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6 Ways Employers Can Deliver Holistic Wellness to Remote Employees

As much of our workforce continues to work from home, I’ve had several people in my network mention how their workplace is struggling to keep employees engaged and well.

This is a difficult time, for many reasons, and the transition from a bustling social office to the remote couch or home office has left many employees feeling isolated, less likely to engage in wellness programs and struggling to feel connected to their colleagues.

Our corporate wellness programs have historically involved healthy food options in the office, a fitness center, in-office group workouts and run clubs, and other perks that are largely only accessible in-person.

Now, we must get creative to bring wellness to everyone at home. In my opinion, this need for creativity is a great thing.

It’s an opportunity to start thinking about wellness in a holistic sense, beyond just fitness opportunities and smoking cessation programs.

It’s a time for employers to begin really considering their employees’ emotional, mental and social wellbeing, as much as their physical health.

It’s a time to finally recognize how impactful and interconnected all of these pillars of wellness are on someone’s holistic health and wellbeing.

So, what can employers do to support wellness at a time when employees are more distant than ever?

1) Virtual Wellness Events

The majority of our wellness practitioners have gone virtual, and the time is right to jump on board the digital train. While previously limited to the yoga and fitness instructors in your local area, employers and employees now have access to a global community of wellness practitioners that can be accessed from your screen.

And with the privacy and flexibility of home-viewed programs (no hauling gym clothes on your commute!), it’s easier for employees to join and enjoy. The removal of geographic limitations enables employers to offer a wider array of health programs virtually, including relaxing lunchtime sound bowl baths, guided meditations, calming distance reiki and upbeat dance classes people may normally be embarrassed to participate in in front of their colleagues.

2) Better Screen Practices

Now that most meetings have moved from in-person to in front of a screen, the amount of time that many employees are staring at their screens every day has increased significantly.

Too much screen time can lead to blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches. It can also disturb our sleep as the blue light from our devices suppresses melatonin production. Then we have the issue of all of our coffee meetings, conference room gatherings and lunchtime connections that required walking and movement turning into zero-movement activities as people simply press a button on their screen to connect. What to do?

Introducing blue-light blocking glasses to 9-to-5 screen time is a great way to filter out a portion of the damaging blue-violet light and better protect your eyes. Employer bought or subsidized? Even better!

Avoid setting the expectation as an employer that every single meeting must be a video session. Video meetings can be a great way to connect, but, when mandatory, they also force people to stare at their screen during a time when their eyes would normally have a break.

Educate employees on healthier screen practices for when they can’t get away from the screen, like the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at least 20 feet away. And blink often. This will also help reduce eye strain.

3) Social Check-Ins (No Work Allowed)

Gone are the days of impromptu hallway chats, lunch expeditions and coffee trips. These social encounters sprinkled throughout the workday are important to employee morale and productivity, giving employees much needed social interaction and human connection that we don’t get from work-focused exchanges.

Employers should aim for a remote working culture where taking half an hour on a Wednesday to have a virtual coffee chat about last night’s episode of Westworld or the latest book you’ve read or your coworker’s upcoming wedding plans is not only acceptable, but encouraged. These personal conversations reduce stress, bring joy to participants and build stronger bonds between employees.

Encourage this by taking the first step in scheduling themed social meet-ups, like one for dog-lovers, vegans and vegetarians, or social justice warriors. Let people know it’s okay to be themselves and take time to connect with coworkers from time to time. All work and no play certainly doesn’t make for a happy, healthy or inspired workday.

4) Unique Professional and Personal Growth Exercises

When aiming to engage employees in professional and personal growth exercises (which, by the way, can not be separated), they may need to go above and beyond the Myers Briggs and Facet 5 tests that seasoned employees have likely already taken multiple times throughout their career.

Engaging employees remotely in growth work can be a challenge, because not everyone jumps at the sometimes uncomfortable practice of being introspective and learning more about personal strengths and weaknesses as a coworker, leader and contributor.

The solution? Make it fun. Employers shouldn’t be afraid to bring in different self awareness and introspection tools that stimulate employee growth. Bring in corporate astrology consultants, hire a Human Design expert, introduce the Enneagram test, and lead employees through a journaling exercise. The options are endless.

At the end of the day, it can matter less what the method of inviting people to turn inward was, and more that they took the time to turn inward at all.

5) Advisor, Mentor & Coach Availability

I can’t stress this one enough. People need safe spaces to express their feelings, feel seen and heard, and seek guidance on how to navigate the challenges of their job. Everyone, no matter how senior they are, runs into challenges at work, whether they be operational, interpersonal or related to career growth and personal development.

Having completely unbiased advisors, mentors or coaches available to employees can make a huge difference in how they feel they’re being supported at work. And let me reiterate that these interactions should be held in completely safe containers, meaning they aren’t shared with managers or used against the employees in any way.

These containers are meant to provide a sounding board, wisdom and unbiased guidance so employees can better navigate the challenges they face and bring their best selves to work everyday, knowing that there’s always someone they can turn to.

6) Purpose and a Clear “Why”

There’s a pillar of holistic wellness I don’t always introduce to my corporate clients - spirituality. Spirituality can mean any number of things to different people, but for the purposes of employer-employee relations, it means purpose.

Do employees know why they do what they do everyday, beyond their individual impact? Are they completely aligned on the purpose of the work employers do and the mission they support?

If, as an employer, you don’t have a clear purpose and why, then you’ve got a huge gap in your employee wellbeing. Because they don’t wake up every day knowing with crystal clarity how the work they do contributes to something bigger than their paycheck and performance reviews. Employers should get clear on their why and energize employees with purpose every chance they get.

Geri Paige Butner is a business firestarter, coach and speaker. Current and aspiring business owners start and grow their businesses with The Business Firestarter framework, offered as a self-guided online course or a 12-week group coaching program. Gain access to valuable firestarters for business and life by joining our email list.