COVID-19 has changed the way people work forever. Since the end of quarantine, hybrid employees –people that work both remotely and in the office – are becoming more common. HR departments are adapting to the challenges that have come with this shift in work dynamics. However, some things are more difficult to adapt than others, with more employees working remotely. Designing an employee wellness program, for example, is more challenging when it needs to assist employees working in and out of the office.
Employee well-being has always been important, but with COVID-19’s impact on the United States, employee wellness has become a more prominent topic. The health of an individual directly impacts their performance at work, meaning a healthy workforce is a more productive one. But beyond improving employee health and wellness, businesses can see greater benefits, such as reduced turnover and attracting the best talent. It’s in a business’s best interest to invest in the well-being of its employees. 60% of employers who implemented an employee wellness program reported lower healthcare costs across their organization.
How to Design a Wellness Plan for Hybrid Employees
- Employee Assessments. With a traditional workforce, creating a wellness plan is more straightforward. With an established budget and buy-in from management, employers should conduct assessments to gain insight into employees’ health. This assessment would need to be voluntary and contain explicit language that states that employees should not disclose any personal health information. In order to avoid potential issues with HIPAA, any assessment should focus on general wellness-related topics, like exercise, diet, and lifestyle management.
Completing an assessment of the wellness of hybrid or remote employees may be more challenging because they are less likely to respond. Asking someone to do something in-person tends to be more effective than doing so via phone or email. One way to encourage more responses from people who aren’t in the office full-time would be to provide education about the benefits of having healthier employees to all levels of leadership invested in the process.
- Establish a Wellness Committee. Developing a diverse set of people to join such a committee can help improve the quality of any wellness plan it creates. Utilizing virtual meetings will enable any interested employee to be a part of this process. This wellness committee would first be tasked with creating a few reasonable goals and objectives that are informed by the employee assessment. Some examples include helping smoking cessation programs, promoting healthy eating habits, and encouraging employees to exercise more often.
- Determine Wellness Program Components. While physical wellness may be the easiest and most visible aspect of overall wellness to improve, it is important to keep in mind that it’s not the only one. Depending on the definition being used, wellness can have anywhere from four to eight components, with the four most common being physical, social, emotional, and spiritual wellness. When creating goals and objectives, a wellness committee should try to address these other areas of wellness if possible.
With the information gathered from employees and some direction informed by the goals and objectives outlined, the next step would be designing components of a wellness program. The different components of any well-developed plan need to help achieve its goals and objectives. For example, if one of the goals is to encourage people to exercise more, having a yoga instructor come in twice a week to teach lessons or starting a hiking club that goes for hikes twice a month are just two ways to encourage employees to exercise more.
When considering aspects of the plan, you want to consider accessibility of remote or hybrid employees. There are several viable solutions depending on what’s being considered for the plan. Using a previous example, if the plan includes having a yoga instructor come in, an easy way to include non-traditional employees would be recording sessions or broadcasting them live with a virtual meeting platform. In the COVID-19 era, it’s important to also keep in mind any physical distancing or other local health ordinances, so some group activities may have to wait until after they’re declared safe.
- Promote the Program. After a wellness program has been designed, it’s important to think about how to promote employee participation before the plan is implemented. Incentives and rewards are a great way to motivate people, but you need to be careful in determining those incentives and rewards. It would be counterproductive to incentivize something like consuming less sugar with coupons for free ice cream. Some incentives or rewards may need to have modifications or alternatives to encourage participation from remote and hybrid employees. If you’d like employees to participate in the yoga classes, perhaps providing a discount or a free yoga class can help incentivize employee participation in the employer-sponsored yoga classes, as well as promote continued well-being by attending classes outside of work as well.
- Communicate to Employees. After the details of a wellness plan have been determined, it’s time to implement the plan by sharing it with the company’s employees. There are a few ways to introduce a wellness program. If the program is introduced in a company-wide meeting, including hybrid and remote employees can easily be communicated via a video broadcasting platform. Alternatively, smaller webinar-style sessions could be held to introduce the new wellness plan for any employees that don’t attend the in-person event. Conversely, if the program is introduced by email, there would be no need to have special accommodations, but ensuring all employees read the email may require multiple sends or other considerations, such as sending physical flyers.
- Measure the Results. After implementing a wellness program, there may be pressure to demonstrate return on investment or you may want to evaluate the program’s success. Employee wellness needs to be seen as a long-term investment in a business’s human capital. It is difficult to accurately and comprehensively figure out a wellness plan’s results. If a self-assessment is used to gauge effectiveness, you will need to keep in mind the fact that people are not always truthful when self-evaluating. An alternative could be participation in particular wellness programs. For example, if you host yoga classes, make sure to have a sign-in sheet for in-person attendance, as well as online registration to track who registered versus who actually attended the class. At the end of the class, perhaps offering a short survey about employee satisfaction and/or feedback could be useful for insights to effectiveness and employee satisfaction with the organization’s overall wellness program.
Employee wellness should be a priority for employers as it offers many benefits aside from flexing empathy towards your employees. If you’re looking for ways to develop or improve an existing employee wellness program, Human Capital can help. Our team of benefits specialists can customize a wellness program and employee benefits to your employees’ needs. Contact us today to