Work Life
August 11, 2022
March 3, 2021

Improving Health and Wellness Post-Pandemic: Tips for Employers and Employees

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taught all of us how important wellness is in both our personal and professional lives, but it’s also changed how we work and how we relax. That means prioritizing wellness in the workplace looks different than it did just a few years ago. Gone are the days where free protein bars and gym memberships were enough for wellness!

Because work and society has evolved so much recently, workplace wellness must evolve as well. So what can employers and employees do to create a healthy workplace? We have some wellness strategies that we’ll split into two different categories: health (physical health) and wellbeing (mental health). We’ll also cover strategies for employers AND employees.

Improving Employee Wellness: For Employers

Business leaders have a responsibility when it comes to the wellness of their employees. People spend a large portion of their lives at work (both in the office and WFH), and they deserve to have their healthy habits supported and their mental health taken care of. So what can leaders do?

Employer Strategies for Health

Whether employees are sitting at a desk, out in the sun doing manual labor, or in a warehouse all day, you can help them care for their physical health. Here are some strategies:

  • Provide ergonomic equipment. This means ergonomic keyboards, mice, and office chairs. It also means providing back braces for employees who lift heavy items and comfortable work shoes for those on their feet.
  • Offer healthy food. Most employees eat at least one meal at work, but preparing and bringing a healthy meal with healthy snacks can be tough. Not to mention the stress of the pandemic has made stress eating easier than ever (this coming from the person who recently ate an entire box of donuts in one sitting…no regrets). Provide healthy snacks or meals for employees to enjoy, and they’ll be happier, healthier, and more energetic at work.
  • Implement physical wellness programs. Employee incentive programs are great for motivating people, and wellness programs can incentivize employees to be healthier. Offer small bonuses for people who exercise regularly or offer gym memberships to get people started.
  • Start onsite exercises. Lunch breaks are a great time to do a quick yoga session, or you can support a company outdoor break for people to get out and walk. Exercising reduces anxiety, depression, and negative moods, and it increases self-esteem and cognitive function.

When people eat healthily and stay active, they’ll have greater energy, self-esteem, and motivation.

Employer Strategies for Wellbeing

A focus on mental health has been a silver lining through the pandemic. Our culture has gotten rid of the stigma surrounding mental health, and now employers can really support their employees with their emotional wellbeing. Here is what you can do:

  • Support open communication. Leaders and managers have to encourage open and honest communication about how people are feeling, including being open about their own mental wellbeing. Everyone should feel comfortable talking about their feelings at work, no matter what. It’s all about creating a culture of acceptance and support.
  • Offer mental health resources. An employee assistance program (EAP) is an important tool, and your program could include direct access to a mental health professional (including access for employee dependents), a monthly mental health newsletter, or other mental health training and support resources. Offer resources to help with specific worries as well, such as stress related to the recent economic downturn.
  • Implement flexible work policies. Find the flexibility policies that work for your company, whether that means offering more PTO, variable work hours/days, or time off for things like doctor visits. Flexibility can have a huge impact on employee mental health.
  • Model healthy behaviors. When employees see their leaders take time off, discuss their mental health, or use a mental health resource, they’ll feel empowered to follow that example.

It’s time to treat mental health and physical health as two sides of the same wellness coin. And at work, leaders have the awesome opportunity to support both facets of wellness in new and exciting ways.

Improving Employee Wellness: For Employees

Even if a company does everything in their power to promote wellness, it’s ultimately up to the employee to take that first step. What’s the saying…you can lead a person to a treadmill, but you can’t make them run? Something like that. So here are some strategies to help wellness be more attainable for employees.

Employee Strategies for Health

As long as employers support the health of their workforce, employees can do a lot to stay healthy and active at work, no matter what their job is. Here are some examples:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. That afternoon crash where employees feel tired and unproductive can actually be caused by dehydration—make sure to bring a water bottle and try to drink consistently throughout the day.
  • Get moving in any way, shape, or form. Whether you take a walk break or two throughout the day or you play catch outside during lunch with friends, you should get away from your desk and move your body at least a few times each day.
  • Eat healthy. We know this one’s tough (remember our donut story?). However, putting effort into healthy eating and snacking at work can give you more energy and make you feel better.

Employee Strategies for Wellbeing

You’ve probably heard the strategies like taking PTO and unplugging after work, which are great. But here are a few less-talked-about strategies you can try:

  • Start each day with mindfulness exercises. Studies actually show that when you start each day with meditation or yoga, you prepare your brain for a focused, healthy day. (And when you start your day by looking at your phone, you prime your brain for distraction!)
  • Find ways to serve and help others. Whether you help someone with a project or simply greet a new hire, serving others is a great way to help yourself. That might sound selfish, but both you and the person you help with get a mental and emotional boost.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Focus on your own strengths and set your own goals to improve instead of comparing yourself to other employees. You’re unique, and your strengths and weaknesses are unique as well. Focus on who you are and who you’re becoming instead of who you aren’t.

We’re All in This Together

Besides being a hit musical number from a fanciful high school, we really are all in this together. Physical and mental health and wellness is a journey, not a destination—and it’s a journey that we’re all taking. Pandemics, global conflicts, and potential recessions are all clamoring to drag us down, make us stressed, and lower our happiness. But with the above strategies, we can stand together, support each other, and create healthy habits that will get us through even the most difficult times.

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