COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of remote work. Global Workplace Analytics, a leading authority on optimizing work-at-home strategies, suggests that by the end of 2021, 25-30% of the entire workforce will work from home multiple days a week. This coming reality is forcing wellness program administrators to tailor their employee wellness programs to remote workers. Employee wellness programs lacking a targeted approach for their remote workers can begin to address these gaps by following a few strategic steps.
Strategically focusing on flexible learning and earning opportunities, consistent communication and feedback, bolstering a sense of community, and putting relevant information at their fingertips can lead to a remote workforce that fully appreciates and benefits from your employee wellness program.
Avoid disengagement by ensuring the activities making up your wellness program are equitable for everyone, regardless of their physical location. Take health education, for example. It is the linchpin of employee wellness, yet many organizations fail to realize optimal engagement because they encourage behavior change without explaining why. As important as it is to convey the why to office-based employees, it is even more critical to go out of your way to convey this to remote employees.
If your organization has invested in onsite services such as biometric screenings, a wellness center, or health coaching, go the extra mile to give remote employees these same opportunities. Allow these employees to visit their own healthcare provider to complete the screening, and consider the value of add-on benefits such as fitness network discounts and telephonic health coaching, the latter which has a demonstrated ability to reduce risk factors in both the healthy and those with chronic disease.
To prioritize remote employee wellness, consistency, variety, and inclusivity are critical. Internal communication processes should be assessed during the program planning phase and expanded to ensure a compelling message is delivered to those working at home.
To make up for the lack of face-to-face communication, remote employees often open their inboxes and discover an endless email thread highlighting key events, dates, or other work items. While this conversational communication style is effortless in the office, it is difficult to digest virtually.
Be careful not to gloss over small details, assuming employees will find out through the grapevine
Give wellness room to make an impact! Dedicate an entire email to wellness, and highlight key activities, events, or challenges coming up this quarter. Be careful not to gloss over small details, assuming employees will find out through the grapevine. Instead, include all necessary information to create awareness, and then follow up with reminder emails as the key events draw near.
Pay attention to the language of your messaging to avoid making remote workers sound like second-rate participants. It may be helpful to filter your message through a remote wellness champion to ensure the message is communicated effectively.
Wellness champions are your sounding board to communicate the value of your wellness program. Sure, executive level buy-in is important in getting a program up and running, but the true value of the program is best conveyed at the colleague level where communication is more consistent and personal. Building a wellness champion network that spans across every department ensures that remote employee wellness is a key topic during weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings.
Do not make blind assumptions about what your remote employees want or do not want in a wellness program. Task wellness champions with collecting feedback from their departments or conduct surveys on your wellness platform to give employees a voice.
After you have gathered feedback, do not be afraid to adjust! It is essential that your wellness platform is customizable enough to meet the needs of a workforce whose preferences differ. Employee engagement requires understanding, attentiveness, and responsiveness.
A 2018 report from Buffer identifies loneliness as the biggest struggle for remote workers. This is problematic, as research from the Mayo Clinic indicates a direct correlation between social support and numerous key health markers. Designed correctly, a robust wellness program can transcend work location and promote social interconnectedness that has a direct impact on employee health and performance.
Team challenges are a great way to build camaraderie and a sense of belonging in the remote work environment. This fosters a group identity and unites individuals to work towards a common goal. The Propel wellbeing platform makes it easy to create a team and invite colleagues. Teams can compete on fitness, nutrition, and many other wellness topics.
Humans naturally think and process in stories. We see a face and hear about their success, and we begin to believe that if they can do, we can do it. Remote workers do not have the luxury of engaging in these conversations around the coffee machine. Leverage your wellbeing platform and communications as a megaphone for these stories. In the same way that program feedback was gathered, elicit success stories from your remote employees. Then put them front and center on your wellbeing site and wellness emails.
Task one of your wellness champions with coordinating wellness events that are geared towards remote workers. Group participation in fitness classes, races, cooking classes, or hiking can create meaningful connections that foster a sense of community even outside of the office.
Nothing breeds disengagement like not being able to find what you are looking for. Your employees today expect relevant information to find them, and wellness is no exception to that.
Remote employees often take advantage of health benefits to make up for the lack of employer connection that is inherent to remote work. Instead of forcing employees to search through annual enrollment materials, highlight each vendor on your wellness platform and link the employee to their EAP, financial, fitness, or retirement website. If possible, investing in a single sign-on to each vendor can create an even more satisfying customer experience.
Use a calendar of events to clearly display wellness webinars, remote employee wellness meet ups, or any other activities. If your wellness program is incentivized, be sure to highlight due dates that would otherwise go unnoticed by remote employees.
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