Without question, as a society, we have moved into a new era of employment dynamics. Before COVID-19 settled in during 2020, remote employee numbers were already on the rise. In 2018, 3.2 percent of the workforce was made up of remote workers.1 The Age of Technology combined with changes in general business operations afforded many companies the possibility of allowing some of their workforce to perform their jobs at home.
However, amid the pandemic, many companies were forced to delegate everyday work tasks to employees stationed in the safety of their homes just to thwart full closure. TIME magazine actually referred to the changes as the biggest remote-work experiment ever.2 Companies that had never considered remote-employee possibilities were suddenly forced to make drastic changes. A Pew Research survey of more than 10,000 workers showed that 20 percent of adult workers surveyed before the pandemic worked at home, but 71 percent were working remotely by October 2020.3
With the dawn of a new year, a pandemic still lingering, and last year's trial run becoming more concrete, many employers have a full set of work-from-home employees. And, with the remote workforce, employers face a new challenge: Supporting the health of the employees working remotely.
The costs of providing health insurance to employees have been steadily increasing. In 2019, the average employer paid $7,188 per year just for an individual policy.4 In an effort to keep costs low, the key is in keeping employees as healthy as possible. How can that be done when employees are not physically present? Here are a few ideas to encourage healthy employees, even from a distance.
Email, instant messaging, and texting are all great connection tools, but few things generate a more human connection like face-to-face interactions. Hosting virtual meetings with your employees can be a good way to boost both morale and productivity. Remember, some of the biggest workplace health problems are psychological, according to Harvard Health.5 The workplace may have changed, but your remote employees could still be contending with:
Face-to-face group meetings give employees that sense of camaraderie that comes along with spending time with co-workers. Further, these interactions give isolated employees access to like-minded people who may be facing some of the same challenges.
It has grown increasingly common for employers to fund health programs beyond just their basic health insurance coverage. For example, Mobify, a Salesforce company, offers employees free yoga classes twice weekly, and Google feeds their team healthy lunches and snacks daily.6
You may have a harder time arranging in-workplace activities when your employees are remote, but you can still offer to fund certain healthy activities. For example, you could:
Working at home changes so much about the employer-employee relationship. When your employee is in the office/workplace, you get the opportunity to check in. Likewise, the employee has the chance to share their health concerns with HR, a manager, or otherwise. To achieve this same kind of insight from a remote employee, you may have to show you want to know what they need. Consider:
Your employees at home may obviously have more flexibility with their work schedules. Flexibility can be positive for sure, but too much flexibility can lead way to unhealthy habits as well. For example, if you are not really stressing that your employees set aside time for breaks and lunch, you may have employees:
While you don't necessarily have to require strict schedules, make it a point to encourage healthy habits. Try sending out reminders when employees should be taking a lunch break, a stretch break, or otherwise. Create realistic workday schedules instead of just allotting a bunch of work that has to get done within a full day.
Telemedicine has become a mainstay in employer-provided benefits plans. As of 2019, at least 82 percent of larger employers did supply some form of average plan with a telemedicine care model.7 If the plans provided through your company to employees do offer telemedicine, be sure employees are aware of access to this kind of convenient care.
While telemedicine appointments have not always been the norm, the care model has steadily gained traction as one of the most viable ways to get care. Perhaps COVID-19 made that statement even truer. Through telemedicine, remote employees have convenient, reliable access to both medical and mental health providers to help thwart unnecessary emergency room visits, monitor illnesses, and more.
Preventive care is one of the most important aspects of keeping your employees healthy, including those who are working from home. By implementing your own strategies and partnering with a good telemedicine provider, you can make an enormous difference in the overall well-being of your workforce.
At Firefly Health, our virtual care model is physician-led and patient-conscious. Every patient is assigned a health guide, primary care provider, nurse practitioner, and more. To find out more about Firefly Health and how we can help keep your employees healthy, schedule a call with us for more information.