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The Coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, upended global business operations while forcing many employees to pivot to online remote work. As companies take precautions to ensure the safety of their employees, the role of employee wellness is prominent. While some companies may already have an employee wellness program, tailoring it to the remote environment proves to be a new challenge. Luckily, strategies and resources exist to help companies adopt a wellness program and tailor it to meet the needs of remote employees.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), wellbeing is “the ability for individuals to address normal stresses, work productively, and realize their highest potential.” Gallup research identifies five interconnected elements of wellbeing: career, social, financial, community and physical. Yet, only one in 14 U.S. employees thrive in all five elements. During an ongoing pandemic, normal stresses are likely heightened, as many are concerned about health, for themselves and their family. Creating a wellness program that takes this into consideration with a holistic approach to health can foster the wellbeing of employees.
The CDC describes workplace health programs as “a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite that includes programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees.” A wellness program is designed to support the overall health and wellbeing of employees, while taking steps to target the specific needs of each individual employee.
Senior leadership is crucial to employee wellbeing, as highlighted by a survey from the American Psychological Foundation that reported a link between workplace wellbeing and senior leadership support. Seventy-three percent of employees with senior managers who show support through involvement and commitment to wellbeing initiatives said their organization helps employees develop a healthy lifestyle. According to the director of APA’s Center for Organization Excellence David W. Ballard, promoting employee wellbeing “isn’t a singular activity, but is instead set up in a climate that is cultivated, embraced and supported by high-level leaders and managers.”
With an established wellness program, tailoring it to the remote setting often starts with fostering connection. Senior leadership can lead the way here too. Gallup stresses individualized coaching from managers, citing that newly remote workers may struggle with isolation and loneliness. The CDC recommends creating personal connections in a remote environment through multiple channels – e-mail, webinars, and regular one-on-one conversations with colleagues to discuss everyday concerns and share health and wellness information. The CDC also recommends work flexibility, allowing time for employees to exercise, meditate, or go to a doctor’s appointment.
There are a number of additional steps a company can take to foster a remote wellness environment. WellRight, a corporate wellness program builder, recommends offering virtual wellness seminars on topics like burnout, sleep, and how to properly read nutrition labels. Companies can also cultivate well being through healthy competition. Worldwide ERC®’s Young Professionals Under 40 (YP40) group, for instance, is currently conducting a virtual exercise bingo board competition.
In a time of heightened health awareness, employees may need to consider additional resources such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is “a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.” They address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional wellbeing, such as stress, grief, family problems and psychological disorders. The CDC also offers a workplace wellness resource center, including its workplace health model and scorecard.
Using these strategies and resources, companies and their leadership can cultivate an environment of health and wellness for its employees. Applying them to the online remote situation in which many find themselves is crucial in keeping employees safe, healthy and well.
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