With a huge proportion of the global workforce currently stationed at home, businesses across multiple industries have had to adopt new ways of working, pivot business operations and invest in remote working tools. And businesses in the wellness industry are under even more pressure to go the extra mile.
What was once viewed with uncertainty and trepidation by many has become the new reality and one that’s not expected to change in the foreseeable future.
With no immediate end in sight, Facebook has already revealed that most of its employees will be allowed to work from home for the rest of 2020. Twitter, meanwhile, has gone one step further by telling the majority of its 5,000 employees that they can work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
A recent survey by PwC, added further fuel to the flames of a future landscape in which working from home will become the new normal — with 43% of CFOs telling the insights firm they plan to make certain roles permanently remote.
But beyond building the infrastructure needed to keep things ticking over from a distance, in a remote environment, especially during times of crisis, the importance of investing in staff wellbeing is more critical and complex than ever.
“People’s emotions, health needs and desires are changing more frequently than we’ve ever seen before,” Joe Gaunt, CEO of hero — a digital wellbeing platform servicing individuals, organisations and communities, told Welltodo.
“They need more support across all areas from loneliness, sleep, activity, nutrition and healthy food inspiration to building resilience and more in-depth help around musculoskeletal issues and immune systems.”
The good news, according to Gaunt, is that an increasing number of businesses are already being proactive and committing resources to the health of their teams during this challenging period.
A recent LinkedIn post from Charlie Gower, Founding Director of premium supplement brand The Nue Co. revealed it had given its staff extra paid leave to enjoy a long weekend.
“At a time when it’s not possible to take “normal” holiday it’s more important than ever that you proactively help your team to reset and take time out,” wrote Gower.
“During a time of such uncertainty, we must be mindful of our team and their own health and wellness. The more mindful we have become, the more productive we have become as a team. A positive team is an efficient team and small things make a big difference when normal seems so far away,” he added.
Healthy recipe box startup Mindful Chef has announced it will be offering assistance to protect the mental and physical wellbeing of its teams via free annual subscriptions to fitness platform Fiit and mediation app Calm, access to Covid-19 antibody tests and the option to work from home for the rest of the year.
Accor Hotels, meanwhile, has been offering its teams access to counsellors, free webinars and an employee fund to protect staff who might face medical bills and who don’t have access to insurance.
“There’s no denying the fact that you’ll never be able to replace some of the advantages you get from in-person workshops and that interpersonal connection,” Gaunt told Welltodo.
“But, we can see more investment and indeed acceptance and uptake into digital platforms and services like ours to support and empower people to lead healthier lifestyles.”
Overall, he believes that in response to this meteoric shift, employee health will rise up the corporate agenda for proactive, people-centric companies and investment in preventable digital strategies will go hand in hand.
Here, we explore how some of the industry’s biggest wellness brands are already leading the way and how their approaches are helping to shape the future……….
For ‘complete nutrition brand’ Huel, the wellbeing of its staff had been high on the agenda well before COVID-19 hit.
According to CEO James McMaster, the British-born brand headquartered in Tring had taken steps to create a Mental Health First-Aiders team last year. The cohort of 12, trained to look out for staff wellbeing, is the first port of call when employees aren’t feeling their best. Other initiatives such as bi-weekly catch-up sessions referred to internally as “Brew Wednesdays” had been providing the opportunity for staff to reconnect with fellow teammates and weekly personal training and yoga sessions held in its in-house gym offered space for staff to invest in their health while ‘on the job’.
Since the shift to working from home, “the challenge has been setting these initiatives up remotely, which we have managed to successfully do,” McMaster told Welltodo.
“For instance, “Brew Wednesdays” have continued to run virtually, so employees can attend and catch up with teammates with the option to jump into a series of group chats set up on zoom.”
The company’s Mental Health First-Aiders have also become more important than ever. “One initiative we now offer which we didn’t before are remote drop-in sessions with the Mental Health First-Aiders, to allow members of the team to reach out to someone if they feel they need support,” McMaster revealed.
And the shift to virtual wellness has been received well, with employees from its US, UK and German offices coming together more so than ever, to share in exercise classes and regular coffee mornings — something that was not so easy before due to these happening in person, admitted McMaster.
And, whilst it’s difficult to say at this stage how Huel’s workplace wellness initiatives will be impacted in the long-term, McMaster told Welltodo the company will continue to look out for each other regardless of where people are in the world. “Staying connected goes beyond discussing projects and workflow and continues to mean making sure we check in with each other regularly to find out how we are truly feeling.”
