How to Support Employee Wellness in the Era of Social Distancing

Updated: 15 Aug, 2020 | Emily Roner

Prolonged social distancing restrictions have placed an immense strain on employee morale. As of July 2020, a Monster survey found that 69% of workers have burnout symptoms, up 35% from just two months prior.

With a return to normal no longer insight, leaders need to invest effort in wellness initiatives that give employees extra support during this difficult time.

For best results, programs should focus on two areas:

  1. Making work less stressful via flexible work options, restructured workloads, and other methods that make success easier.
  2. Encourage employees to prioritize their mental and physical health, so they have the energy to remain resilient.

These efforts will give your team the tangible and emotional support they need to be productive.

Here are four initiatives to get started.


1. Set Up Systems to Embrace Unconventional Work Hours

With limited childcare options and rising mental health challenges, many employees need to work unconventional hours.

While most companies have given their remote workers flexibility, many have failed to set up systems to support asynchronous work. This can be a significant stressor and productivity barrier due to unexpected delays in responses and outputs.

To help your team stay on track while working asynchronously, set up systems that keep everyone aligned. Here are a few options:

  • Have daily or every other day team meetings. Most days, these should be quick check-ins to keep everyone aligned. However, leave extra time for people to get live input on the challenges they’re facing. This limits the likelihood of someone being severely held back by delayed responses.
  • Make it acceptable for people to send messages at odd hours. For parents, often the easiest time to get deep work done is when the kids are asleep. Encourage employees to send messages in the moment with the understanding that they likely won’t get a response until regular business hours. This reduces the likelihood of people forgetting to send important messages the following day.
  • Require employees to keep a task management system updated. Posting real-time updates on their progress makes it easier for everyone to see exactly where a project is at, regardless of the times everyone is working. If employees don’t post often, create a cadence that makes sense for their type of work.

These kinds of activities proactively keep everyone updated so that as long as employees are tracking to meet their deadlines, they won’t hold others back, regardless of what hours they work. Not only does this boost performance, but it also supports employee wellness by giving them one less thing to stress out about during these difficult times.


2. Host Employee-Led Wellness Workshops

Promoting peer-to-peer advice is one of the most effective ways to get your employees to engage with wellness initiatives. Unlike workshops from professional coaches whose strategies can vary from actual needs, employee-led programs tend to be highly relevant.

At Prialto, we have a Be Healthy committee that, among other activities, hosts a twenty-minute virtual workshop every week where volunteer hosts share what they do to support their physical and/or mental health. Everyone in the company is invited to join, and most sessions are interactive so attendees can pitch in their tips.

Here are examples of some of the events our team has hosted:

  • Desk stretching: a series of exercises designed to alleviate the physical stress of being at a desk all day.
  • Coping with anxiety: an open discussion on how to prevent stress from negatively impacting performance.
  • Solo dancing: simple dance moves to reenergize in a small space.

Our team enjoys these workshops because they’re casual and provide many practical strategies that anyone can adopt.

To get started with your own programs, create a wellness committee in charge of curating hosts and promoting the events throughout your company.


3. Provide Virtual Admin Support

Employees are happiest when they’re empowered to focus on what they do best without barriers. Though many leaders have embraced strategies to give their team greater autonomy and mastery, they often overlook the role that workload plays in employees’ ability to focus on key priorities.

Most roles have a significant amount of tedious, but necessary, administrative tasks such as data entry and cleaning, coordination, workflow management, etc. that pull top performers away from their strategic work and force them to work longer hours.

An easy way to solve this is to offer virtual administrative support. A VA can tackle all of your top-performers’ tedious tasks and help them adopt a productivity system so that they’re able to focus solely on the activities that drive their success.

This wellness initiative is especially beneficial for parents since time saved directly alleviates some of their stress.

To learn more about how virtual assistants can help your team, download our free guide.

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4. Offer Premium Mindfulness and Exercise Apps

While work-based wellness initiatives give employees a lot of support, they do little to address physical and mental health issues driven by outside factors. Offering premium mindfulness and exercise apps gives your team the knowledge and motivation to invest time in holistically maintaining their health.

Research shows that people are happier and less stressed after just a month of using a mindfulness app. This extends beyond their overall mood and helps them remain calmer when confronting difficult situations.

Additionally, exercise apps increase how frequently people exercise by guiding them through activities and holding users accountable.

Though employees can get mindfulness and exercise apps on their own, promoting premium apps as part of your wellness initiatives can be a forcing function that helps them get started. Many apps also have social components that help remote teams get to know each other personally.

About the author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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