Remote work was already on the rise. In 2015, 3.9 million U.S. workers were working remotely. By 2019, that number had grown to 4.7 million.
In the past few weeks, however, that number has exploded. To support social distancing during the current spread of the COVID-19 virus, more and more companies have asked (or ordered) employees to work from home.
Many of your employees may already be anxious or concerned about this drastic shift in their daily routine and are wondering how they’ll be able to maintain their healthy habits while working from home. Their fears are not unfounded—after all, a major component of a healthy lifestyle is the maintenance of healthy habits. So, when those habits are interrupted, it’s all too easy to veer off-track. Add in the sense of isolation that can come from being banned from the office, and you have a recipe for lowered health and lowered engagement.
Fortunately, there are some great ways for employees to keep their healthy habits and their morale up. Here’s our rundown of some time-tested ways to keep employee wellness and engagement thriving even when the office is closed.
- Encourage employees to go for a lunchtime walk or bike ride. They can still maintain social distancing while getting their body moving and breathing in some much-needed fresh air. Additionally, grabbing some extra Vitamin D from the sun can help boost the immune system, which is probably a good idea right now. If the weather is poor, even just opening some windows, playing some music, and dancing around for 20 minutes can get the blood moving and clear any mental cobwebs. (It’s also a great activity to suggest if your workers have young—and energetic—children cooped up at home with them.)
- Promote healthy snacking. Every person who works from home regularly can attest to how easy it is to simply graze on junk food all day. Get employees to share tips and recipes for healthy snacks with each other, cheering each other on as they make good choices.
- Urge employees to maintain a regular sleep schedule. One of the perks of working from home can be having a slightly more flexible daily schedule. However, if procrastination hits, staffers may find themselves burning the midnight oil to get all their work done, setting themselves up for a bleary-eyed, unproductive morning.
- Even employees who are unconcerned about the coronavirus itself may be feeling stressed and anxious. They may have a spouse or family member who has lost their job or whose income has plummeted. Wellness program managers should ensure that employees have a safe, non-judgmental space to air their worries, whether it’s through a dedicated chat group, through private coaching, or via your company’s Employee Assistance Program.
- Encourage management to check in with workers frequently to see how they’re feeling. In times of great uncertainty and stress, it can be a major relief to know that your manager genuinely cares about your well-being.
- The sense of isolation brought on by remote work can be detrimental to an employee’s emotional health, particularly if they are extroverted types who can’t bear to be cloistered away for extended periods. Advise managers to hold meetings via video conference instead of just by phone, and tell them to build in plenty of time at the start of the meeting for people to simply chat, check-in, gab about a new TV series or podcast, and simply connect with each other as people.
- Employee engagement is the level of emotional commitment the employee has to their workplace and its goals. Ironically, the more you try to force engagement, the more elusive it becomes. Instead, urge your entire leadership team to understand that your employees have other stressors and commitments in their lives. The easier your company makes it for employees to attain work-life integration, the more engaged your employees will be.
- Another way to boost engagement is by connection. If your company didn’t have daily stand-up meetings before, now is a great time to implement them as a video conference. Not only does it give employees a chance to reconnect and check in with each other, but it also helps maintain a good daily routine.
- Above all, be flexible. Remote work is rarely without its messy moments. People have trouble with their internet. Pets need walking. And yes, children interrupt important video calls. But by keeping a sense of humor and focusing on getting the work done—even if the typical process is a bit off-kilter—your employees will pull together as a team and rise to the occasion.
Regardless of the current global situation, remote work is here to stay. Indeed, more companies may take from this situation a realization that remote work does fit in well with their organization’s needs and goals and may choose to keep it as an option even after it’s no longer mandatory. No matter why or when your employees started working remotely, your organization should have a solid set of plans and principles in place to keep your remote workers happy, healthy, and engaged.