According to Rachel Mathia, Training Manager, lululemon Europe people are what fuel the success of lululemon. With that in mind: “Since the beginning, we have nurtured a unique culture which focuses on developing the whole person — enabling our team to reach their full potential. This includes offering tools and practices to foster leadership skills, professional evolution, personal development, and mental and physical well-being,” she told Welltodo.
And over the last two months, the brand has been practising agility — one of its “Practices of Leadership” — to bring this content online for its employees.
To help teams stay supported, well and connected, the athleisure giant has been delivering a calendar of offerings to teams working from home. This spans leadership and personal development, new resiliency training, virtual yoga, meditation and sweat classes, team socials, and much more.
More timely workshops and sessions hosted by experts include advice on topics such as Financial Wellbeing, Eating For The Immune System, and Mental Health Workouts. Special Zoom classes, meanwhile, have included yoga with yoga ambassador Annie Clarke, as well as breathwork and meditation to ease stress and anxiety.
“The first ten sessions of our virtual learning and development curriculum were attended by over 1850 participants – demonstrating how this content resonated with colleagues as we all began to adjust to our new ways of working,” Mathia revealed.
And it’s not just lululemon’s workforce that has been able to benefit – the cult brand, which is known for supporting the wider community – has also launched a ‘Community Carries On’ hub to make virtual offerings available to anyone who wants to sweat, grow and connect from the comfort of their home. A separate partnership with the United Nations Foundation, Peace on Purpose, has also launched to equip UN development and humanitarian workers on the front lines of global conflicts with mindfulness tools to care for their own mental and physical wellbeing, so they can effectively care for others.
“At lululemon, we are focused on supporting the whole person – both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing,” commented Calvin McDonald, CEO, lululemon. “With this period of considerable uncertainty and stress in our lives, it’s never been more important for each of us to take care of our mental and emotional health.”
Europe’s largest yoga company Hotpod Yoga which currently has 25 employees in its London HQ, as well as 10 who have been furloughed, has also made the switch to digital yoga classes, catch-ups and book clubs to keep people engaged, connected and supported.
But co-founder Max Henderson explained that what the crisis has really highlighted is that looking out for people and their individual situations, rather than enforcing box-ticking physical or mental health initiatives, is what’s really important.
“I think that companies need to have wellbeing strategies that are suited to their own employees and their individual environments,” he told Welltodo.
“So actually for us, rather than saying let’s pull together lots of shiny new initiatives, we’re prioritising other things like paying people well, valuing and respecting them and giving them opportunities to develop — an approach that we’ve always taken.”
What’s also become more evident, explained the entrepreneur, is that unlike in an office environment where people are experiencing broadly the same thing, at home everyone is experiencing something completely different, therefore everyone needs to be looked after in an even more bespoke way.
And this is an approach that he says Hotpod will endeavour to take even after getting back to normality.
“Although we may all be back under the same roof, we still won’t all be leading the same lives, so understanding people’s individual pressures and priorities will be a really important part of keeping the workforce happy moving forward,” he explained. “This has been an important reminder.”
With People’s priorities continuing to change as the crisis unfolds, perceptions of wellbeing are also changing with them, and businesses have more of a responsibility than ever to support their staff through these challenging times.
Here Ally Fekaiki, founder of Juno — an on-demand platform supporting business to enable employees to take full control of their wellbeing at work, shares his roadmap for navigating employee wellbeing in this new reality………
- Move quickly to digitise services. We’ve added things like one-to-one personal training and yoga via Zoom, as well as consultations with mental health professionals, veterinarians, childcare professionals, and online masterclasses and courses.
- Keep an open dialogue. We spoke to our members to find out what they needed to alleviate stressors, and found some interesting trends. For example, we found that people’s needs had shifted, with securing the essentials becoming a priority. We recognised this early on and started a Taskforce to help people secure groceries and household basics at a time when wellbeing began to mean feeding your family more than doing a breathwork exercise. As our members became more confident that they could rely on a source for the basics, we then saw an emergence of uptake on services like yoga and meditation.
- Showcase your authenticity. Everything is weird right now, which also presents a challenge for brands to be taken seriously. But there is an opportunity to showcase authenticity and provide solutions to ‘real-world’ issues. One example, on our side, is that we have been providing free access to an independent financial advisor to any of our members stressed about their income or finances.
- Don’t be afraid to pioneer. Many businesses treasured and prioritised health before COVID-19, but not all businesses. Therefore, there’s an opportunity for businesses in our space to act as thought leaders — bringing attention to the effectiveness of a well-deployed wellbeing initiative for the productivity and morale of a team.