Empower Remote Teams: Employee Wellness Programs

Robert Owen, a Welsh social reformer and manufacturer, first addressed the promotion of employee well-being in 1810; we have Owen to thank for the eight-hour workday widely used by businesses everywhere. And employee wellness has continued to evolve in the centuries since Owen.

Beginning in the 1990s, companies have implemented corporate wellness programs for their employees. The benefits of these programs are numerous for both businesses and their workforce — better physical and mental health mean fewer sick days and greater productivity.

A 2020 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 81% of large corporations have implemented wellness programs through their Human Resources (HR) departments, and small to mid-sized companies have taken advantage of the programs as well. But with an increasingly virtual global workforce, how can companies develop employee wellness programs for remote teams?

Can an outsourced HR consulting team create a remote wellness program?

A group of friends working out on a treadmill at a gym as part of an employee wellness program

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What is an employee wellness program?

In short, a corporate wellness program is offered by a business to its employees as a way to promote health and fitness. Typically, an HR department will create the program, or partner with a health insurance company to include this program in an employee benefits package.

Employers offer their teams incentives such as gift cards and discounts on gym and fitness club memberships to the team members who participate in the program. These programs may include weight loss incentives and preventative health screenings, among other proactive health measures.

Virtual wellness programs for remote teams

Virtual wellness programs are easier to implement than you may think. It’s important that employees think about their work-related health whether or not they’re in the office. If you don’t have an HR department, you can outsource HR consultants to create virtual wellness exercises and incentives to get your employees on board.

Virtual wellness programs existed even before the remote workforce expanded. These virtual programs often utilize wellness apps to get remote team members involved and to give them the ability to track their progress.

Remote work can cause feelings of isolation and create sedentary behavior — it’s easy to forget to stretch or take a quick outdoor break. When remote teams have permission to intentionally incorporate physical activity into their days, they may take advantage to refresh their mindsets and increase their work productivity.

A woman having a virtual employee wellness program meeting on her laptop

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Strategies for virtual wellness programs

Wellness programs can inject fun and productivity into your remote teams — and re-energize your employees. Employee wellness doesn’t take away from work; it enhances work. Analyze your budget before you determine the scope and size of the wellness program you want to create.

Here are 5 tips to manage work and financial stress through virtual wellness programs:

  • Allow Mental Health Days:
    One of the benefits of remote work is your team’s ability to work regardless of almost any circumstance. Remote employees are more apt to put in work time when sick than their in-office counterparts, and may work well into the after hours of your business.
    Mental health days can recenter and refocus your team members. By encouraging remote employees to take allotted mental health days, you show your team that you care about their well-being, and you may help prevent burn out.
  • Cultivate Connections:
    Encourage your remote team to connect with each other. Use message systems like Slack and provide weekly engaging questions in the general channel to foster connection.
    Remote work often promotes individual projects and can lead to feelings of disconnect. Attempts to lightly engage with other team members can help team members to feel personally valued.
  • Provide Wellness Resources:
    Create a space in your network that lists mental health resources, opportunities to cultivate holistic health, and include articles or training videos with tips for mental and physical health improvement.
  • Virtual Check-Ins:
    Whether personal check-ins via team meetings occur weekly, monthly, or biannually, taking the time to host a short collective check-in over apps like Zoom and Google Meet can help strengthen your teams’ work relationships. These meetings should occur separately from work meetings.
  • Wellness and Fitness Apps Subscriptions:
    Give employees free access to downloadable apps such as My Workout Plan and Wellable. These apps promote activity and wellness, and help remote workers to intentionally improve their health.

How to engage remote employees in virtual wellness

Offer incentives and rewards to team members that engage in your virtual wellness program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests implementing flexible work schedules and reimbursing fitness club memberships for employee participation in remote wellness.

You can also implement virtual wellness programs and maximize your remote workforce with inclusion and diversity training.

The benefits of virtual wellness programs

The Harvard Business Review states that employee wellness programs should be a strategic imperative for growing businesses, and not just a perk of the job. The return on investment (ROI) of wellness programs comes from the millions saved in employee health care and lost productivity due to a multitude of sick days.

The benefits of wellness programs for remote teams can include:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Increased Productivity
  • Decrease in High-Risk Health Issues
  • Greater Employee Retention
  • Reduction in Employee Anxiety, Depression, and Health Issues

Regardless of where employees land on the corporate ladder, mental and physical health issues can detrimentally impact energy and engagement levels along with work productivity.

A woman at home saying hi to someone she is talking to on her laptop

Image from Canva

How can small businesses implement virtual wellness programs?

Corporate employee wellness programs aren’t relegated to large-sized companies. Small and mid-sized businesses can easily implement wellness policies and procedures for remote teams as well.

A great HR consultant can help your small company create and implement smaller scale wellness programs for your remote employees, and ensure that incentives and rewards fit within your budget.

After you’ve had a consistent wellness program in place for six months to a year, you can audit the results of the initial implementation and decide to decrease, increase, or maintain the scope of your program.

How Europe HR Solutions can help

At Europe HR Solutions, we understand the ever-changing trends and challenges of Human Resources. We’ve helped many U.S. and U.K.-based companies navigate the labor and employment laws and nuances of Europe as they expand their operations.

You shouldn’t have to take on the responsibilities of arduous HR work. We can create a strategic plan for and help you implement your employee wellness program for your remote teams. Contact us for a free consultation.

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      About the author

      The author of this article

      Inez Vermeulen is the Founder and CEO of Europe HR Solutions, with over 25 years of successful corporate and entrepreneurial experience in various global industries. She has helped grow and expand the European divisions of global companies such as Coca-Cola Company, Regus, DHL, American Medical Systems, etc. Inez has received several company awards for her entrepreneurial spirit and success.

      She owns a Bachelor’s degree in French, History and Latin, several HR global expert certifications, a Master’s degree in Metaphysical Sciences, ICF Coach Certification and has completed her Doctorate on Transformational Leadership. Inez is fluent in Dutch, English, French, Italian and German. She works in partnership with an extensive international network of independent & professional companies and resides in Belgium near Brussels with her husband Jan.