Employees are currently being bombarded with virtual yoga, meditation, and fitness classes to help them stay as healthy as possible during this time of crisis. Most people already know that they should eat well, move more and relax more to be healthy so providing classes, although helpful and encouraging, can only do so much.
In times where existing habits are disrupted, the onus has to shift to organisations to promote wellbeing but also to create a framework that enables people to flourish.
Now more than ever how you manage your people and the ongoing COVID-19 situation will have more of an impact on employee well-being than any virtual class.
Below, I take a multi-dimensional look at how employers can enhance employee wellbeing during times of change. We look at this across the 8 dimensions of wellness and from both an employee and employer perspective, including a-typical wellness ideas.
The sense of meaning and purpose for soldiers in combat grows out of a shared commitment to safeguard one another's lives. Doctors have even found that people with a purpose in their lives are less prone to disease.
Now more than ever leaders need to lead with a sense of purpose and make it clear that their employees know that they are part of that shared commitment.
Take this time to remind employees of the shared values and the purpose of the organisation. In times of uncertainty, having purpose and meaning in our daily activities can do wonders for our mental health and positivity.
2. Intellectual Wellness
At the moment it's hard for everyone to maintain composure and so it's important for leaders to maintain a sense of calm and constant communication with employees.
Illness, worry for loved ones, job insecurity, and financial strain are on everyone's mind. Employees will get confused, make assumptions, and are worried about the negative effects the crisis could have on their jobs.
Maintain a constant flow of communication to employees from the CEO and through the leaders in the organisation. This will reassure your people; help boost morale and maintain a positive outlook.
Providing employees with weekly communications including what you as an organisation are doing, guidelines they should follow and recommendations for managing work during these times is as important as the communication itself.
3. Occupational Wellness
We know from our research that job insecurity and work overload are the main contributors of work-related stress. At this time, it may be difficult for employers to provide security, however, we can continue to help employees manage their workload at home and help them stay connected.
Siobhan Murray a psychologist and specialist in burnout, has a great analogy. She says, 'imagine waking up one morning and realising there are bears in your back garden. You can't go outside and you're trying desperately not to get eaten by these bears. Then your manager calls and asks you for that report.'
We can't deny that this is a crisis, and everyone is managing it differently. We also can't deny that organisations still have clients to serve and need to remain profitable in order to survive. Agreeing on expectations around key deliverables and important tasks is important both for the manager and the employee. Business as usual is a tough expectation.
4. Environmental Wellness
It's challenging to adapt to working from home. To quote Tracy Keogh one of the founders of Grow Remote 'this is not truly what remote working is about. It's crisis management'.
How easy you make it for your team to work remotely is important for manging stress, particularly for parents or carers who have extra responsibilities.
As someone who has been managing remote teams for many years Tracy recommends that leaders think of it like 're-creating the office, meeting rooms and common areas' however rather than using physical buildings your using virtual channels, chat rooms and social interactions.
One of the main reasons remote companies' ratings are high on sites like Glassdoor is that all these interactions are deliberate. In normal circumstances people would have laptops, children would be in school/creche and elderly parents wouldn't be as reliant on us.
Managers need to be cognizant of everyone's individual circumstances and utilise as many of the virtual channels of communication.
5. Social Wellness
Research by Stanford University found that social wellness is one of the most important dimensions for overall health and well-being. In a meta-analysis, researchers identified that the mortality risk due to social isolation was similar to the risk related to alcohol use, cigarette smoking and that it is greater than the risk imposed due to a sedentary lifestyle or obesity.
Maintaining good interaction with one another is important, within social distancing guidelines of course. Virtual coffee meetings, 1-1s and check ins are a simple way to do this.
Host team, divisional or group social gatherings, organise online social events, quizzes or gaming competitions to keep spirits high.
6. Financial Wellness
These are challenging times financially for businesses and employees. Research has shown that most people do not have enough savings to get them through two months. Providing virtual financial advice sessions, online savings tools/apps and continuing to highlight state supports is important.
If you need to lay people off or cut wages provide employees with information to get the supports they need. Continue to check in on employees who disengage. Research has shown us that financial stress is one of the main contributors to stress and anxiety and another reason why communications internally are important for employees who are worried about their finances.
7. Physical Wellness
There are a plethora of wellness vendors, exercise coaches and nutritionists putting business aside and offering their services for free to employees during this time. As a leader, you have an opportunity to encourage your employees to take part in maintaining good physical health.
Research states that when we eat well, we can have a positive effect on our mental health and immunity. Where possible we recommend for organisations to support employee physical wellness by encouraging regular breaks, exercise outside, sleep hygiene and following healthy nutrition guidelines. This might be a good time for light-hearted physical challenges or competitions.
8. Emotional Wellness
Our resilience is being put to the test. Worry, anxiety, and stress are at an all-time high. Providing your employees with resilience training and equipping managers with Mental Health First Aid training are two simple ways of helping managers to support employee's emotional wellness.
Campaigns that promote your EAP services and a stigma-free workforce will help alleviate stress, particularly for those concerned about their jobs or loved ones. Aside from educating and informing employees of the services and supports afforded to them taking a multi-dimensional or a-typical approach will indirectly help to support their mental and emotional wellness.
Managing your and your employees' mental and emotional wellness is important now more than ever before.
Although wellness vendors and other experts are offering free online classes, meditations, and yoga classes to support employee mental well-being, how you manage employees will have more of an impact.