuable time and resources. As you focus on nurturing your business, consider the power of managed HR services and unlock the potential to take your organization to new heights.

COVID “Long-Haulers” May Now Qualify for FMLA and ADA Protection

On July 26th, the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President Joe Biden announced that individuals coping with long-term symptoms from COVID-19 may be eligible for disability protections under the ADA and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so what does this mean for employers?

Health experts are still learning about “long-COVID”, officially dubbed Post-Acute Sequelae of Sars-Cov-2 Infection, and the medical community’s understanding of the condition is continuing to evolve as more information comes in. The CDC website lists the following as the most common post-COVID symptoms: 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Changes in period cycles

In his July 26th announcement, Biden said that “many Americans who seemingly recover from the virus still face lingering challenges like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue. These conditions can sometimes…rise to the level of a disability.” 

Employers are advised to treat all requests for accommodation or leave involving long-term COVID-19 symptoms in the same manner they would for any other non-obvious impairment or disability. 

If an employee is seeking FMLA leave – either intermittent or as an interval of time, employers should take the following steps to decide how to proceed:

  • Determine if the employer covered by FMLA
  • If so, determine if the employee qualifies for FMLA. Consider that the employer must have 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite, and the employee must have been employed at least 12 months and must have worked a minimum of 1250 hours in the past 12 months. 
  • Provide the employee with a Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities, Form WH-381, even if they are not eligible for FMLA leave. 
  • If the employee is determined to be eligible for FMLA leave, the employer should request healthcare certification showing that the claimed disability qualifies the employee for FMLA protection. 
  • Employees seeking leave due to their own symptoms should be provided with Form WH-380-E, and employees seeking leave to care for a family member should be provided with form WH-380-F
  • A Designation Notice, Form WH-382, should be used to either denominate the leave as FMLA leave or to serve as notice to the employee that the leave is unapproved or additional information is required. 

If the individual is seeking ADA Accommodations for long-haul COVID-19 symptoms, the employer should consult with the individual to determine what their exact limitations are and what accommodations are being sought. Keep in mind that the ADA requires the employer to make reasonable accommodations for employees, as well as applicants for employment, who have disabilities. 

The ADA does not provide a checklist of conditions that are covered, so instead the employer will need to conduct an individualized assessment to determine if the person has a disability as defined by the ADA. In this context a disability is defined as any impairment that substantially limits major life functions. 

Guidance issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) on July 26th stated that the phrase “substantially limits” should be interpreted broadly and should not require in-depth analysis. 

The employer should then request the individual to have their healthcare provider submit written confirmation of:

  • The extent that a disability will substantially limit the individual’s major life functions, including the nature of the disability, its severity, and the anticipated duration of the disability. 
  • Their assessment of the individual’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation. 
  • What accommodations the provider believes should be provided that would allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the position safely. 

If it becomes clear that the individual does have a disability, the employer should continue to engage with the individual to determine appropriate accommodations. The individual is not granted the ability to dictate which accommodations are provided under the ADA, but it is in the best interest of all parties that they reach an agreement on this subject. 

Employers should also keep in mind that reasonable accommodations are not required under the ADA if they would cause an undue hardship on the business, and that long-term effects from COVID-19 don’t always qualify as a disability under the ADA. 

It is important employers fully understand the scope of the laws’ coverage in order to be prepared to handle any potential situation. No matter the outcome, employers should always carefully document every step throughout this process and be sure to communicate clearly with the individual seeking accommodations. 

A New Benefits Model is Coming, Are You Ready?

Employee benefit brokers know that their market is an intensely competitive one, and a shift to a more employee-centric model for benefits administration technology and services is quickly gaining steam. With it comes added pressure to keep pace or risk losing business, wallet share, and chances to gain new clients.

Across the board, employers and brokerages are reducing the quantity of partners they rely on to deliver the administration, benefits, and technology required to meet the demands of this emerging benefits business model. Comprehensive options reign, but there are also three main qualities that are crucial to remaining competitive:

  • A wide variety of benefit options that support and care for the employee as a whole – along with knowledgeable support services around those benefits
  • A modern and intuitive user experience (for both the employee and the benefits administrator)
  • Effective and efficient employee-specific communication about the benefit options, helping to drive employee understanding, engagement, appreciate, and ROI

The New Benefits Model 101

The primary shift that is taking place in HR systems is one of perspective, away from the needs of medical claims payors and HR processes, and toward the needs of the employee. Additionally, less focus is being placed on the traditional core benefits, like medical, dental, and vision benefits.

