The last few months have been full of uncertainty and challenges for organizations and employees alike.  As governments are slowly beginning to restart the economy, we are carefully beginning to plan how to return to our workplaces.  There are, of course, health and safety questions to consider and adjustments to policies and procedures may be required.  Another critical component to the return-to-work plan, however, is employee well-being.

A recent study indicates that almost all employees (92%) have experienced some stress or anxiety as a result of the pandemic.  Employee health and wellness is always important, but it takes on more significance as we all try to re-establish our lives and define a new normal.  Whether employers decide to welcome their people back to the office or carry on with remote work, addressing employee wellness is a must.

At the foundation of employee wellness is the importance and value of establishing a culture of caring.  You can check out our infographic that outlines the meaning and benefits here.  It includes a look at how to build a culture of caring.  In the current situation, as we begin to return to the workplace, how can employers nurture this culture to support employee well-being?

Establish Purpose & Empower Employees

Having a sense of purpose helps us to be more resilient in the face of challenge.  Within the workplace, a collective purpose creates a unified culture that brings employees together and reminds them that they are part of something meaningful.  It’s also important to empower employees to bring out their best and work towards their own goals – professional, personal, and health-specific.

  • Reaffirm what your company stands for and remind employees of how they included. Goals and objectives may have changed as a result of the pandemic and it’s important that employees know what these changes are and how they are able to contribute.
  • Set realistic expectations for employees as they are transitioning back to work. There will be an adjustment period for everyone and it’s important to be flexible as everyone acclimates.  While work responsibilities are essential, employers need to communicate that their purpose includes helping employees adapt to a new kind of workplace.  It also means being flexible as employees continue to balance work and family.
  • Adopt a Communicate to Serve approach to ensure employees know they have access to the information that they need to be productive. This includes health and wellness information to support employees with challenges that may be interfering with that productivity.  Share relevant information via a bi-weekly wellness video or through a monthly wellness newsletter.

Understand What Drives & Motivates Your Employees

We know there’s a relationship between employee well-being and work performance and engagement.  As we return to work, employees may be feeling distracted or stressed.  They may not be at their best because healthy routines fell to the wayside as they were trying to balance work responsibilities and home life with little separation between the two.

  • Communicate the importance of health and wellness to employees and communicate your commitment to supporting their well-being. This is especially important during this time of uncertainty.  There are still many unknowns and many will continue to experience anxiety as we navigate the coming months.
  • Consider implementing a Health Risk Assessment (register here for EWSNetwork proprietary Personal Wellness Assessment) to better understand current employee health and wellness concerns. This can drive the tools, resources, and initiatives you offer.  If employees feel supported in dealing with health and wellness concerns rather than struggling with them alone, they will be better able to engage in their work.
  • Schedule regular check-ins with employees to ask how they are doing. Make a point to touch on work responsibilities and also personal well-being.  This is an opportunity to understand what kind of support employees may need.  It also establishes a relationship that encourages open communication between employees and their managers.

Foster Social Connections

Workplace relationships are important.  As a result of shutdowns, employees have spent much more time apart than usual.  Hopefully, your company was able to leverage technology and continue fostering these relationships, but employees who were accustomed to face-to-face interactions have likely been missing them.

  • Encourage and create opportunities for employees to reconnect with co-workers. If remote work is still the reality for your team, continue to connect virtually.  Go beyond the work meetings and incorporate non-work social time.  Host morale-boosting events like lunchtime yoga sessions, virtual paint nights, or Friday happy hour with your pets.
  • For employees that are returning to the office, look for ways to reintroduce face-to-face time. Share a picnic lunch if you have an outdoor space or rooftop area or encourage employees to take a break with a partner in spaces where they can still practice physical distancing.  Spark conversation through simple activities.  Ask employees to personalize their desks when they return to work or organize theme days like wear your favourite team jersey.
  • Challenges (team or individual) are a great way to promote conversation and social interaction while also promoting healthy habits. Working from home has resulted in irregular routines and employees may appreciate a fun way to get back on track with nutrition, exercise, and self-care.  Leverage Health Risk Assessment results and employee feedback to understand topics that are interesting and relevant to your team.

Make Meaningful Investments in Your Employees

Employee wellness is an essential component of the return-to-work plan.  We aren’t returning to the workplace as it was, so employees have a lot to adjust to.  Put extra emphasis on supporting employees’ mental health, physical health, and overall well-being.  Knowing that they have support and resources available to help them navigate any health-related concerns they are facing can help ease the transition.

  • Take the time to develop a wellness plan. If you have a wellness program in place, review initiatives and offerings to ensure they meet current needs.  If you don’t have a wellness program, determine what you can implement.  You may not have the resources to implement a comprehensive program in time for your employees’ return, but any well-designed offering can provide value.
  • Leverage your wellness committee or leverage community partners with to help spread the word about your commitment to employee wellness. Ensure employees are aware of the resources and tools available to them.  Zone in on key themes (e.g. mental health, stress management, financial wellness) that resonate with your employees.
  • Consider introducing one-on-one health coaching if it’s not something your company already offers. Personalized coaching will help employees focus on wellness concerns that matter to them and benefit from the supportive relationship

Want to see the full Culture of Caring Infographic? Click here.

Need some more assistance?

Get your FREE Corporate Wellness Membership 90-Day Starter Kit to get you started!  Employee Wellness Solutions Network can help you create a healthier culture resulting in a more profitable and successful workplace. Our memberships give you access to services including corporate wellness specialists, trainers and health coaches to help you create the best strategy for your organization.  To learn more about the memberships, visit Employee Wellness Solutions Network.