Work Locations Have Evolved: Are Well-Being Programs Keeping Up?

During the pandemic, well-being programming has been a challenge for businesses big and small, as many transitioned their traditional offerings to fit the work-from-home model. As we look toward the future of work post-pandemic, the hybrid workforce seems 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. A recent survey suggests the percentage of permanent remote workers could double in 2021.

In the midst of return-to-work discussions, many experts predict a movement called the “Great Resignation”. 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 well-being in a way that works for both remote and hybrid employees. That means reimagining well-being programming for a new kind of workforce—one that not only keeps employees highly engaged, but also keeps them from leaving.

Here are a few things you can do to help keep employees’ well-being in check for today’s new work environments:

1. Listen.

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.

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 for the whole person.

Some employers used to be able to provide programs and reimbursements for in-person wellness visits and memberships, but a remote workforce needs remote solutions. With four in ten American adults having reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic, compared to one in ten in 2019, it’s now more important than ever to provide virtual well-being offerings and ensure employees are aware of their care options.

Consider something similar to what Harvard Pilgrim Health Care members have access to: Foodsmart by Zipongo for nutrition, Talkspace, Sanvello and AbleTo for virtual therapy and live virtual wellness programs (also open to non-members). 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.

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