The last few years have seen an accelerated shift to remote work and hybrid work practices. Many people have struggled with this shift. We share tips on employee wellness program strategies for your remote teams.
It can be hard to find space to work from home when your family surrounds you. On the other hand, if you’re living alone, working from home can be isolating.
It should come as no surprise that the sudden shift to working from home caused by COVID-19 resulted in a surge of mental health issues across the globe. Employees are aware this is an issue.
If you’re running a team or business remotely, you might be thinking of ways to keep your employees healthy and engaged. Here are seven employee wellness program strategies you can implement in your team.
Provide counselling sessions
Many remote workers feel detached from their leaders and colleagues due to the distance. At the same time, finding a work-life balance can be challenging, especially if the workload tends to encroach on employees’ personal time. This leads to mental health issues that can threaten workers’ productivity and overall wellness.
Workplace counselling is not a new concept. Many larger businesses have counsellors. It’s also possible to secure the support of external counsellors on a part-time basis.
External counsellors provide employees with the freedom to share their hopes, fears, and frustrations. Client-patient confidentiality means that employees don’t need to worry about information being shared with colleagues. Moreover, it’s often easier to share your thoughts with a stranger than with someone you know.
Providing remote counselling is a strategy that appears to work. For example, a study of 200 counsellors by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) in the UK discovered:
- 84% of respondents were satisfied with telephone counselling
- 79% of respondents were satisfied with video counselling
Remote counselling can work using communication channels like telephone and video.
Having someone to talk to can help people overcome feelings of isolation and discuss issues.
Counsellors can share recommendations back to the employee if needed, too. If they’re having a hard time getting quality sleep, you may offer a shift swap to a schedule that will allow them to get more rest. Your workers’ well-being matters more than anything else.
Organise fun virtual meets
Many people used to think that working from home meant more leisure time at the expense of productivity. However, we’re finding out that the reverse is true.
Many employees say that they have less time for fun activities due to shifting to a remote working model. The inability to have those coffee break chats does take its toll on some people’s well-being.
One great way to reduce the boredom and stress of isolation is to set aside time for virtual team activities. While you may already have weekly catch ups with your team, these are mostly work-related.
Virtual hangouts are an opportunity for team building.
There are lots of free online platforms you can use to run team-building games. Some of these are paid, and others are free. With a bit of research, though, you’ll find a game that fits your company culture.
Equally, you can play classic offline games on a video call, for example, charades.
If you plan to run these types of programs, you need to schedule them in the calendar. The events should avoid any mention of projects or anything work-related. Instead, they should focus on developing bonds between team members.
The quiz platform Sporcle offers a diverse range of fun quizzes on virtually any topic and skill level. You may also create your quiz and play it with your team.
Create a virtual social space
Virtual social spaces are a great way for your team to bond. By giving workers a virtual equivalent of in-person interactions, you can mitigate the negative effects of constant isolation.
Collaboration platforms like Slack allow you to create a channel for irreverent communication.
So far, though, Gather is one of the best virtual spaces I’ve tried so far. It allows you to replicate your physical office online. One of the platform’s fun features is the ability to engage in conversations. A bit like you might do on a lunch break or coffee break.
The platform might not work for your business, which is fine.
The most important element here is maintaining continuous communication between team members and employees. It doesn’t matter what they talk about – so long as everyone feels like they are equally included.
Help staff create their new office
If you want people to be comfortable working remotely, you should provide your staff with the tools and equipment they need for a comfortable work environment. There are two parts to the equation.
Most people will create a home office.
Creating the dream home office will generally require some investments. To make a comfortable office, staff might want to invest in an ergonomic chair or a nicer desk.
However, they might not have the money available to make those investments. One way to support your staff is by providing staff money to upgrade their office. That might involve offering a loan with considerate repayment terms or offering an annual home office allowance.
The second thing to consider is that some people won’t ever be comfortable working from home. For example, they might live in a one-room tiny flat with no natural light. That’s not the type of working environment that leaves you feeling productive.
Providing a daily coffee allowance is one way to get around this issue. The daily stipend might allow staff to work from the local cafe, rather than from home. Alternatively, you might provide staff with a stipend to work from a co-working space.
Provide flexible work hours
Many people struggle with productivity when working from home. For example, parents with children need to balance entertaining the children while working. It is a major problem for any family dealing with homeschooling or when kids are on holiday.
There are times during a working day that are harder than others. It might be hard to stay focused at the end of the school day, for example. Understanding and accounting for how the natural rhythms of a household impact productivity is sensible.
Rather than sticking to the same fixed working hours of the office, it might make sense to build in some flexibility into people’s work hours. There are various approaches that you can take.
One strategy is to allow a flexible start time. For example, staff can start any time between eight in the morning and ten in the morning. During the day, staff can take up to one hour off, if needed, when things are busy at home, as long as they do the expected work hours.
That kind of simple policy might reduce stress for remote workers while making them more productive. It’s quite easy to implement this strategy.
Encourage switching off after work hours
Remote working has blurred the lines between working hours and non-work hours for many people. It’s easy to let work spill into personal time.
However, those blurred lines are not necessarily beneficial for staff.
You need to try and establish clear boundaries so that people aren’t working all the time. Step one of this process involves tracking productivity. You can use employee time tracking software, for instance, to track when people are working and measure productivity.
Tracking working hours will help you assess productivity. You want to see if people are consistently working more hours than they should. There’s a fine line between working hard and overworking, which can lead to people burning out.
If a member of staff is consistently working longer hours than needed, you may need to reduce workload. Simple solutions like setting realistic SMART goals can reduce the risk of burnout.
To ensure you get the work balance right, you can send staff surveys. The insights you gain from a survey can provide you with valuable insights regarding remote office culture. You can act on these insights to improve the remote work environment for employees, and create an effective employee wellness program.
Offer alternatives to in-office perks
Perks are a way for companies to show concern for their employees and keep them motivated despite gruelling work schedules. Some businesses offer on-site gyms, play areas, or sleeping quarters in their offices, while others offer healthy meals at on-site canteens.
You don’t get to enjoy those in-office perks like ping-pong tables, plush sofas, and all-day meals when working from home. That doesn’t mean remote workers don’t want perks.
Start by asking your employees for feedback regarding the types of perks they’d find useful. Their answers will give you a good idea of the alternative perks you can offer to your remote team.
For example, you could offer gym memberships to remote workers or give them a weekly takeaway budget to have a free lunch on days when they are working. You can also do remote team exercises. For instance, you may also have a yoga instructor teach them a few poses each week through Zoom. Finally, you may also push your employees to learn new skills or work towards a college or graduate degree, then support their education.
Managing a remote team poses a challenge for businesses. It’s more difficult to assess mental health issues, happiness, and other factors when you don’t engage with people face to face daily. Moreover, it’s harder to create those moments for people to chat about general things and engage with each other socially, something many of us take for granted when working in an office.
Having a remote employee wellness program can help you understand how staff are coping. Those insights can help improve productivity, lead to a happier workplace, and reduce staff turnover. All of those are important considerations for a business that wants to grow.
The key to a successful remote employee wellness program is asking your employees what they need most to keep themselves together during stressful times, whether it’s more counselling sessions, a more engaging social space, or better office chairs. However, all of them pale in comparison to adjusting deadlines and workloads to allow workers to take a breather before moving on to the next task.
By listening closely to employee sentiment, you can create a wellness program strategy that improves remote worker productivity and promotes your workers’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
About the Author
Owen Jones is the Senior Content Marketer at ZoomShift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specialising in content marketing, CRO, and FB advertising. He likes to share his knowledge with others to help them increase results.