With many people still working from home while they await clarity on returning to the office, organizations must review their employee well-being strategies even more regularly than usual. Company wellness programs should continue to support remote workers while putting structures in place to assist them in the transition back to the office.
Recent research found that “stress, depression or anxiety were responsible for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and 54% of all working days lost due to health issues” in Great Britain between 2018 and 2019. A good wellness strategy can help reduce absences, lower turnover rates and increase productivity, resulting in a significant economic impact.
Wellness in a Remote Working World
Wellness programs often focus on physical health, offering benefits such as gym memberships and cycle-to-work schemes, but having structures in place to support workers’ mental health is equally important. A company’s wellness strategy should consider ways to identify and support workers who may be suffering from poor mental health. Such strategies include having mental health first-aiders, support services and fostering a caring company culture. These policies may include offering mental health days, company-sponsored support groups or mindfulness training.
To be effective, organizations should integrate these strategies into onboarding programs and regularly communicate them to employees. They can also provide valuable support through employee assistance programs (EAPs), which are often available 24/7.
Train Managers on Mental Health Topics
Over two-thirds of line managers in the U.K. agree that supporting employee well-being is a core management skill, but only 13% have received training on mental health. Employee wellness must not be treated as a “check-the-box” exercise; leadership teams should be dedicated to ensuring the well-being of their workers. Providing regular training for managers will assist them in promoting wellness practices, recognizing indicators of poor mental health, providing coping strategies to employees who are struggling and knowing where to direct them for further support.
Companies can introduce an additional layer of support by training a team of mental health first-aiders to spot signs of mental health issues among colleagues. During the particularly challenging period we’re in right now, businesses may also consider asking members of staff who have previously worked remotely to volunteer as “home-working mentors” for employees who are struggling.
Cultivate a Culture of Wellness
Companies that hold well-being as a core value are more likely to foster an engaged and motivated workforce. Business leaders must set an example by demonstrating open communication and a healthy work-life balance. It is also important for managers to be proactive in checking in on the well-being of their team members and encouraging them to be honest about anything that is impacting their ability to do their job. Company-wide training is an effective way of reducing the stigma around mental health and starting positive conversations.
As remote work causes many employees to feel isolated, it is important for organizations to factor in time for socializing. To keep workers connected, companies might consider introducing virtual coffee catch-ups. By giving each meeting a theme, such as “working parents,” these optional meetings can provide opportunities to share experiences of working from home.
In addition, research has proven that rest and relaxation outside of the office improves mental health. Encouraging staff to take paid time off to ensure they still have a break from work will support their well-being.
Make Time for Mindfulness
Ironically, it is at times of high stress that self-care can fall off the radar. By training workers to engage in these practices regularly, companies can maintain a happy and more productive workforce. More and more businesses are introducing mindfulness training for their staff, with studies showing the significant impact it can have on productivity and creativity as well as physical and mental health. These practices can be particularly beneficial for business leaders, helping them to make clear, considered decisions under pressure.
Offering daily mindfulness sessions or weekly yoga classes can encourage employees to incorporate self-care practices into their working routine. While businesses are still working remotely, these sessions can be streamed live and recorded to enable employees to fit them into their schedules.
As important as it is to create a robust wellness program, it is just as important to measure its success. For training to be effective, learning and development (L&D) leaders must understand the needs of the workforce. After all, what works for one company may not work for another. Leaders should ask for regular feedback from employees regarding current services and any additional support they feel they need. Holding weekly meetings is a good way to encourage participation and monitor collective well-being. However, some people may not feel they can speak up in large meetings, so organizations should adapt communication channels to make sure that everyone is heard, whether through individual conversations or surveys.
During times of change and uncertainty, a focus on health and well-being is more important than ever. Encouraging employees to prioritize their well-being will have wide-reaching benefits.