Anyone who already worked from home before COVID-19 will tell you that, sure, there are perks. But without that hard line between work and home, many employees also end up working longer and answering emails later.
On top of this, the need to balance work, home, family, and health risks is amplified, which could affect your employees’ mood, productivity, engagement, and even your organization’s health care costs later.
Employees are navigating a pandemic, facing potential financial hardship, and dealing with school closures. They’re unsure about the best way to stay healthy now and in the future. All of this can heighten stress, fear, and uncertainties, which doesn’t exactly nurture the health and well-being of your employees.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that when people experience acute stress that goes unmanaged, it can lead to long-term negative health outcomes that include increased depression, anxiety, and pain as well as poor general health, lower quality of life, and a higher risk of all-cause mortality. With your entire staff working remotely, access to employer-provided health and wellness resources may be more important than ever.
Here are some more factors to consider.
Focusing on employee well-being will help ease the transition back into the office.
Resiliency is the name of the game. We may not know when this pandemic will be over, but one thing is certain – we must emerge as a workforce that is strong, healthy, and productive. “Business as it existed before will definitely look different,” says Shannon Johnson, director of account development at EXOS. She’s been hearing from several corporate clients who want to prepare their employees to handle that transition.
It will pay dividends as employees come back to the office if they're able to say, “My organization really took care of me in the best way they could throughout this crisis.”
“It will pay dividends as employees come back to the office if they're able to say, ‘My organization really took care of me in the best way they could throughout this crisis,’” adds Chris Sherry, vice president of client communications at EXOS. The more tools they have to navigate this new normal healthfully, such as virtual workouts and mindset practices from trusted sources, the more likely they’ll be to return to work as their strongest self, contributing positively to your bottom line.
Conversely, stripping wellness resources right now means you’ll be starting at square one. “The reality is that the more well-being offerings employers remove from the resource bucket now, the more difficult it will be to re-engage employees later,” says Sherry. And by then, employees may even be dealing with more mental and physical health risks than they were before, which we know makes them even less likely to engage.
Focusing on employee well-being fosters community and combats loneliness.
Helping employees stay healthy is about more than exercise and nutrition. It’s about continuing to foster the sense of community they normally get in the office. Schedule personal check-ins and encourage your team to connect with each other virtually without talking about work. A sense of community will go a long way right now.
“There's this feeling of isolation that we're combating,” says Sherry. “People were suddenly uprooted from their day-to-day working environment where they had their usual space and usual faces around them.” Amidst COVID-19, there’s little room for human interaction and they have no choice in the matter, which as it turns out, makes all the difference.
Nicolas Bloom is a professor at Stanford who conducted a well-known study that found working from home made employees more productive and satisfied with their jobs. He recently spoke with Vox, pointing out that participants had the option to opt out of working from home if they found it isolating. And if they did work from home, they were still going to an office one day a week, fulfilling a need for human interaction. It’s important to recreate that virtually in the current landscape.
Helping employees stay healthy is about more than exercise and nutrition. It’s about continuing to foster the sense of community they normally get in the office.
Focusing on employee well-being provides structure in an otherwise chaotic time.
Another thing employees who already worked remotely know all too well: a routine is everything. Without one, it’s easy to wake up, check emails, and before you know it, it’s 5 p.m. and you’ve barely left your desk to eat let alone stretch, hydrate, spend quality time with family, or exercise in any capacity.
Providing access to livestreaming content will help employees schedule movement opportunities between meetings and carve out time for themselves and their families. “The ability to extend family-friendly activities and kid-friendly movement opportunities has been a common request,” says Johnson. That’s why EXOS is streaming everything from metabolic sessions to kid-friendly workouts to yoga and mindset practices, and employees can add them directly to their calendars.
This comes full circle back to the importance of community. “Having people come together even though they’re apart to connect and encourage each other makes a difference,” says Sherry. They may not be in a room together, but they can still keep each other accountable and reflect on the workouts when they connect before kicking off meetings, and even on group chats and social media. “Helping employees understand they’re still a part of something means a lot right now,” says Sherry.
In a time when many businesses are being deemed unessential, taking care of your employees remains more essential than ever. By providing wellness resources, you’re helping them stay healthy and lower their risk for chronic disease. And if they’re able to take care of themselves, they’ll be more equipped to care for your business as a result.