During the coronavirus pandemic, more and more employees have been working from home. This has caused some predictable problems. For one thing, people are finding it much harder to get exercise and take care of themselves.
A survey in Dec. 2020 found that 71 million Americans had gained weight during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same survey showed that 63 percent of respondents found it harder to keep up healthy habits during quarantine.
Combine this with the high-stress environment of working during a pandemic, which increases the likelihood of overeating or unhealthy eating habits. So what can employers do to help support their employees and form a healthy work-from-home environment, even remotely?
Employers should care about their employees' health for several reasons. Firstly, having healthier employees is likely to keep their insurance premiums lower. When your workers have fewer chronic health problems and need to visit the doctor less often, that is less money coming out of your pocket.
Secondly, having a healthier workforce means having employees who are more focused, happy, and productive. When people are physically, mentally, and emotionally well, they can do tasks with more energy and focus.
Lastly and most importantly, your employees must stay healthy because as their employer, it is your responsibility! An employer has the ability to support and improve their workers. A good employer makes it a priority to do just that.
There is no way around it — working from home is chaotic. Many of your employees are probably trying to juggle childcare, housework, and other obligations. Unlike during normal times, there is no separation of these parts of life.
If you notice that your employees seem more frazzled than usual, ask them how you can support them. Remember that they are trying to work as hard as they normally do, but life is getting in the way. This causes a huge amount of mental stress and anxiety. Having an understanding employer who knows that this is a difficult time for everyone can make a world of difference.
Many employers have now begun to offer group fitness activities via Zoom conference. This is not only an excellent way to help provide your workers with physical activities — but it is also a way to help people feel more connected during a time of increased isolation.
Many telehealth services now offer remote fitness classes for those who are covered by insurance. Employees can enjoy yoga, Pilates, Zumba, dance, or other forms of exercise over a conference call. Although this isn't the same as an in-person class, it can be a great way to provide a form of fitness and socialization while you are working from home.
You do not have to make these activities mandatory (in fact, it is probably better if you don’t). However, make sure all your employees know that these offerings are scheduled and available to them should they be interested.
When you are working from home, it can be difficult to find a stopping point. The day can go by in one flurry of activity, especially if employees are trying to take care of children and a house while they are working.
As an employer, you can help by encouraging them to take breaks and keep their work as separate from their home life as possible. There are a few handy ways to do this.
Firstly, encourage them to make a workspace that is just for work. This might be easier said than done. After all, not everyone has the room for a home office. However, this is important if it is achievable. Having a separate workspace will help them focus on tasks while they are working and leave them behind when they go to other parts of the house.
Remind them to get up and walk away from their workspace periodically. That might mean stretching their legs, getting a cup of tea, or going outside for a few minutes. It is also vital to walk away from work while eating lunch. This helps give them an essential mental break from the stress of working from home.
Take the time to check in with your employees about their mental wellbeing during this time. Remember that mental health is a part of overall health, one that is often neglected. During a stressful period like the COVID pandemic, many people feel isolated, frightened, and hopeless. As an employer, you must let your employees know that they have your support, and you care about their wellbeing.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to call anybody out or make them feel obligated to confide in you. But do make it a point to connect with your employees as regularly as possible to ask how you can better support them while they are working from home.
Telehealth is a new and expanding concept in the world today. Many people might not understand exactly what services are available to them or how they can help them. Educate your employees so that they know how to take advantage of these services, including mental health services if these are covered by your workplace insurance plan.
There are several ways you can do this. You can send out email reminders about your telehealth options covered by insurance. You can also host telehealth events, which many services offer. These can be informational or events that focus on a particular niche in the world of healthcare.
Workers are likely to work from home at increasing rates in the future. Just as telehealth is growing, so too is the concept that work can be done from anywhere. Employers need to anticipate and adapt to these changes so that they can find ways to better support their employees.