Employee wellness resources during the Covid-19 pandemic
Best practices to help support your team.
A wellness based approach to helping your team through the current global crisis
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the globe, stress and anxiety around the virus have risen right alongside them. Companies around the world are now implementing precautionary and emergency measures to help “flatten the curve,” meaning slow the rate by which this illness spreads, reduce incidence of cases in their populations, and support efforts to protect public health. Because most working professionals spend a third of their time at work, employers are uniquely suited to support their team’s physical and mental well-being during this uncertain time.
This thing is a virus. Why focus on the wellness?
Concern about the virus and its risks is becoming palpable in many workplaces. Between event cancellations, travel restrictions, supply chain complications, personal concern about contagion, and more, nearly every business will feel the effects of this public health crisis in some way. The financial impact is also tangible via people’s 401(k), retirement accounts, gig economy workers/freelance job loss, and in many other ways — it trickles down through all levels of an organization, putting outsized pressure on populations already experiencing uncertainty over their health and that of their loved ones. Anxiety and worry about health is exacerbated by economic concerns related to financial stability and employment status.
This increase in employee stress and anxiety also has a hefty cost on organizations from absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased healthcare spend. Employers cannot ignore the impact that these environmental stressors will have on their people — and their business. Fortunately, many organizations have options for mitigating these effects and helping their employees stay healthy and safe.
What can employers do?
Your team’s health goes first
First and foremost, organizations should follow best practices and protocol outlined by the World Health Organization, region-specific public health authorities such as the CDC, and state, county or city public health departments. It’s important to make decisions and implement measures with the well-being of local and global communities in mind, not just those in your office.
During times of uncertainty and high stress, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not alone in how you feel. Leaders play a key role in helping to guide and support their employees in a kind and compassionate way. Everyone will deal with this situation differently, so in the context of recent events, organizations should enable and empower employees to make decisions around their own health that best suit them, whether that be work-from-home options and/or flexible schedules outside of normal hours.
Practice Compassionate Leadership
It’s important to keep in mind that while we’re all in this together, each person has unique life circumstances that may cause more or less acute concern. For example, we cannot know who has vulnerable family members who may be at greater risk, or who already suffers from anxiety and experiences the uncertainty and fear more acutely. Leading with compassion and empathy is more critical than ever.
Practicing self-compassion during this time is also important. Be honest about how you’re truly feeling, and remember that if you’re not feeling well, you’re not only being kind to yourself by staying home, but you’re protecting those you work with as well.
Ways to practice Compassionate Leadership:
Look: Take time to check-in with your team. Look for the unsaid. How are people’s energy levels?
Listen: Practice mindful listening. Give your team space to be open and honest about how they feel, both mentally and physically.
Feel: Everyone is going to be feeling a range of different emotions. Taking the time to acknowledge how someone else is truly feeling empowers us to respond with kindness.
Respond: In times of high stress, it’s easy to let frustrations get in the way of skillful communication. Pause and give yourself space to respond in a skillful and kind way.
Know the facts of how your employees are affected
Implementing stress surveys can be a great way to measure and track stress levels across your organization. This will allow you to get a read on stress so you can adapt your workplace mental health programs accordingly, and target specific groups of demographics that might be more affected than others with custom resources and tools.
Digital health resources
When organizations invest in preventive and supportive mental health solutions, a little goes a long way. Now more than ever, employees should not need to travel to access the resources they need to cope with and reduce stress. On-demand fitness and meditation training can be done online or through a mobile app, making it accessible to almost everyone.
Research shows that wellness activity can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression and can have a significant impact in the workplace. Our brains have developed to focus on threat. Short-term stress and anxiety can be part of a healthy range of emotional experience and at times can help us stay safe. However, when we experience chronic stress, stress from which we experience no break, it can tax our immune system and cause more severe problems like anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance.
Wellness activity can help calm this stress response down and allow your body to adapt on overcome stress responses in a healthy way,
Offering your employees a digital wellness program could help support their health during this period of uncertainty and worry.
Take care of yourself
Employees often take their cues from human resource teams, but it’s essential that HR and people operations professionals take care of themselves, too. Think of it like an airplane: you must put on your own mask before assisting others. People operations are particularly stretched right now facilitating remote working, creating new policy, and evolving campus processes. If you are a people leader, ensure you are taking time to prioritize your own well-being.
Last but not least, rather than simply reacting, taking moments to pause and check in with yourself will help you to be intentional in every interaction and make better decisions for your team, from a place of awareness and clarity.
Remind your team why wellness and self-care are important during challenging times.