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Tips To Overhaul Your Wellness Strategy in The Pandemic Era

Tips To Overhaul Your Wellness Strategy in The Pandemic Era_Yellow Spark Blog
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Tips To Overhaul Your Wellness Strategy in The Pandemic Era

As far back as 1914, Henry Ford realised the importance of work-life balance and introduced the 5-day work week. It just goes to show that the benefits of employee wellness have been recognised and studied for over 100 years. The principle is employees who experience high levels of well-being also perform well and vice versa; net-net, happy employee =productive employee.

In the last few months during the Covid-19 pandemic, health and well-being have gained centre-stage both professionally and personally. This is because people are worried about a whole range of issues. There is a fear about contracting the disease, losing a loved one, being quarantined, disruption of transport, limited access to health services and beyond this uncertainty about jobs and income. Add to this the fact that most employees are experiencing a prolonged work-from-home for the first time, which is causing behavioural and attitudinal change.

For many decades now the way employers look at corporate wellness programmes has been reactive. But now it is time for business and talent leaders to redefine the purpose of wellness programmes to not only address productivity but also factor in mental well-being, physical endurance, immunity and disease management. After all, it is a well-accepted fact that happy employees make happy customers.

Here are a few practical ways to reboot your employee wellness programme in a pandemic era:

Add a wellness component to the business continuity plan:

Prioritising safety and wellness with continuous engagement is the need of the hour to get back on track – irrespective of the fact whether your company will continue work from home for longer, or return to the workplace over the next few months. While some may argue that a pandemic is not a recurring situation, and it can happen once in 100 years – it is indispensable to be prepared . For example, having regular fire-drills in tall buildings ensures we don’t panic and know what to do in case of a fire. Similarly, we have learnt so much from the current situation that adding wellness to the business continuity plan is necessary for psychological wellness, and will help us be prepared and document the information and experience gathered.

Practical tips to include:
● Just like in some companies, key members are discouraged to travel together, in the same way, norms like wearing a mask, using gloves, using a hand sanitiser frequently, stipulating how many employees can use the lift at a time, following social distancing norms as per employee strength, maintaining health history of employees are all areas businesses should start thinking over.
● Setting a new hygiene routine is central to business continuity.
● Expanding employee roles or creating new roles, for instance, a new role that of a vigilance officer to ensure vigilance of set norms must also be considered.

Prioritise health, food and nutrition:

It can be difficult sometimes to focus on food and nutrition as employees are in a constant hurry to meet deadlines, engage new clients, send out emails, secure contracts, and send off proposals. More so in the work-from-home scenario.

Doubts may arise even, why should the employer worry about the health, food and nutrition of employees? Because it will result in simple life improvements – better sleep, lower anxiety and stress, better mood and energy, improves confidence and self-image, and reduced risk of some chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Focusing on health benefits promote better interpersonal relationships, free flow of work between departments, and improved employee performance.

Ultimately, such initiatives will promote increased workplace productivity and down expenses on employee healthcare and employee churn..

Practical tips to include:
● Include a quick health & nutrition check-in as a part of your team meets. Having open conversations about what employees are doing to stay healthy and fit both mentally and physically will help teams not just to connect uniquely but also help in detecting concerns before they snowball into bigger issues.
● Health foods are typically more expensive than regular options. This is a big deterrent. One solution is employers need to make discounted health foods available for sale at work so that their employees will have healthier options to choose from. Offering this in the office campus itself will save time and effort. Usually, people tend to pick unhealthy snacks when they need a quick bite, especially during work. This will help avoid that.
● Outside of having a gym, and an instructor, create a recreational space and offer simple gaming facilities like table-tennis, carom, books or board games. Then employees would have a chance to loosen up and relieve their stress by doing something physically productive during their break time. If having an in-house facility is not practical, negotiate corporate discounts for health club memberships. Everybody loves discounts, and who wouldn’t want to improve their health if they have less expensive options?
● Consider having an on-site or off-site empanneled physiotherapist(s) to give your employees an oppourtunity to deal with physical discomforts, some of which may be work realted or stress related or psyco sompatic in nature.

Have a proactive approach to employee mental resilience:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects more than 264 million people worldwide and is one of the leading causes of disability. Meanwhile, the global economy loses a whopping $ 1 trillion annually due to depression and anxiety.

The pandemic has resulted in a lot of mental stress. First adjusting to new ways of working, social distancing, managing the work and the home efficiently, have all taken a toll on people’s mental well-being.

Though many corporate wellness programmes focus on exercise and healthy eating, resilience plays just as critical a role for long-term health habit change. Employees with lower resilience are less likely to return fresh from an off day and stay focused on their goals. Those employees are also much likelier to cave to temptations or to give up on their health goals entirely. With low resilience, employees are much more likely to revert to less healthy habits that can, in turn, reduce their productivity. In many ways, building resilience is the key to lasting well-being.

Practical tips to include:
● Today there are several apps employers can leverage to provide the necessary support and assistance for employees’ mental wellbeing very much catered to busy professionals. For example, an app that can facilitate various mindfulness exercises on the go.
● Offer resources and information on wellness in the form of videos, podcasts etc.; regularly.
● Frequently audit your mental health resources to make sure they’re accurate, up-to-date, and contain practical advice that your employees can use to get better
● Offer counselling facilities, or have professionals who can coach or offer therapy when needed. You can also shoulder a part of the costs as a benefit.
● Even if you have built an open workplace, some employees may feel hesitant or embarrassed to deal with issues like addiction, trauma, or suicidal thoughts. Reassure them that their privacy is your top concern and that their use of mental health resources will never be monitored or tracked.
● Promote a culture of positivity. Practicing simple things such as expressing gratitude and revisiting positive experiences frequently has the power to make employees feel important, valued and motivated to give back.

Employee wellness can have far-reaching effects on all other goals as well. It can help improve employee recruitment and retention as prioritising wellness builds a strong repertoire of being an employee-friendly place to work. They also improve employee morale. In the previous week’s article theories of motivation we discussed how if our basic needs are not fulfilled we could or just suffer through life.

Employees are happy when they have a sense of control over their lives and their health. They have high employee morale when they are allowed to be creative, solve problems, feel safe and appreciated, develop self-esteem, and achieve personal goals and aspirations.

Ultimately overall well-being is critical for optimal functioning, and can still be addressed in a way that makes people feel understood, appreciated, and hopeful. Always remember to leave your employees feeling like they have a clear plan of action ahead and that they or their loved ones can get well.

A comprehensive wellness programme is not only going to improve employee health but also improve your organisation’s bottom line. It is not going to make all your problems go away, but it is going to help you create a consistent culture of overall health.

At Yellow Spark, we can help you build a thriving employee culture whether it’s updating an existing wellness programme or looking to start from scratch. Contact us at contact@yellowspark.in

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.