During the pandemic, maintaining workplace wellness programs became a challenge for businesses big and small, as many businesses had to quickly transition their traditional wellness programs to fit a suddenly remote workforce. As we look toward the future of work, a hybrid workforce appears to be here to stay; in fact, 80% of remote workers said they enjoy working from home, and 69% are just as productive—if not more productive—than in the office.
As the pandemic continues to impact employer decisions on their workforce (and where they will work), the “Great Resignation” that many experts predicted is underway. With increased possibility of remote work and other flexible options, many employees are considering their next moves, uncertain if their current employer will support their preferred working model post-COVID. For businesses looking to retain their talent, this moment presents an opportunity to prioritize employee well-being in a way that works for both remote and hybrid employees.
With this workplace shift, comes the revelation that wellness programs that focus solely on physical health don’t necessarily produce better health outcomes in employees or reduce health care spending over the long term. Gallup research points to addressing five elements of well-being – career, social, financial, physical and community – to keep your workforce engaged and thriving.
During this pivotal time, keeping up requires organizations to reimagine their approach to workplace wellness. By combining both programs and benefits into holistic well-being solutions, organizations can keep employees highly engaged, less likely to leave and feeling supported regardless of whether they’re remote, hybrid or in-office.
Here are some ways to get started:
Everyone’s situation is different, and so are their needs. Parents have been juggling the role of teacher and employee. Others have become caregivers for high-risk family members. Employees’ needs will vary, but it’s proven that employees who feel heard are more likely to stay engaged and stay put. The most important thing you can do now is listen. Send surveys to help identify concerns and offer more personalized solutions, foster empathy among leadership and make time to hear what people are saying, 1-on-1. You may not be in the same building, but staying connected and listening will help evolve your benefits and well-being programs to address real needs.
Additionally, take a look at your current programs and assess how well they’re working. Invest in optimizing programs with high attendance and usage, and for less successful programs, look at what could be causing poor engagement: is it the time of day? Level of commitment? Consistently test and measure new options to find ones that work for your unique workforce.
2. Build a sense of community.
Tools like email, Slack and Microsoft Teams are certainly productive, but they’re no replacement for the in-person, social interactions of a pre-COVID world. Working from home can cause feelings of isolation, and it’s important to find ways to keep company culture alive. Many employees feel more inclined than ever before to explore Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), employee-led groups where they can feel solidarity and share thoughts with those in similar life positions as them. Accountability groups and virtual wellness challenges can also help keep health top of mind for employees. Talk to your benefits partners about digital platforms that can facilitate virtual collaboration and tracking for these challenges.
Whether you’re just checking in to say hi, creating opportunities for recognition or planning non-work-related events, like virtual lunches and happy hours, you can foster well-being by helping to build a sense of community.
3. Offer virtual solutions that support whole person health.
Some employers used to be able to provide programs and reimbursements for on-site wellness support and gym memberships, but hybrid and remote workforces also value digital and at-home solutions. Check to ensure your fitness reimbursement program includes items such as gym equipment or streaming fitness solutions.
Four in ten American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic compared to one in ten pre-pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s important to expand beyond physical well-being and increase access to emotional support by leveraging virtual channels, as well as ensure employees are aware of their options. Including telebehavioral health access as part of your telehealth coverage and offering access to tools and apps can help employees support and monitor their emotional health on a regular basis.
Financial strain can also be a huge source of anxiety, so ensure financial well-being is part of your programming, whether that’s helping employees plan for the futures they want or even offering discounts that support their current lifestyles.
The pandemic has created permanent change to the way we work. Business leaders must adapt to these changes and should view it as an opportunity to create new ways to foster connection and encourage team building. Focusing on the well-being of your employees is one of the best investments you can make.