Working from home is convenient, and for some, a regular part of their lives. It’s easy to do with an on-site, physical office, but for those who lead remote workforces like me, how can you support your employee’s health and wellness from afar? Wellness programs can make work more enjoyable for employees, increase productivity, and promote healthy habits that benefit mental and physical health both while on the job and at home.
As co-founder of several remote companies, I’m always looking for ways to support the health and wellness of my employees. Leaders will need a specialized approach for their remote workforce to ensure that the program complements the company culture, but is also feasible for remote employees.
Here are a few ways you can encourage remote employees to be active and healthy at their home offices that are supportive and non-intrusive.
Encouraging Healthy Activities for Remote Workers
Corporate wellness programs are big business today as employers want to help their team live happier and healthier lives. But when the programs are only centered around one thing, like weight loss or running, you risk much more than if you just left employees alone. Health and wellness are much more complicated than a number on a scale or the number of miles you run every week.
Focus on more general goals and outcomes that employees can work towards instead. That way, employees can choose how to participate, making it more likely that they’ll stick with the practice in the long-term.
1. Offer Fitness Perks Redeemable However Employees Like
Many on-site companies offer discounted gym memberships, which doesn’t always work for remote workforces. Try offering a generic fitness reimbursement to employees that they can use however they like. Some may want to join a gym, others may use it for yoga or pilates classes, while others may use it to purchase new athletic shoes or home fitness equipment.
2. Offer Co-Working Perks
For some employees, working from home just isn’t the thing for them, even if they have a dedicated workspace. They need to get out of the house and “feel” like they’re headed to an office, so they may sign up to a co-working space. It improves their mood and makes them more productive as they’re in a “professional” environment where people are only there to work. Offer a co-working reimbursement program that employees can use wherever they are. There are also global co-working networks you could offer subsidized memberships to, such as Flexday and Coworker.
3. Use Online Tools to Check In With Employees
Our company uses the Standuply app through Slack to run a virtual daily standup meeting with employees. Every day at 9 a.m., Standuply asks a quick series of questions to find out more about how employees are doing. It asks work-related questions but also wants to know how people are doing too. This helps us stay updated as if we had just met at the office coffee machine, even though we’re located around the world.
4. Create Online Wellness Groups
Some companies and health insurance partners have started offering fitness trackers to employees as a way of encouraging healthier lifestyles. Their primary aim is to help people get and stay fit and healthy, but companies are also doing it to save on healthcare costs. Add in the amount of sensitive health data the trackers record, and tying them into employer health programs is a bit of a minefield.
Instead, use fitness apps to create challenges and wellness groups for employees. For example, the Strava fitness app has a group feature you could use to create a company-wide group. Then, as people sync their activity data to it, you could hold weekly or monthly challenges. You can sync your data through a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Apple Watch or use your smartphone, no extra gear required. The app has robust privacy functionality built-in, so employees can restrict the data they want to share with the app, and you can restrict who has access to your group. Plus, if you make it optional, no one feels obligated to join if they don’t want to.
Another option would be to create a wellness community on your communication tool, such as a channel in Slack or group in Workplace by Facebook. Use these to encourage people to get out and away from their computers for a while. Create weekly or monthly optional challenges as a team-building exercise.
No matter how your company focuses on improving and sustaining employee wellness with a remote workforce, any effort you make to improve and sustain employee wellness in your remote workforce will improve your company as a whole, no matter how big or small the action. Employees will feel better, be more productive, and be more engaged in creating a successful company. Embracing an employee wellness program in your remote company will not only benefit the employees but your company’s bottom line too.