When COVID-19 hit, the world changed. It’s becoming increasingly clear that things are not going to snap back to how they were for a long time. That means it’s time to act on the new normal. Maintaining employee wellbeing is still vital, but the methods you used to use may no longer apply. The benefits at the office – whether that’s free lunches, a chill-out room or fruit basket – isn’t much help when you work from home.
Why Employee Wellbeing Is More Important Than Ever
Employee wellbeing is something that all organisations should have been addressing for a long time. It is estimated that poor mental health costs employers as much as $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. So, there is a clear financial incentive to care for your workers. However, 1 in 5 employees reports that their organisation does nothing to improve their wellbeing or health.
It can be hard to directly measure the impact of ignoring the wellness of your employees. However, one survey showed that on average workers are losing 38 days of productive work a year. This is up from 23 days in 2014. This figure represents not only days of missed work, but also days of low productivity.
The Relationship Between Wellbeing And Productivity
Unhealthy lifestyles can be a factor in this volume of lost time, but so is poor mental health and stress. Work is one of the largest contributors to stress in any employees life. Major risk factors for work-related stress stem from poor communication, lack of support, and inflexibility in working hours and practices. So any policy to address wellness needs to takes these factors into account.
When beginning working for home in lockdown, there appeared to be a bump in productivity. Many workers reported that they were happy with the new arrangement and it seemed to be working well for everyone. However, as lockdown continued, enthusiasm for working from home waned. The reality of how much socialisation you have in a workplace it is becoming clear, and over 30% of employees are reporting that working remotely is causing them to struggle with loneliness.
It’s clear that at the moment the world is a more stressful place than usual, so it’s essential to put time, energy, and money into maintaining your employees, and supporting them through all the transitions that are still on the horizon.
Top Tips To Boost Employee Wellness
To maintain social distancing, many organisations are opting to continue with WFH, to some level. This means that location-based wellness initiatives are no longer a viable option. So here are some top tips to help you deliver your wellness programmes remotely.
1. Train Your Managers
Good communication is vital to ensure that your employees feel supported. An excellent way to improve communication within a remote workforce is to have regular 1-1 check-ins, specifically focused on wellbeing. Your middle managers are going to be vital in making this happen.
To do that though you need to give them the tools and confidence to deal with any issues they come across. They don’t need to become psychiatrists, but they do need to know how to have difficult conversations, how to talk about mental health, and where to refer employees who need more than a shoulder to lean on.
2. Schedule Socialisation
Loneliness is a significant factor in wellbeing. With employees working from home, or even in a socially distanced office, all the small interactions throughout the day are gone. This is a huge loss. So it would help if you could find ways to build interactions into the working day.
Some organisations are scheduling in time for socialisation. One easy way is to have a virtual breakroom and specific break times. So, employees can make a cuppa, have a snack, an open up the Zoom break room for a natter. Another option is to have a weekly meeting dedicated to team-building with activities like trivia or games.
3. Be Flexible Where You Can
Employees value flexibility, especially now. So make sure that you bend where you can. Organisations can easily turn into machines. It can seem fairer to have strict and transparent policies that you bend for no-one. However, by empowering your teams to make decisions about what works for them, you will open up the opportunities for innovation.
4. Online Wellness And Exercise Classes
Some tried and tested ways to improve wellness include activities like journaling, meditation and yoga. There is no reason you can’t offer these sorts of classes remotely. By unbinding these perks from locations, you may find that you get a larger uptake than usual as well.
5. Teach Your Employees New Skills
Offering your employees the chance to learn new skills has a few benefits. You can help them to get better at their jobs, which will increase their productivity and provide them with job security.
You can also offer them classes in things that will help them in their daily lives. For example, offering courses on retirement planning and money management can help reduce financial stresses. While classes on painting or mindfulness can help prevent anxiety and burnout.
6. Tell Your Employees What You Are Doing
This is simple but important. Make sure your employees know what’s going on. There is no point in creating innovative programmes if no one knows about them.
7. Have A Wellness Co-ordinator
Even implementing a few of these suggestions is going to require time. If you attempt to distribute the work to your existing team, you are likely only going to exacerbate the problem. For this reason, it is worth considering creating a new position explicitly for coordinating and managing these programmes and initiatives. This is the best way to maximise the results of these new policies.
If you find the right person, then the improvement to your overall productivity can easily pay for the new position you need to create.
How Does This Impact On Recruitment?
95% of workers say that work-life balance is an essential factor when they are looking for a new job. So when it comes to recruiting new talent, the culture you have built around wellness is going to affect the size of the talent pool you have available. Building your employee wellness programs will not only benefit you and your current employees, but it will help you develop your company, and attract new talent, in the future as well.