By Peter Moorhead, founder and MD of Celebrate Health & Fitness
As we begin to emerge from the upheaval created by the pandemic, we are hearing more and more about how businesses are reshaping their working policies and practices to enable staff to continue to work more flexibly and remotely.
Remote working trends
Trends in remote and flexible working were already gaining traction before the pandemic but the disruption it caused accelerated this. Many people have had a positive experience with remote working during the pandemic and as a result we’ve seen many of the world’s biggest companies recognising the benefits to both staff and the organisation and introducing the option for staff to work remotely at least some of their contracted hours. But with this dramatic shift to work-from-home, companies need to think about how their benefits can better work for this increasingly remote and dispersed workforce.
While remote working can bring many benefits to people’s lives, with staff able to skip the time-consuming and stress-inducing daily commute, save costs by working from home and have increased flexibility in their schedules, it can also have its downsides. By losing the office environment, those who work remotely may experience feelings of isolation, miss out on valuable human social interactions and the camaraderie with co-workers and struggle to maintain a work-life balance – which can in turn, have a serious effect on wellbeing.
Employee wellbeing support
The topic of employee wellbeing has risen to the top of the news agenda in recent months as Covid-19 restrictions ease and people look ahead to another shift in working patterns as the remaining restrictions are set to lift on the 19th July.
It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of employees, and when they are all based in an office, it’s much easier to be aware of any habits or behaviours that may be affecting wellbeing. If your staff are remote, at least some of the time, extra effort will be required to keep a close eye on how they’re feeling and work to maintain a structure which supports their wellbeing.
In a recent poll of workers by Mental Health First Aid England, only a third (32 per cent) of employees said mental health and wellbeing support had improved over the pandemic, while another study by YuLife and YouGov, revealed that 25% of employees want more employer-provided benefits to help boost their wellbeing. So it is crucial that steps are taken by employers to ensure that their health and wellbeing policies and programmes are fit for these new ways of working.
It’s proven that workforce wellbeing not only benefits the business but also wider society so there are plenty of reasons why it makes sense to invest in employee wellbeing programmes, but how do you adapt and boost what you currently have in place to meet the needs of a workforce that may no longer be present in the office five days a week.
8 ways to support the wellbeing of remote workers:
Employee wellbeing consists of a number of elements, including social, physical and mental wellbeing, so here’s a few simple ways that businesses can provide support across these areas for an increasingly remote and dispersed workforce:
- Create a central hub for health and safety resources, to provide easy access to all the information and resources employees may need from company policies, benefits and the latest government and health advice
- Provide access to mental health support by inviting specialists in to run one-off or regular seminars or workshops, and provide access to counsellors for one-to-one support
- Introduce regular health screenings to help identify any existing health issues or potential health risks. Providers will not only be able to conduct screening tests but also offer advice and make recommendations to help prevent or lessen particular problems
- Promote exercise and fitness – onsite exercise classes have grown in popularity recently but the last year has proven that they can be just as effective and enjoyable online, so offer virtual classes and enable remote workers to join in wherever they are
- Consider introducing some alternative and supportive therapies into your wellbeing programme such as massage, reiki or yoga as these not only provide time away from the desk but benefit both physical and mental health benefits
- Running team fitness challenges can encourage the social interaction and camaraderie not being experienced in the office – step challenges for example can be carried out anywhere and any time and also create some healthy competition among teams
- Subsidise and encourage alternative, healthier ways for people to travel to the office – bike-to-work schemes, or subsidise fitness wearables so people can track and compare their activities with colleagues
- Conduct a home working space assessment and provide ergonomic equipment to ensure employee home offices meet your health and safety standards
Navigating through the shift to new working patterns and preparing to manage and look after a dispersed and flexible workforce has and will continue to be challenging for many businesses but with the right resources and support in place, its possible to maintain a connected, happy and healthy workforce no matter where they are.