What if you discovered that your remote employees are likely feeling more isolated, stressed, anxious, and emotionally drained than ever before?
According to a global study across more than 10 industries by Qualtrics and SAP during the spring of 2020, 75% of people said they feel more socially isolated, 67% of people reported higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted.
While it’s not the most chipper of statistics and hopefully isn’t the case for your team—it’s certainly the truth for many since the outbreak of the pandemic. Now that we’re a full year into the pandemic with many never having returned to the office, these percentages have likely increased even more.
In past years, companies have often separated work and topics surrounding mental health, claiming those areas were too personal or even ‘taboo’ to discuss with direct reports. However, work is where people spend most of their time (yes, even when remote) and has a huge impact on their mental, physical, and emotional wellness. Throw a global pandemic, sudden transitions to distributed work, and global political turmoil into the mix, and it’s easy to understand why employees need extra support—especially from their leadership teams.
Whether your team is slowly returning to the office, adopting a hybrid work model, or committing to work from anywhere, it’s time for leaders to understand the impact of their employees’ wellness on their work and ways to support it at a company-wide level.
As the Co-Founder of Wellness Coach, an all-encompassing digital wellness platform, I’m excited to share our findings and top methods for doing so.
3 Reasons To Support Remote Employee Wellness
It may sound like a stretch, but the truth is, employee wellness has a direct effect on the success of your business. After all, each of your employees contributes to the collective effort that powers each area of your company. If your employees aren’t feeling their best, odds are, their work won’t be their best, either.
Understand how these three research-backed points can help you support employee wellness, specifically on remote teams.
1. Focusing On Wellness Reduces Feelings Of Isolation
Gone are the days (for many teams) of popping over to your coworkers’ desk to chat about weekend plans or the exciting new Starbucks flavor. Instead, teams are working alone in their home office, often within different states and even different time zones.
Forbes recently did a deep-dive into the world’s best workplaces and found that loneliness and isolation are the largest reported concern amongst remote workers—its effects can go further than affecting just the individual. Some symptoms of isolation include increased stress levels and bad decision-making. For company leaders and managers, these are concerning characteristics for someone who has crucial responsibility. Unfortunately, being isolated also means these feelings are difficult for employers to detect.
Even in “normal” times, the impact of loneliness and isolation shouldn’t be glossed over—a research study by psychologists about loneliness and social isolation revealed that it can be twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.
The good news? As a manager or leader, this presents a great opportunity to unite your employees and reduce feelings of isolation by hosting virtual team wellness challenges.
Here’s an example: Even if your team can’t be together in person, try hosting a weekly ‘steps’ challenge. On their own time, team members can go for walks and enter into a friendly ‘office’ competition. This is a great way to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and enjoy a group activity—no matter where team members fall on the map.
2. Improving Wellness Can Offset Job Burnout
When home becomes the workplace, employees tend to work more days and longer hours. With a laptop always within reach and the ‘office’ just a few steps away, the classic ‘I’ll just answer one more email’ scenario can quickly snowball into hours of overtime. According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year.
While this may seem like great news for productivity levels and project timelines, quite the opposite is true. Over time, maxing-out on work can lead to job burnout—a syndrome that results from extreme workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, according to the World Health Organization. Since remote workers work more on average, this means that they’re naturally more prone to job burnout—and it’s part of your job as a leader to help prevent and manage it.
To support employees in managing feelings of overwhelm and burnout, it’s important to encourage them to incorporate exercise breaks and social interaction into their routine. Simple steps like turning off email notifications before and after working hours and maintaining a normal sleep schedule will help keep feelings of burnout at bay.
Pro-Tip: With the new reality of remote work, many find themselves sitting at their desks for hours on end. To help encourage healthier habits, we have come up with a Slack integration that provides 3 to 5-minute exercises, allowing you and your employees to get the daytime stretch and movement you need to stay healthy.
3. Thriving Employees Are More Productive
What does it mean to “thrive?”
In my eyes, it’s a sort of ‘leveling-up’ from struggling or simply staying stagnant. To thrive means to grow, flourish, and enjoy. While achieving a status of ‘thriving’ is presumably different for each individual, basic areas of wellness such as joy, exercise, peace, diet, and sleep are a good place to start.
If your employees can find ways to include healthy levels of mental calm, restorative rest, physical movement, a balanced diet, and sleep into their daily schedules—they’ll be off to the races.
