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    Fostering Employee Wellness With Your Remote Workforce

    The popularity of workplace wellness programs has skyrocketed over the last several years. In fact, nearly half of U.S. workplaces offer some type of health and wellness program.1 Wellness programs are vast in nature and include various programs including nutrition and weight management, physical fitness and mobility support, smoking-cessation programs, and mental-health support, to name a few. Nearly 30% of U.S. worksites offer programs that address physical fitness, 19% offer tobacco cessation programs, and 17% offer obesity and weight-management programs.1

    Wellness programs have a number of benefits. They can help create a healthier, more engaged workforce, decrease absenteeism and turnover, build a more productive workforce, and increase morale. More organizations are recognizing the value of wellness programs, despite the delayed gratification of potentially lower medical claims, and according to Forbes, “a growing number of employers are defining workplace health as a central part of company culture and strategy.”

    Adjusting to a Remote Work Environment

    But, if you’re an organization that has invested in a robust wellness program, there’s no doubt COVID-19, social distancing measures, and the increase of a remote workforce for many industries has likely turned your program on its head; am I right?

    If we’ve learned anything over the last few months, tenacity and flexibility are critical when navigating what we’ve come to know as “the new normal.” The same holds true for your business’ wellness initiatives. If you’ve transition all or a portion of your employees to a remote work environment, you can leverage a number of tools and a little creativity and still keep your program—and most importantly, your employees’ health—on track. In order to keep your workforce engaged in your wellness program while maintaining their mental and physical health, consider leveraging the following strategies:

    Proactive Communication

    Proactive communication is a critical aspect of any wellness program, but particularly for one that needs to transition to meet the needs of a remote workforce. In order to effectively communicate with your workforce, providing them with resources and encouragement to make healthy choices during the current state of affairs, it’s important to leverage as many communication channels as possible. Some examples of communication channels include:

    • Email

    • Your company intranet

    • Push notifications and alerts

    • In-app messaging

    • Virtual conference calls

    Of course, depending on the size and complexity of your organization, some of these options may not be viable, but the point is to leverage whatever communication channels you have in order to keep your employees engaged in your wellness initiatives.

    Technology

    In our “new normal” of working from home, lack of social contact, and virtual meetings, technology has become an integral part of our professional and personal lives. Along the same vein, you can leverage technology to keep your workforce engaged in your wellness program. For example, wearable tracking devices can help your employees track and measure their activity level. Fitness and nutritional tracking apps can foster friendly competition amongst your employees, encouraging them to stay active, drink more water, and make healthier nutrition choices. Technology can also allow you to incentivize and reward participation and engagement.

    Podcasts, webinars, and videos are great resources to educate employees about maintaining their mental and emotional health. Many of your employees have had their lives turned upside down. They’ve had to homeschool young children, share a home office with a spouse or roommate, cancel summer vacations, minimize social interactions, and process a barrage of information and “bad news.” It can be overwhelming, so supporting and encouraging your workforce to take care of their mental and emotional health is critical.

    Two-Way Communication

    One of the best ways to foster engagement in any wellness program—particularly one that has to shift based on a remote workforce—is to solicit feedback from your employees. Understanding your workforce demographics and what is important to them from a health and wellness standpoint is an important step in shifting your program to meet the needs of a remote workforce. Surveys are a great way to solicit feedback from employees, and depending on the size of your workforce, you could even leverage a conference platform to host a “virtual town hall” to give employees an opportunity to share their challenges and needs.

    Flexibility

    If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that flexibility is key to maintaining stability and success. When shelter-at-home orders began, there were many organizations that shifted from an on-premise workforce to one that was remote. We had to quickly adapt to conducting business virtually, and for many organizations, this included finding ways to virtually educate and motivate employees to make healthy choices and prioritize their mental and emotional stability.

    In order to develop and maintain a wellness program that can stand the test of time, it’s important to build in flexibility so you can meet the needs of your entire workforce—regardless if it is remote, dispersed nationally, or if it is demographically diverse.

    One Size Fits All Does Not Exist

    There is no one-size-fits-all wellness program. In fact, a wellness solution that best meets your needs is likely largely different than your counterpart’s program. Regardless of the aspects of a health and wellness solution that you deploy, ultimately, the goal is to help your employees become holistically healthier—healthy employees are happy employees!

    If you’re interested in learning more about wellness programs or would like our team to evaluate your existing solution, SWBC Employee Benefits Consulting Group can help. Click here to request a consultation.

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    1. <https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0422-workplaces-offer-wellness.html

    Roxanne Leal

    Roxanne Leal has been with SWBC since December 2019. As a Wellness Program Manager, Roxanne specializes in developing strategic wellness programs based on high cost claims, survey data and aggregate reports. Roxanne Leal has worked in the health & wellness industry for over 7 years.

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