COVID-19 has been a year-long rollercoaster ride that nobody wanted to be on. From navigating working at home, to childcare challenges, burnout, changing responsibilities, and an extra helping of stress, this past year has taken its toll on everyone.
So, it’s not surprising that wellness has become the most important topic around the virtual leadership table. As a leader who has been heavily involved in Maplewave’s pandemic response, I see the ongoing impact this pandemic has on our staff every day.
Stressors don’t simply disappear when staff open their laptops, log on, and start their workdays. Unless they’re addressed, ongoing stressors directly impact all aspects of employees’ lives, including work. It’s unsustainable for your business if your people are unwell.
Wellness is physical, emotional, and psychological. Unfortunately, it also comes and goes. An employee might be doing well, but that can quickly change if their life circumstances do. Wellness isn’t “one and done”; it needs to be nurtured and supported.
So, what’s the best way employers can support their staff’s wellness during these times? With a multi-pronged wellness program.
When it comes to wellness in the workplace, it’s not “set it and forget it”. I believe employers must be present and active in their programs. Your work wellness program should fit your employees and your values. And it should be diverse because wellness is personal, and people are different. What helps one, may not work for another.
My personal go-to coping strategy has been building fresh air into my day. Just taking a 30-minute walk outside is enough to greatly reduce my stress and energize me for the rest of the day. For others, a video call with friends may be just what works best for them.
At Maplewave, we’ve designed our wellness program to be as diverse and multi-pronged as possible. We’ve planned our events and programs around the four pillars of good health:
• Fitness: Moving your muscles produces endorphins and a chemical that helps the brain deal with stress.
• Sleep: A good night’s sleep helps lower stress and improves concentration and emotional stamina.
• Nutrition: A healthy diet promotes bacteria in the gut that helps “feel good” signals get to the brain.
• Connection: Connecting with others can lower anxiety and depression, help regulate emotions, and leads to higher self-esteem and empathy.
We’ve also ensured our wellness program is linked to our company values of family, community, flexibility, teamwork, integrity, passion, and fun. The result is a program that is multi-faceted and in line with our culture.
Some of our events have included guided mediation sessions, seminars with nutritionists, a “Let’s Connect” program (complete with a monetary allowance) that encourages employees to safely connect with each other, and more. We also offer a health and wellness fund, where employees are given $1000 that can be applied to their health and wellness expenses.
We’ve tried to build a program that has something for everyone. While participation is not mandatory, we work hard to provide the necessary time and resources for our staff to work on wellness, however that looks for them.
This program works for us, but we are always building on it and acting on the feedback we receive to make it better for our team.
Earlier in May, we held our Spring Town Hall session with all staff. Part of that included a wellness breakout where staff discussed wellness strategies they use in their personal lives around exercise & nutrition, sleep, and connection. We also asked staff what Maplewave can do to better support wellness in these areas, whether that means more time off, new programs, etc.
Some great ideas came out of these sessions, including using fitness challenges as a personal motivator, incorporating standing and movement into the workday, and scheduling meetings to end 5 minutes sooner for a mental and physical break between back-to-back-to-back sessions.
We had a high level of engagement in these breakouts, and we have committed to continuing these types of exercises in future Town Halls.
Wellness is an ongoing journey that will be with us long after the pandemic is a distant memory. Together, we can make our workplaces the supportive, caring environments they should be.