Working from home has its benefits, yet can also be a little too stifling. And in order to be productive, we need to be sure we are in good mental and physical health. Read below on different ways to boost employee wellbeing.
Remote work has been growing in relevance for years, but it remained relatively niche in 2019. Then COVID-19 gripped the world, and for the past few months, over half of the American workforce spent most of their workdays getting things done from home.
Though not an ideal showcase of the benefits of remote working, surveys have been able to capture how this spontaneous and sudden shift in working conditions has affected productivity, wellbeing, and more.
80 percent note that they’re better able to handle and manage interruptions from coworkers. 80 percent like being able to spend more time with family. Two thirds feel more productive. Two thirds also say they still prefer the office (or any workplace, like a coworking spot) from the casual atmosphere of home.
While the freedom to choose to work remotely has been a big perk for millions of Americans in the past few years, it’s not any easier or harder than working at the office. It is, however, substantially different. COVID-19 has thrust millions of Americans into a position where they and their managers had to work together quickly to adapt to a completely new set of circumstances and continue to serve clients and customers.
As a result, many have been working longer hours while struggling with loneliness and isolation. In turn, companies have stepped up to the plate to improve their employees’ wellbeing remotely.
Here are a 5 ways they have been doing so.
1. Promoting Physical Health
One of the best things to do for the mind is to take care of the body. While most American workers aren’t as physically fit as the surgeon general recommends, they were still getting more exercise in the pre-COVID-19 days as a result of frequent commutes, walking through the office, taking the stairs, and having access to the gym. Easier access to fresh food and produce via farmer’s markets and supermarkets also meant an easier time eating healthy.
Ever since COVID-19, however, the likelihood of relying on online food delivery services (particularly takeout food) has greatly increased. The combination of poorer food choices and far fewer options for movement and exercise help contribute to the isolating and negative mental effects of lockdown.
Some companies have taken the necessary steps to encourage their employees to get active with at-home alternatives, offering workout regimens (with stat tracking for competitive employees), and online yoga and HIIT classes, as well as helping employees organize online grocery purchases and share recipes.
2. Frequent Breaks from the Screen
For every hour of productive work, take a quarter hour of time off. That rule of thumb only serves as a broad guideline for how to make effective use of breaks, but it’s common knowledge that people don’t work through their entire shift remaining perfectly focused, but instead break their day down into a series of tasks with a few minutes spent “refreshing” between tasks.
Rather than refreshing on a Slack channel or on Facebook, however, managers would do well to encourage their workers to take their breaks away from the computer and phone – looking out a window, taking a short break to walk around, exercising, grabbing a snack, or just taking a few minutes to read something or stand on the balcony. If you enjoy working in shorter spurts, take shorter breaks.
If you’re taking a break every 90 minutes, consider taking a few more minutes off. The key to being productive with a break is to clearly separate work and break time. And to learn to “turn on” and focus solely on the tasks at hand whenever break time is over.
3. Minimize “Presenteeism” By Assessing Employee Needs Individually
Presenteeism is a phenomenon typically described at the office, where a worker shows up for work but is barely “there.” They may be distracted by problems at home, or by mental or physical discomfort, or by a sense of disenchantment with the work they’re doing.
To minimize presenteeism, maximize communication. Managers and leaders can consider taking the time out of their day every few weeks to communicate individually with each employee, and get an update on how they’re doing, whether they’re bothered by something at work or at home, and whether they need help in any shape or form.
Not only does a personal conversation with the boss help show employees that you care, but it also serves to give you a better sense of what every member of your organization needs to perform better.
4. Offer Comprehensive Telehealth Services
Research shows that mental telehealth services can be just as helpful as face-to-face conversations and therapies in cases of depression and other common mental health issues.
As workers face an increasing risk of developing stress-related problems as a result of the sudden shift towards quarantine and total isolation at home, many will continue to need both physical and mental healthcare, and telehealth services are often a great way to help workers deal with their most immediate issues.
5. Create an Environment for Organic Watercooler Talk & Virtual Happy Hour
Another way to combat isolation, loneliness, and boredom outside of work is to create an environment for virtual interaction. Established teams won’t have a hard time switching to a virtual way to communicate and stay in touch, through collaborative and communications tools like Skype and Slack. Teams that have just been formed during the COVID-19 days can still network via organized online events, such as a Friday night quiz or a virtual happy hour.
Final Employee Wellbeing Tip
There are other ways to boost employee wellbeing and morale, including basic gratitude and recognition. Many strive to feel like they’re part of something greater, and it’s harder to do so remotely. By awarding recognition individually and encouraging other managers or leadership within the organization to take special interest in every one of their employees, you foster a culture that shows it understands the role every employee plays in making a company’s success possible, and recognizes the value of every team member.