Article by Susan Hanold, Ph.D. and Amy Freshman
Today's environment is challenging the very core of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Basic needs – things like safety, food and water, to psychological needs – things like relationships, friends, belongingness must be met first before people can tend to the needs at the top of the pyramid. This is true in everyday life; now with a remote workforce, we need to ensure we revisit the basics.
It's a challenging time for everyone, but what's most important for companies to focus on right now is taking care of their employees. The first priority should be safeguarding workers, ensuring their health and safety, and then addressing their emotional well-being. Corporate Medical Director for ADP, Dr. Daniela Weinberger, M.D., states that individuals should be focused on their own health. "It is critical we get enough sleep, eat balanced meals, spend time with family in our household and stay in physical shape as much as we can. If we do this, we can substantially reduce our own risk and we can help change the world around us."
Depending on where you are in the world, some are weeks or months into remote work, with most people unable to leave their homes for anything other than essentials. These are very different circumstances than the 'norm', which is prompting the refined focus and attention on wellness.
The impacts of fitness have been studied for decades. Beyond the physical benefits, it has been proven to positively impact one's mental well-being in areas such as mood and reduced anxiety. Given the state of the world today, fitness studios have had to close their doors en masse and are firing up previously seldom-used social media 'live' capabilities instead. If you have access to a digital device and the internet, you can work out with just about any trainer in the world and many centers are offering free online classes. Employees are having to think differently about their workouts and ways to manage their stress. This is a great time to experiment with at-home workouts; living rooms are doubling as yoga studios and garages and basements are transforming into mini-gyms.
Companies are thinking about ways to help motivate their employees to 'get up and get moving' during this state of full-time remote work. Not everyone has the self-motivation like Gareth Allen who ran a full marathon in his backyard garden in southern England. Workers around the globe are beginning to consider new ways to get some exercise into their lives and companies can help provide ways to support them.
One way companies can drive engagement in wellness is by leveraging their Employee / Business Resource Groups through programs and challenges. These groups have been created by providing a common topic or affinity for employees to join based on their interests. Some wellness program examples we've seen with these groups include:
- Wellness Wednesday - A team can pick one a week to block on the calendar and share photos of their workouts and physical activity. This allows employees to see each other in their home workspace, share ideas and tips, and build engagement across the community.
- Challenge of the Month - Step challenges can be used to count the number of steps for a certain period of time and include education on the value of walking. The idea is to build camaraderie and positive reinforcement to encourage associates to increase their step counts.
At Eliassen Group, Heather Jordan, Vice-President of Human Resources, realizes now more than ever the importance of culture, the health and wellness of employees and the ability to remain agile in an ever-changing environment. The Eliassen Group culture committee has been hard at work creating meaningful approaches to virtual cultural and health initiatives such as weekly meditation, resiliency training, virtual concerts, philanthropy fundraising and weekly cross-office activities.
"We feel more connected than we ever have, and pulse surveys show that even our internal satisfaction eNPS score has shown a large increase during this time," Heather said. "It's a true testament to what team collaboration and culture can do to bring us all together against the odds."
We have been hearing examples of increased touchpoint frequency, and when possible, the use of video provides face-to-face time. If we can't be together physically in a space, video is without question the next best thing. Being creative in your approach to engage your employees will go a long way right now. Companies that put their employees' safety first, followed by a focus on wellness, will likely weather this storm the best.
Helpful information can be found here: ADP Employer Preparedness Toolkit — Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)