With most individuals having to alter, adjust and adapt to a new working environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for all workplaces alike to continue implementing and developing their workplace wellness programs for their most valuable asset - their people. Adapting and further adjusting an already existing wellness program at work may seem like a secondary issue to some, but in reality, it should turn into a top priority. The people in a company are the driving force behind its success, and by not supporting staff members appropriately, the level of productivity can dramatically decrease.
Workplace wellness initiatives are essentially any workplace health promotion activity or specific organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace. This healthy behavior can very easily be transferred to your everyday lifestyle with the grand goal to improve health outcomes and the daily choices one makes. You may not even realize that your workplace has such a program. It doesn't have to be an overt announcement or structured program tied with a pretty red bow. It can consist of a few items a workplace has in place, such as offering an on-site gym, having access to employee assistance programs, having access to discounts for travel/entertainment, or providing healthy wellness challenges. All encompass what a workplace wellness program can consist of.
Many workplaces were very easy to orchestrate and promote their wellness initiatives and social activities pre-COVID when their entire workforce was under one roof. But what happens when the entire crew is separated and isolated at home? Things change, and they change fast. So the focus of how healthy initiatives are delivered should change equally as fast. Workforces must assess how their workforce is actually responding and feeling with the current situation. Sending out mass emails about COVID, or being overwhelmed with articles and information is not the best approach by employers. Offering online webinars or seminars that dive into mental health topics, healthy eating, and dealing with difficult colleagues may be great, but let's dive a little deeper. How many of us are watching and paying attention to these seminars? How many of us are already spending way more time on screens binge-watching our favorite Netflix shows or following our favorite influencers on Instagram? Should a workforce even be encouraging even more sedentary behavior and screen time during a designated break for their employees? These are all questions to consider when developing and adapting your program.
I have been working in the Health, Safety & Wellness industry for eight years and am passionate about making changes and helping others, especially when it comes to living a better lifestyle. I wanted to share this article with others who have a passion for change in their workplaces or who are trying to develop a workplace wellness program at their office but do not know where to start.
I think we all need to follow the BOSS mentality:
(B) Be Adaptable: Changes in life happen; that is inevitable. COVID-19 has put all of us to the test of time, we cannot change what is happening around us, but we must change our reaction and response. By being adaptable, your workforce can gauge what is working versus what needs to be changed. If you invest time and effort into a program but are not sure if your workforce is responding to it, you may want to adapt your strategy. Developing an app or having an online portal where colleagues can connect, chat, provide feedback, and participate in health challenges can be something that more companies are moving towards. Unfortunately, the new norm can be here for a while, so I strongly encourage everyone to adapt. Waiting for life to go back to what it was pre-COVID can be a double-edged sword. We collectively have to move forward and adapt to what our current state is. One of my all-time favorite quotes by the famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantakis is, "Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality".
(O) Online Exposure: Now that most of our socialization and connections are limited to online, especially at work, now is the perfect time to increase your workplace's online presence/exposure. Maybe update your existing website, or have a specific COVID-19 page on your website that lists resources for your staff who have questions/concerns. Engaging your staff by sending our reminders and friendly emails with fun activities outside of work can also impact. Continuing to maintain an active presence in the lives of your staff is important and meaningful. If you are looking for a team building activity, try taking part in a cooking class together online. You can hire a company to facilitate that, or ask one of your more brave co-workers to lead the session! Having access to a few engaging online activities every few weeks can make a huge difference in someone's day who can otherwise be feeling lonely with not much to look forward to.
(S) Start Thinking Outside the Box: It is your time to be creative. Think outside of the box of what you can do to engage and show support to your staff members. A quick survey can go a long way in leading you towards the right path to developing new initiatives or adapting your existing ones. Try to be as open as possible to suggestions from other staff members in different departments about changes they would like to see happen or what would be most valuable to them.
(S) Stand Up & Start Moving: Movement is the key to longevity. Setting up reminders to your staff to physically get out and go for walks (socially distanced) or perform light stretches to start their day can make an impact. Start leading online stretch classes internally or connect with a fitness studio that offers private online lessons that your staff can sign up for. If you had a lunch buddy pre-COVID, try giving them a call during your lunch break when you go out for a walk. That way, you are maintaining a connection with them while getting exercise as well.
I am a true believer that anyone with the mindset to make positive changes in their life can and will succeed in doing so. Small changes in your workplace can make a huge difference in the long run to your staff's retention, well-being, and happiness, and I encourage everyone to try implementing a few of these ideas in their own workplace.