As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt multiple facets of our lives, we have become keenly aware of the need to stay physically and mentally healthy. In the last few months we’ve been forced to make dozens, if not hundreds of adjustments and the weight of all this change can be heavy to bear. We’re especially concerned about the health and wellness of remote employees. Going from an office filled with friends and co-workers to being glued to an isolated desk at home (or at the kitchen table) is not an easy transition. It’s critical that employers recognize the need to step up and help remote employees develop and maintain healthy habits.
Keep in mind that as you attempt to promote health and wellness in your company, you must do so delicately and with tact. You are not trying to shame unhealthy employees. You are not trying to transform your workforce into super-marathoners or workout warriors. Instead, your goal should be to provide tips, advice, opportunities, and resources that employees can participate in if they so desire. Mandating employee participation would be inappropriate and would cause employees to question your motives.
These seven ideas to improve the health and wellness of remote employees are designed to be simple, affordable, and actionable ways to show employees you care about their well-being.
1. Meditation App Subscription
During these uncertain times, building and exercising good mental health strategies has become more important than ever. As companies transition to remote work, and as employees feel the stress induced by COVID-19 concerns, it has never been more vital to bolster the mental health of your workforce.
Already, some states are reporting serious crises with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and other pressing issues related to poor mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the stress and anxiety of millions who have lost jobs, had wages cut, have taken on more responsibility at home with kids out of school, or who are simply afraid for their health and safety.
One step your company can take to improve the mental health of your employees is to offer access to a meditation app such as Headspace or Calm. Both of these apps, along with others, offer business subscriptions that will allow your company to provide guided meditation for all your employees at a discounted price.
Although apps like these will not solve major health issues that should be addressed with professionals, they can improve mental health outcomes. In the same way that lifting weight will improve the strength of physical muscles, meditation is a tool to fortify the mind.
2. Daily Physical Challenges
To keep physical activity top of mind for employees, your company may consider inviting your workforce to participate in a daily physical challenge or activity. The possibilities here are endless, so don’t be afraid to get creative. What’s fun about these challenges is that they can be unifying and help build team camaraderie. Whenever everyone is participating in a shared experience, even if that experience isn’t happening in the same location, bonds are formed and relationships are strengthened.
Here are some ideas for daily physical challenges you could issue to your team:
- 10 pushups before noon, 10 pushups after noon.
- 1 mile run or walk
- 100 jumping jacks
- 25 squats, 25 lunges
- 50 crunches followed by a 30-second plank
The key to these physical challenges is that the activities must be able to be performed without special equipment, and they must be relatively easy to perform. The goal is not to transform your employees into body-builders, rather it’s to get everyone united in completing at least one physical achievement every day.
As employees participate in the challenges, have them share videos or images of themselves across company Slack channels or other communication platforms. You may also consider rewarding prizes to employees who complete all the challenges in a given week or month.
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3. Workout Programs Designed by Personal Trainers
You might not be an expert when it comes to fitness and training, so why not rely on a professional to help improve the health and wellness of your employees? With a quick Google search and a few phone calls, you could have a personal trainer design specific workout regiments and dieting plans for you to share with employees.
Now of course, every employee is different and what will work for some won’t work perfectly for others. The purpose of this plan is not to create a customized solution for every employee, rather it’s to provide a resource for employees who don’t know how to train or eat right on their own.
While discussing this with a personal trainer, you might have them design three different workout plans. The first would be for beginners, the second for intermediate participants, and the third for more advanced, physically fit employees. You can offer all three plans to employees and they can self-select the one that is best for them.
Once equipped with the plan, there is no pressure to oversee or enforce the plan. Again, that’s not the point of this offering. The most important thing is your willingness to provide these workout programs for employees so that they can follow them and maintain their physical fitness while working from home if they so choose.