In my recent interview with Authority Magazine, I describe how meditation has allowed me to thrive in my personal life and as a leader:
“Awareness meditations have had an incredible impact on who I am as a leader, being more mindful of my decision-making and building better relationships within my company and really with just about everyone in my life. I also take in the world around me more, I breathe in sunsets on my morning runs on the beach, I enjoy my backyard garden and the delicious food it provides us, and I feel like I’m just living more.”
Plus, being in a state of thriving doesn’t stop there. Leaders and employees alike can benefit from boosted wellness, which in turn, helps us become more productive. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, companies that implement a successful wellness program on average save $353 of regained productivity per employee.
3 Ways To Incorporate Wellness Into Your Remote Company Culture
By now, you’ve learned just how important supporting employee wellness is. But how, exactly, can you ensure that your employees thrive and show up as their best selves every day? Discover these three actionable ways to incorporate wellness into your remote company culture.
1. Make Wellness Check-Ins Part Of Your 1:1 Meetings
I’ll bet that as a manager or leader, your schedule is full of meetings. You may not want to add more to your plate, but a simple way to take a pulse-check and offer support to your employees is by taking time to genuinely ask how your employees are doing during their 1:1 meetings.
Instead of focusing only on project deadlines or career growth, ask thoughtful questions such as:
- How are your energy levels?
- What can I do to support you?
- When was the last time you took a day off to focus on yourself?
- How are you feeling about your job lately?
- Is there anything going on in your life that you’d like to talk about?
By fostering a culture of caring communication, your employees will start to feel more comfortable coming to you with concerns and requests. If you’re feeling like one of your employees is hesitant to open up, try offering your own experiences, such as, “You know, last week I was feeling very overwhelmed, so I’ve decided to take a mental health day tomorrow. Is this something you would like to do as well?”.
By showing employees that everyone feels stress and everyone deserves support, they should feel encouraged to adopt that mindset for themselves.
2. Invest In A Company Wellness Program
Your company likely offers essential employee benefits such as health insurance, right? Well, with more and more research coming out weekly on the importance of employee wellness, many have started to offer a company wellness program as an employee benefit. Wellness programs often include things like company wellness challenges, guided meditation sessions, virtual exercise groups, wellness classes, and emotional support services.
Not only is aiming to create healthier and happier employees a good decision on a human-level, but it’s also a smart business move as well. The proof is in the research—the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) performed a review that found for every dollar invested in health intervention, employees recouped between $1.40 and $4.60 in avoided medical costs and productivity losses.
Wellness programs can also bring employees together and create a more positive environment—whether your company is co-located, distributed, or a mix of both. A Virgin Pulse study found that 85% of employers believed their successful wellness program had a positive influence on company culture.
Platforms such as Wellness Coach offer customized programs that meet your employee’s unique needs and goals and can even offer reporting that proves the program’s success. And it’s easy to get started and to encourage your team to practice healthy habits. Start your next team meeting with a meditation session and watch those stress levels subside.
3. Don’t Just Offer Time Off, Make It Mandatory
Though company wellness challenges, wellness programs, and check-ins are excellent ways to maintain employee wellness at work—what employees really need to decompress and take care of themselves is time away from work.
Many companies offer paid time off, but often forget to encourage their employees to actually use it. The solution? Make time off mandatory.
For example, companies like Salesforce are offering employees one long weekend each month. Other companies are making time off non-negotiable by closing for holidays, company anniversaries, or reminding employees of the amount of PTO they’ve accrued.
As a manager, it’s your job to keep an eye on your employees and make sure that they aren’t sneaking in emails on their days off or logging online during company closures.
You need to lead by example. Take time off as well and refrain from responding to messages or emails when you’re supposed to be offline. When you return to work (hopefully refreshed), you can communicate the value of your break. A simple “Wow, I didn’t realize how much I needed that mental health day. I encourage you all to take a day off within the next few weeks if you need it — I know I did!” goes a long way.
Remember, you can take measures to ensure your employees feel supported at work, but the best way for them to show up to work refreshed is by, well… not always working.
Make Wellness A Necessary Part Of Company Performance
By incorporating wellness into your company culture, not only will your employees feel better and work better, they will be thankful to work for a company that views them beyond a person who completes an array of tasks—but as a human being with a fluctuating state of wellness.
With these tips, you can start making strides in positioning wellness as a key part of your company culture and watch how your employees thrive as a result.