March 2, 2021
August 18, 2020

Employee Wellness Programs During a Pandemic

Employee Wellness Programs During a Pandemic

Good health is on everyone’s mind as the global pandemic continues around the world. How can employers do more to encourage good health for their employees?

Employee Wellness and the Global Pandemic

Good health is always good practice. Staying healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally can lead to a more fulfilling life, and a more fulfilling career. Keeping employees healthy in every way is a priority for any company worth its salt, but things have changed dramatically. Old employee wellness programs may not be working so well, or may not be applicable at all. How can employers adapt to the new normal and still maintain their focus on encouraging employee health?

Finding a New Normal

Things have changed quite dramatically since COVID-19, and many aspects of health outside of the obvious dangers of the virus have been impacted. What are these challenges we face, and what can employers do to ensure their employees still feel supported and healthy?

Working from home

Remote work has become the norm for many of us, and with that comes some specific challenges:

Work/life boundaries are blurred.

The blurring of work/life boundaries is not a new thing, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated what was already happening. Working from home can, in some cases, impact stress levels because work and life are no longer as separate as they were before. There are ways to mitigate this, however. Encourage your remote employees to have a separate workstation from the rest of their living space (as much as possible) and to have a start and end time to their workday. Setting these boundaries will help keep the necessary delineation between work and home more clear, and reduce the stress employees feel.

Work hours are increasing, but productivity isn’t.

Working from home means many of us are working longer hours. It is much easier now to sit at home while working and get lost in projects. During the pandemic the average employee is working nearly an hour longer every day. Longer hours aren’t always bad, but sustained longer hours can lead to burnout, stress, and a drop in productivity. Setting up programs to encourage employees to get out or try something new will help revitalize employee outlook and morale. Setting up such a program doesn’t have to be hard, either. It can be as simple as offering a stipend for outdoor gear, or a program for additional time off.

Home Gym? You’re a lucky one.

Working from home, especially when so much of normal life is shut down, can lead to less physical activity than before. On-site gyms are closed, and working from home might mean your only exercise is getting up to use the restroom, or maybe grabbing something from the fridge. Setting up company-wide activity programs by creating physical activity contests and rewarding them with items that will encourage further activity is a great way to keep remote employees active.

Emotional & Mental Health

Many of us are under stressors we may not even realize, but there are ways employers can help combat that for their employees.

Keep connected to social groups.

Social distancing has robbed many of us of normalcy, including getting together with people we care about. Just like we’re encouraged to get up from our desks at least once an hour to move about for physical health, we should also strive to encourage employees to connect with people outside of work-related topics on a regular basis. Providing flex time, virtual get-togethers, virtual office yoga sessions, and more are all things you might consider to help employees stay connected to others as much as possible.

Strengthen engagement at work.

The pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty in the economy. Many people may feel a general sense of unease as economic turmoil seems to be part of this new world—in fact, only 40% of employees feel well-equipped to do their jobs since the pandemic hit. Helping steady the ship is imperative to your workforce’s emotional and overall stability, and there’s no better way to do that than with recognition. Employees that feel recognized, valued, and appreciated no matter where they are working that day will be employees that continue to work hard for the organization.

Encourage time off.

Taking time off during a pandemic can seem counterproductive—after all, why take time off just to sit around your house during the pandemic? Americans have never been great at taking needed time off, but the pandemic stress has made workers take even less time off. Encouraging employees to take time off is a crucial part of keeping mental and emotional health vibrant, especially during a pandemic. Even if they don’t have a grand vacation planned, provide options and encouragement for your employees to take time off. You’ll be grateful you did.

Supporting Your People

No matter what your workforce is dealing with during uncertain times, these few key principles will help you positively influence the lives of your employees. Consider implementing what programs and practices you can, even if they’re seemingly minuscule, in order to ensure the holistic fitness of your organization and the overall health of your people. After all, at its core every organization is powered by people, and people is what it should be all about.

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