Momentum has been building in this direction for a while now, but with COVID-19 the movement has accelerated to the point that it can no longer be ignored. The pandemic has forced employers to focus in on providing benefits that are easier to access and support the employee in a more holistic manner.

Emphasis has generally shifted toward providing benefits that center around the needs of the employee and benefit platforms that improve the lives of the employees more generally. Beyond obvious improvements like making the employee portal more user friendly, the very substance of the benefits that are being provided is changing. Larger organizations are trying out wider portfolios of benefits and tools for their employees, including anything from mental health, physical fitness, or even financial wellbeing. This switch in perspective has initiated a reimagining of the entire structure of benefit options, blurring traditional lines between benefit categories and shaking up old conceptions about employer responsibilities regarding employee benefits.

What’s In Vogue? Voluntary Benefits

The demand for integrated healthcare benefits is growing rapidly, pushing voluntary benefits into the spotlight. Previously seen as the sidekick to primary benefit options, the day has finally arrived for voluntary products. They are now at the cutting edge of an arms race as competition heats up for employers and brokers to transform their offerings to resonate with younger workers and deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an analysis of the employee well-being landscape by The Starr Conspiracy, investment in employee well-being shot up more than 500% in the year 2020 from 2019.

The new benefit smorgasbord has expanded to include:

  • Financial planning and counseling
  •  Student loan repayment
  • Lifestyle flexibility
  • Lifestyle benefits
  • Community focus
  • Flexibility in workplace and hours
  • Increased representation in the company’s mission and values
  • Support for non-traditional and multi-generational families

Decisions, decisions

So, what is a benefits broker supposed to do amid all this calamity and upheaval? How can you know heads or tails when looking at prospective partners? We mentioned before that the market is trending sharply in the direction of utilizing fewer, and more comprehensive, partners to deliver the administration, benefits, and technology for this incoming benefits model. Let’s revisit those three crucial characteristics of a benefits partner:

  • A wide variety of benefit options that support and care for the employee as a whole – along with knowledgeable support services around those benefits
  • A modern and intuitive user experience (for both the employee and the benefits administrator)
  • Effective and efficient employee-specific communication about the benefit options, helping to drive employee understanding, engagement, appreciate, and ROI

You might ask, is there really any employee benefits administration/employee engagement software that is integrated and automated enough to reach this new bar? If so, what key elements would you need to look for to identify it? As it turns out there are many, but what makes or breaks any solution is its ability to communicate effectively with the employee and meet their needs. The right information needs to be provided to the right employees at the right time, otherwise no program or initiative will succeed.

Here are some tips to help you sift through the assortment of options:

  • Take the time to find a solution vendor that will support employers to really connect with their employees. Keep in mind that approximately half of all employees rate themselves as either unsatisfied or partially satisfied with their current benefit options.
  • Yet again, communication is key. Try to find a platform vendor that provides integrated engagement software to create personal and impactful communications and an intuitive enrollment experience.
  •  Finding a partner that has a wide variety of benefit options is ideal, but you should also ensure that they have the technology in place to manage all of an employer’s benefit plans, regardless of complexity.
  • On the benefits administration side, you want to find a partner that has the technology available to allow HR teams to access benefit information in a centralized location and at the touch of a button. Look for something that can manage electronic document storage, life events, eligibility, compliance, and demographic changes all in one place.
  • The user experience for the employees and administrators goes far beyond having a pleasant interface. Make sure your partner can manage the large and often quite complex configurations and benefit business rules that employers require.
  • Ensure early on that your technology partner comes with a dedicated and highly experienced customer service team that will work with your clients throughout the setup, implementation, and maintenance of their benefit options.
  • Lastly, go with a partner that offers an experience that employees can access around the clock without forcing them to download yet another mobile app.

Finding benefits administration technology vendors that cover all three bases can be quite difficult. Many are strong in one or two of those critical areas, but brokers who aim to position themselves as trusted advisors will be required to find partners that cover all three and with expertise. This is a tall order, but if you take your time and follow the advice provided in this article, you will be well on your way.