How to energize employees using virtual wellness

There’s no question that COVID-19 has disrupted usual work-life routines. The need to work from home, self-isolate and quarantine can have significant impacts on the well-being and mental health of employees.

For this reason, it’s important that employers continue to provide support through a virtual wellness program during the pandemic — and likely beyond. Here are some ideas:

  • Engage your employees socially

Connections with peers, whether informal catch-ups or formal one-on-ones with staff, contribute to greater job satisfaction and can increase morale. Now is the time to connect more frequently. Working remotely and being in isolation will be new to many employees.

Read: Remote working, distributed workforces could be part of new normal post-coronavirus

It’s also important to find ways to maintain that social connectivity in the new norm of working apart. This could be by having a catch-up video call with colleague, arranging a virtual team lunch or Friday drinks over Zoom.

  • Encourage mindful eating

During self-isolation, it’s important to try to reinforce and continue healthy eating habits. Encouraging employees to take a break away from their computer to eat lunch is hard at the best of times, but it’s important to ensure the team is mentally rested and physically nourished to be productive and healthy during their work day.

With many people grocery shopping less frequently and cooking at home, try introducing a healthy recipe exchange, a ‘look what I cooked’ photo gallery or a ‘feature this ingredient’ challenge to turn meal preparation into a creative team activity.

  • Promote regular exercise 

With physical distancing and working from home, onsite fitness classes or trips to the local gym are temporarily on hold. Employers need to encourage staff to make time for regular exercise as part of their at-home daily routines.

One option is to incentivize employees to achieve a personal COVID-19 exercise goal. Consider creating mini challenges among co-workers to help increase morale and reward peoples’ efforts. Programs like Microsoft Teams or Zoom can also be used to schedule daily or weekly team stretch breaks.

Read: 5 benefits predictions for the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic

Employers can also encourage employees to use online fitness resources to take a yoga class or participate in virtual or pre-taped fitness workouts. There are various free YouTube channels dedicated to equipment-free workouts that can be done in the comfort of one’s living room.

  • Endorse well-being supports

Wellness not only means taking care of the body, it takes care of the mind as well. Managers know their people best, so by regularly engaging with their teams, they may notice when a colleague is acting differently. Perhaps they aren’t participating in virtual meetings or have started turning off their video. Maybe there’s a change in the tone of their speech or writing style.

By checking in and asking how each team member is doing, employers have the opportunity to suggest well-being supports if anyone is struggling. Directing employees to the company’s employee assistance program or other mental-health apps may offer the timely support they need during this time of uncertainty.

Read: Employees still in work with reduced salaries show lowest mental-health levels: survey

Employee wellness programs shouldn’t just be for when they’re in the office. By providing extra support initiatives while staff are working remotely, organizations can communicate a certain level of empathy and support for their people, which in turn boosts satisfaction and confidence between the employer and the employee.