Promoting workplace wellbeing is one of the most effective ways to improve employee health, happiness, and retention. A RAND survey found that 69% of companies with over 50 employees have a workplace wellbeing program to capture these benefits.
The challenge, now, is keeping these programs alive in a remote environment since many programs are centered around in-person benefits. Even if you returned to the office, there are safety concerns around many perks such as in-office healthy snack bars, nap pods, fitness equipment, team sports competitions, etc.
While it’s much more challenging to provide benefits that support physical health, there’s an abundance of opportunity and a strong need to support the mental health side of wellness.
Here are five ways you can promote workplace wellbeing in a post-COVID world.
1) Maintain a Flexible Work Environment
Since COVID forced knowledge workers to go remote, more have realized that employees can sustain high levels of productivity without adhering to standardized work hours. Permanently adopting work flexibility can have a substantial positive impact on workplace wellbeing.
A study from the University of Minnesota found that employees who have flexible schedules experience a wide range of benefits, including:
- More sleep
- Higher energy levels
- Less stress
- Fewer health issues
And other benefits that promote workplace wellbeing.
The one challenge of flexible work environments is that sometimes employees aren’t available at the same time to solve problems and collaborate, which can slow projects down. To remedy this, choose a two to three-hour block of time during the day where everyone on your team is required to be online and responsive.
Keep in mind that a truly flexible work environment will empower employees to follow a rigid schedule if they don’t want to worry about responding to messages during evenings or weekends.
Some people are meticulous about getting all their work done by the end of each day, and they deserve to go offline without fear of judgment for not responding after hours.
2) Offer Private, Virtual Mental Health Support
Mental health is a core part of wellbeing and one of the hardest to address in the workplace. As much as you try to create a culture that validates mental health struggles, many employees will never feel comfortable opening up about their challenges.
A study from Deloitte found that 92% of people with mental health conditions fear that being open about their challenges would negatively impact their careers. Much of this sentiment stems from the fear of appearing weak, which you can address with a supportive culture. However, many people’s mental health struggles stem from issues that they feel are too sensitive to discuss in a professional context, which is entirely okay.
To promote workplace wellbeing, offer private, virtual mental health services through your insurance company or a separate provider. This gives your employees easy access to much-needed help while working on creating a culture that invites people to be open about the challenges they’re experiencing.
Here are a few simple ways to start destigmatizing these issues in your organization:
- Have leaders discuss their mental health challenges
- Heavily promote your mental health resources
- Work one-on-one with stressed employees to develop action plans that encourage their wellbeing at work
Over time, the combination of your cultural activities and access to professional support will create an environment where employees know that they never have to struggle alone.
3) Train Your Managers to Be Leaders
A Training Industry report found that 65% of managers receive five hours or less of training. As a result, the vast majority of managers don’t know how to be effective leaders. Their management capabilities are often uninspiring at best and severely damaging to workplace wellbeing at worst.
If left unresolved, poor leadership can result in burnout, high turnover, high-stress levels, and other toxic issues. To prevent this, you need to train all of your managers in critical areas, including:
- Planning/project management
- Emotional intelligence
- Crisis management/conflict resolution
If your organization doesn’t have the budget to create a robust management training program, there are plenty of cheap resources, including books, online courses, and other content, to give them the baseline knowledge they need to promote the wellbeing of their teams.
4) Create an Autonomous, But Supportive, Work Culture
Autonomy boost employee motivation, productivity, happiness. These benefits have encouraged many leaders to give their teams complete freedom.
However, too much autonomy can negatively impact workplace wellbeing. Researchers from Arizona State University found that hand-off leadership can severely impact employee engagement and performance. When employees lack clear goals and can’t turn to their managers for support, they often have no sense of direction and waste time making mistakes that could have easily been avoided if they had help.
The key to sustaining employee wellbeing is giving employees enough autonomy that they feel empowered but not so much that they feel like they can’t turn to you for help.
Here are a couple of actions you can take to strike the right balance:
- When assigning projects, give your team goals, timelines, and expectations and leave out instructions for how to do the work.
- Help them brainstorm solutions to issues instead of taking over and solving problems for them.
- Have weekly check-ins so you can step in before projects fall too far behind, but you’re not getting in the way of your team’s day-to-day activities.
Keep in mind that the amount of autonomy versus support that you need to provide will vary based on what your team is working on. If you’re in a rapidly changing crisis, you’ll have to be more heavily involved; however, if your team is working on a familiar project, they can work independently. The key is to let them do things their way and provide support as needed.
5) Give Your Senior Employees and Executives Tangible Support
Research published in Harvard Business Review found that knowledge workers spend an average of 41% of their time on low-skilled tasks that don’t require their authority or expertise. This can harm workplace wellbeing since your high performers are forced to work long hours on tedious tasks that distract them from the challenges they’re trying to solve.
To empower your top performers to focus on what they do best, allow them to offload all of their simple but necessary tasks to entry-level employees or interns. This is a win-win for workplace wellbeing since it frees up their time to focus on challenging projects and gives your junior workers experience with the responsibilities of senior employees.
If your team doesn’t have interns or entry-level employees that your top performers can delegate tasks to, hiring a virtual assistant can be a cost-effective way to provide tangible support.
A VA can tackle a variety of tedious tasks, including:
- Data entry and cleaning
- Document formatting
- Expenses and travel management
- Inbox management
- Plus almost any other process-driven task
If you hire through a managed service, you’ll save your high performers additional time since you’ll be assigned an Engagement Manager who trains and manages your VA and a fully trained backup assistant so that your team never goes a day without support.
Check out our use cases or download our Guide to Working with a Prialto virtual assistant to learn more about how a VA can support your high performers.
About the Author: Emily leads 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.