Remote Employee Wellness: Trends And Ideas
Formal and informal on-site programs have been around for years. Examples include brown bag lunch-and-learn programs, on-site gyms, walking groups, movie nights, support groups, and the general camaraderie with peers. In addition, a clear distinction between being at work and away from work helps employees gain a sense of personal space. The change to remote work, while providing many advantages, also presents some challenges to those who have relied on in-person social support and the work/life balance they once enjoyed.
First, consider a customized strategy that empowers your remote employees to improve their personal wellness. When designing and developing a plan of action, consider using the KIT framework:
- Knowledge about wellness
- Inspiration to act on wellness
- Time to devote to wellness
Knowledge is power, and a strong L&D program that focuses on issues of employee wellness is the place to start. A well-curated library of eLearning and other resources should be available so that employees can easily find the wellness information they want.
Include a well-designed program that helps employees master remote work  and other skills necessary to feel successful in their jobs. It might feel difficult for employees to consider time for personal wellness if they aren’t first feeling successful and supported professionally.
Consider hiring a health and wellness education specialist to curate resources on fitness and nutrition. Send weekly tips through emails or a custom app. Or maybe design your own custom eLearning series that focuses on topics that are specific to your employees’ needs.
The isolation and distractions of remote work can take a toll on mental health. Ensure that employees have confidential and easy access to a mental health support network. Most importantly, encourage a culture where it’s okay to not be okay and provide educational resources for stress reduction, sleep habits, and other mental health concerns.
Knowing isn’t always enough. Even those who know what to do can struggle with doing what’s needed. Action begins with believing that we can do something, or self-efficacy. This belief in our ability to do something often comes from our social interactions, a challenge for remote employees. Social interactions let us witness the success of others and receive feedback from others about our own successes. So, how can L&D support these social interactions that help drive self-efficacy and motivate wellness behaviors?
- Use social media channels to connect employees with similar interests and share stories of success.
- Consider hiring coaches  and offer a free session to every employee so that they can have professional advice tailored to their individual needs.
- Create fitness challenges for employees to compete with others and/or themselves toward meaningful goals. These might be step challenges, weight loss support groups, or even healthy sleep support groups.
- Offer rewards for participation in wellness seminars and activities. Sometimes external motivation can help develop good habits that later drive internal motivation.
One of the biggest excuses for not taking care of personal wellness is “I don’t have time.” This can be especially difficult for remote employees, since they may always physically be at work and have trouble switching off. Creating mental distance from work requires external support from the company and time management techniques that can be taught through eLearning or other supportive learning programs and materials.
Some tips for supporting time management for personal wellness include:
- Support scheduling time for wellness by making it a regular category on business calendars. Employees should not worry that blocking out time for a yoga class will make them appear less dedicated to their jobs.
- Encourage regular work hours, when possible. Lead by example, and don’t email during non-work hours.
- Have managers share what they do during downtime to model the behavior of making time for wellness.
- Offer training  on time management, including access to a choice of templates and apps so that employees can experiment with what works for them.
- Simulate the timing of activities that might occur for on-site employees.
- Sponsor a breakfast club or lunch social.
- Have a regularly scheduled lunch-and-learn that is dedicated to sharing remote work tips. Ask each member to lead and share something special about their home office.
- Try out a walk-and-talk lunch break using group call technology and earbuds to simulate on-site walking groups.
- Have after-work field trips to virtual museum tours, movie nights, and cooking classes.
Using The Tool-KIT
A critical component for making sure that remote employees follow through with behaviors that support wellness is to provide the tools to facilitate these activities. Tools that provide knowledge, inspiration, and time should be easy to find and use. One way to do this is through a learning experience platform that consolidates resources and guides employees to what they need as individuals. And regular communications that advertise what’s available can help keep wellness front and center in the employee’s mind.
Mobile technology can also play a big part in helping employees adhere to their wellness goals. Consider mobile learning apps and wearable technology to reach your remote employees so that they can access wellness information on-the-go, sign up for reminders, and share progress with others. Because remote workers spend so much time looking at a screen, mobile podcasts can be a great way to share wellness information that feels separate from work.
As an L&D professional, you have an opportunity to impact the physical and mental wellness of the people who make your company great. So, remember the tool-KIT: Share knowledge, inspire performance, and encourage time management.
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