4. Recipe Book with Healthy Meals
Working out (physically or mentally) is only one part of a healthy lifestyle equation. Another critical part of a person’s wellbeing is the food they choose to eat every day. Many of us would like to eat more healthy but are unsure how. Fortunately, there is no shortage of recipe books that can immediately take the guesswork out of preparing healthy meals.
You can use resources like this to do some research on the healthy cookbooks that are most popular. Pick one or two and send them to employees as a gift.
If you’re unable to spend the money to buy books for everyone, you might also consider searching for healthy recipes online and creating a recipe book of your own. You could even reach out to employees and ask for suggestions for meals that could be included in the book. If you get enough submissions, you could have your very own company cookbook sourced entirely from employees.
This is not only a fun, creative project that employees can share in, but it can also be a major benefit to the health and wellness of your workforce. Eating right is critical to good health. Lend a hand by giving employees ideas of what they can make.
5. Weekly/Monthly Step Count Competition
Friendly competition is always fun, and it can be a great way to get people active. It’s likely that almost every single one of your employees owns a smartphone, a smart watch, or some sort of device that can track the number of steps that they take each day. Why not make a competition out of it?
You could have a standard prize for every person in the company who averages 8,000 steps (or more) per day in a given week or month, and then award a grand prize to the person with the highest step count.
It’s proven that sitting all day long is harmful for a person’s long-term health. Recent surveys are also showing that employees working from home are logging more hours than ever before. The combination of being isolated at home plus sitting for longer will certainly be detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of employees. A step count competition is a fun way to get your people motivated to move, and also gives them a company-approved excuse to stand up and take some time away from their home office.
6. Virtual Lunches or Get-Togethers
Another part of the equation for employee health and well-being is found in social interaction. One reason that many employees love working in an office is because it forms the foundation of their social circle. Think about it; before COVID-19, most people spent more time with their co-workers than any other group of people. The bonds and relationships that have been forged are valuable. Now that many companies are working remotely, it’s easy for employees to miss these daily interactions.
Of course, many employees are already communicating with software tools like Slack or Zoom and continue to be in touch with their teams. However, many silos have been created while working from home because there is often no reason for employees who aren’t on the same team to stay in touch. For example, your backend software developers likely haven’t had a conversation with someone from the sales team since March. Because employees no longer have the capability to have impromptu conversations in the halls or in the break-room, they’re missing out on a plethora of social interaction.
One way your company can solve this is by opening up a video conference to employees during lunch. Extend an open invite to anyone who would like to participate. During the lunch hour encourage employees to connect together online, not just with their teams, but with anyone in the company who wants to participate.
You may also try to have an open video conference link that anyone can hop on at any time of day. While employees take their break or if they’re just looking for some inspiration, they can connect with co-workers and colleagues in departments across the company.
While it’s not a perfect substitute for in-person social interaction, it’s definitely a great way to keep the company connected and fulfill the human desire to build and maintain relationships.
7. Grant a “Health Day”
Many employers grant sick days to their employees, but how many “health days” have you permitted employees to take?
For most, the concept of a health day is rather novel. It’s not a common idea but it could be the perfect benefit for the employees in your company as they work remotely.
A health day is a day of paid time off that is granted to employees to re-focus and rejuvenate. It’s a day away from work with the purpose of encouraging employees to do something productive for their mental or physical health.
During a health day, an employee might go on a hike, take an extra long bike ride, participate in a yoga class, get a massage, or swim laps at a community pool. Whatever they choose to do, make sure that they have the time and space to focus on themselves. The purpose of this day off should be solely focused on the employee’s well-being. You may even take things a step further and pay for the activity the employee chooses to participate in while taking their health day.
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At the end of the day, we could all use a little help fortifying our mental and physical health. Employers can play a critical role in helping employees build good habits and giving them resources to focus on their well-being. These seven ideas to improve the health and wellness of employees will hopefully spark inspiration for your company to know how to best assist your workforce. The most important thing is to act. Do something, even something small, to show your employees that you care, and to show them that you’re here to help.