Since 2009, the number of people working from home has risen by 159%, and today, approximately 16% of companies are fully remote . This figure has accelerated even more rapidly since the COVID-19 outbreak at the start of 2020.
While staff wellbeing programmes have been commonplace in traditional, office-based settings for years, many companies have faced a challenge in translating these wellness programmes into options that are viable for a remote workforce .
Health and Wellbeing programmes have been shown to promote happier, healthier work environments. By providing further education and initiatives under one programme, companies can provide better remote working environments as well as work-life balance, in turn improving health and wellbeing for employees. Obvious business benefits include lower rates of absenteeism and higher rates of productivity, improved employee morale, and loyalty to the company.
Good health and wellbeing can be a core promoter of organisational performance and employee engagement. Ultimately however, it can fall on the individual as to how much they engage, and whether they utilise the resources and tools provided and attend and participate in events and initiatives. Having a dedicated programme which is built into the company’s organisational structure and supported and championed by line managers and leadership members can help to amplify the positive benefits to staff and ensure the programme doesn’t become tokenistic.
Employee wellbeing has continued to rise up the corporate agenda since the pandemic began, and many companies have introduced policies and programmes as a reaction to the changed ways of working and new remote working environments. Over 81% of large companies, with over 200 staff, now have some form of health and wellness programme or policy . NearForm has been remote-first since its inception, so many of the offers to staff have become integrated into the culture and benefits.
As a remote-first company since our inception 10 years ago, we took a look at the key differences between health and wellbeing initiatives being delivered remotely as opposed to via the traditional, in-office format.
Long-term forecasting and strategy is essential for remote delivery, as well as the need for targeted, omni-channel communication removing the 'word of mouth' and proximity-based promotion element available to office-based settings.
The overarching plan for a remote health and wellbeing programme needs to immediately take into account cultural differences and timezones, as rollout is more difficult to limit to certain areas as when in an office setting. Plans need to take into account that staff in different countries will have different resources available to them, as well as different access levels to health and wellbeing platforms and apps.
Promoting engagement has to be approached differently than in an in-person setting, with organisers needing to strike the right balance between the amount of information being provided about global engagement offerings and resources offered.
Tracking engagement can prove to be more challenging in a remote setting, as in-person attendance can't be measured. Analytics tools will be vital here to calculate gauges such as Slack engagement, virtual event attendance, email responses, Pulse Survey feedback, and line manager feedback.
Being fully remote means that you are less capable of organising impulsive or short-notice activities (e.g. after work drinks, lunch bookings, and morning coffee walks). However, at NearForm, we've found that the Health and Wellbeing programme allows for feedback from Pulse surveys to be actioned into long-term events and initiatives and regular social events, promote existing benefits in one location, introduce more diverse resources, initiatives, events and tools to meet the unique needs of our geographically dispersed teams.
NearForm’s Health and Wellbeing programme was introduced in January 2022 and aims to give all NearFormers the tools they need to support their overall wellbeing, both in and outside of work. Our main motivation for this programme was to continue living the company values and providing valuable employee benefits in a remote-first working environment.
The programme focuses on four pillars of health and wellbeing: Physical, Mental, Social, and Financial, and has been designed to combine events, educational content, and easily accessible resources to empower staff to take ownership of their own wellbeing and utilise the tools, activities and resources created and curated by NearForm.
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When developing the Health and Wellbeing programme for NearForm, the first aim was to centralize the existing offers and resources. Then, by deciding on the four pillars the programme would focus on (Mental, Physical, Social, and Financial health and wellbeing), we were able to understand the gaps between what we were doing already, albeit fragmented and not advertised or promoted sufficiently, and what we wanted to be able to offer and have our staff experience and access. Some of the benefits and resources NearFormers already had access to included a yearly remote working support budget, virtual workout sessions, flexible working opportunities, Health Assured EAP, Mental Health Champions and regular training opportunities, Brown Bag and Lunch & Learn sessions, virtual social events, and pension schemes.
Whilst these are all competitive offers within the market, we ran several surveys to obtain feedback from staff about initiatives they would want to engage with which would truly benefit them. Some of the many additional benefits, resources, and initiatives we are proud to be rolling out in 2022 following this feedback are guest speakers on health and wellbeing topics, global activity challenges, nutritional content that is more specific to geographic regions (e.g. foods that are in season) and cooking events.