The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

A Comprehensive Look Into the Well-Being of Higher Ed Employees

Well-being is made up of more than physical health. Mental, emotional, even financial health all play into well-being, and an imbalance in any one of these components among the higher ed workforce could cause a wrinkle in daily operations and interrupt productivity. So how are higher ed institutions providing employees with programs and resources to enhance their overall well-being?

Wellness by the Numbers
CUPA-HR collects data on wellness programs every other year in its Benefits in Higher Education Survey. Findings from the 2019 report found that while the percentage of institutions with wellness programs has not changed much over the past two years, budgets and staff dedicated to wellness programs are on the decline.

More than one-third of institutions who participated in the survey do not have a wellness program, but evidence suggests that institutions that prioritize employee well-being through wellness programs have experienced positive results.

In her article Mindfulness Matters: Strategies for Centering, Reflecting and Meditating in the Workplace in the winter issue of CUPA-HR’s Higher Ed HR Magazine, Jennifer Addleman, director of benefits and well-being at Rollins College, shares how Rollins has seen health improvements among employees and students directly linked to mindfulness resources and exercises on campus. Employees reported being more present and staying focused while performing job-related tasks after taking part in a mindfulness exercise. Encouraging breathing exercises, meditating before staff meetings, offering yoga and tai-chi classes, and providing access to meditation apps are all part of Rollins College’s program.

The Role of Financial Wellness
CUPA-HR’s benefits survey also collects information on education, activities and tracking for both physical and financial wellness programs. While nearly all responding institutions provide physical wellness education and activities, numbers for financial education and activities were notably lower.

Three-fourths (79 percent) of responding institutions offer financial education, but fewer than two-thirds (58 percent) provide financial wellness activities.

CUPA-HR recently collaborated with TIAA Institute on the Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey to share new findings on the personal finance practices and financial wellness of full-time higher ed employees.

To no surprise, the survey found that financial education is associated with better personal finance practices. For instance, 70 percent of employees who received financial education reported having a personal budget, but only 55 percent of employees who did not receive financial education reported having a personal budget. Additionally, employees who recently received retirement advice were more likely to be confident that they can live comfortably in retirement as opposed to those who had not received such advice (28 percent compared to 13 percent).

CUPA-HR’s Commitment to Well-Being in Higher Ed
How is CUPA-HR playing a role in advocating for the well-being of higher ed employees? Along with 11 other higher ed associations, CUPA-HR recently signed on to NIRSA’s Health and Well-Being in Higher Education Initiative, endorsing NIRSA’s commitment to innovating, supporting and fostering a holistic, integrated and strategic approach to well-being from the association level to the institution level. Because student well-being cannot advance without also advancing employee well-being, HR is critical to this effort.

Cultivating a Healthy Campus Environment
Each component of employee wellness represents a gear in the well-being wheel, and institutional programs dedicated to well-being provide the grease that keeps the gears turning smoothly and efficiently. By providing higher ed employees with resources that will equip them to take charge of their well-being, your institution will demonstrate its commitment to its employees, while cultivating a productive and healthy work and campus environment.

Related resources:

Read more briefs and articles on well-being in the online version of Higher Ed HR Magazine, including destigmatizing mental health on campus, wellness programs that produce long-term results for employees and the institution, how to lead with kindness in the workplace, and employee benefits, such as on-campus childcare, that could increase employees’ work-life balance.

Five Reasons Your Workplace Wellness Program Might Be Failing, And How to Get It Back on Track (Higher Ed HR Magazine)

Employee Well-Being: Collaborative Partnerships Between Campus Recreation, Wellness and Human Resources (Webinar)

Employee Well-Being: How-Tos and Takeaways From Two Successful Programs (Webinar)

HR Be Nimble: Work-Life and Well-Being (Webinar)

How University of Kentucky’s CSA Voucher Program Is Innovating Employee Benefits (Higher Ed HR Magazine)

Wellness Programs Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only resource)