Fostering employee well-being in COVID-19 era

Long before social distancing measures and remote working were imposed worldwide, promoting employee health and well-being was a key imperative for leading businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented stress not only on economies and healthcare systems but on employees’ overall health. When lockdown measures forced employees to work from home, a new challenge emerged: How will employees manage to support their employees physically and mentally during and post-COVID19? The need for an updated wellness strategy is growing stronger over time and businesses begin to realize that employees are dealing with more stress and uncertainty now more than ever. Here are some way on how businesses can prioritize their employees’ wellbeing to adapt to the new normal:

1. Assess employees’ status by going digital

Wearables are a major technological innovation in regard to wellness. Helping individuals track their own effort and progress will empower their commitment to a health goal. It is important to provide an easy way of tracking, like a wellness app, that will enable employees monitor their own status (physical and mental) and act accordingly. Providing online access to dedicated professionals that can assist employees in achieving their goals can further boost their overall well-being. Gamification of challenges (drinking more water, walking) in wellness apps can also improve engagement among remote employees and enable team bonding. In addition to that, overall metrics can provide management with real-time information on their teams that will help them decide what can be improved.

2. Provide online support

Social distancing has made it impossible for people to connect where they work or live. When employees first switched to remote work, there was a degree of excitement (less commute time, easier for working parents to manage family responsibilities). Gradually, the stress due to health and societal concerns took a tool. In times of crisis, communities offer a sense of support and that is no longer an option. HR can keep dispersed people connected through various means:

“Water-cooler” chat: Without the traditional water cooler conversation, managers should find new ways to keep in touch with their teams. Schedule for a video call instead of a phone-call: video supports mental health by providing a sense of structure during workdays; encourage chat before/after meetings to cultivate connection; have a bi-weekly virtual lunch call

It’s ok to overcommunicate: Ask your employees “How are you doing?” instead of “What are you doing?”. It is important that you make your team feel valued.  Displaying empathy in times of crisis is key in empowering your team and creating a sense of belonging.

After-work happy hours: Ensure that your employees maintain work-life balance. Based on research data, remote employees tend to over-work thus companies need to proactively remind employees to take time-off. Organize an after-work happy hour via Zoom to show your team that it is important to enjoy themselves, considering the circumstances.

3. Be a H.E.R.O

Fred Luthan says that the most valuable capital to an organization is psychological capital (PsyCap). Several studies have, indeed, confirmed that high levels of PsyCap are linked with lower employee absenteeism, higher job satisfaction and commitment. The H.E.R.O formation is build on four blocks: hope, self-efficacy, optimism and resilience (in organisations is the ability to bounce back from changes/failures/workload). HR managers can play a major role in developing PsyCap especially now that most employees are encouraged to work remotely:

Identify the vulnerable: Single parents, employees who are also caregivers or live alone. Reach out and provide help; encourage employees to take regular breaks or a day-off.

Be emotionally available: Validate your employees’ feelings/thoughts and show them that despite the physical distance you remain attentive. Send an e-mail acknowledging that “We are all in this together” to provide support.

Host a gratitude challenge: Sometimes it is important to look on the bright side. Instead of focusing on the “dark” side, it is important to shed light on what is going right. Ask your team to give thanks to someone who: taught them a valuable skill, helped them in rough times, let them shadow him/her, helped them meet a deadline.

Wellness programs will continue to rise as employees are expecting their employers to care about their well-being. Following the health crisis, a new workplace will emerge.  Leaders will need to provide all resources to their teams to help them lead a better lifestyle and re-balance after a period of turmoil. 

Sophia Vassiliades, M.A. Clininal Psychologist/Counselor.