Plenty has been written about the adjustment to hybrid working, but one factor that appears to have eluded the conversation is physical wellbeing in the hybrid world. As enterprises figure out how to encourage physical exercise, we take a look at the role an intranet can play in encouraging employees to get active.
The benefits of a healthy and active workforce are widely understood by employers; improved productivity and morale, reduced absenteeism, and lower stress levels. For these reasons, health and wellbeing became a major area of focus in the employee experience prior to the pandemic.
Now, with many enterprises committed to a hybrid or remote-first future, they are also considering how they can apply the same focus to health and wellbeing now that the working model has changed and staff are more dispersed.
In pre-pandemic times, health and wellbeing initiatives were commonplace in corporate locations, from morning yoga sessions to clubs that regularly congregated to run, cycle, walk, or jog during lunch breaks or at the end of the day.
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These initiatives haven’t disappeared – they can resume now social distancing measures have been removed – but the shift to the hybrid working model does require a revised approach to physical employee health initiatives.
The impact of hybrid working on physical employee health and wellbeing
While hybrid working can provide employees with a better work-life balance, the lack of mobility that comes with working from home has raised concerns around physical health. One recent study of 2,000 remote and hybrid workers across the US paints a worrying picture. The study revealed:
- 60% of employees have reduced their mobility by over 50% since they started working remotely
- 24% of employees never leave their home on a typical remote workday
- While experts recommend 8,000 steps per day, nearly half of remote workers take fewer than 1,000
- 78% are concerned about the long-term health consequences of getting less exercise during the working day
Clearly a new approach is required to mitigate the risks to physical health presented by hybrid working. A holistic health and wellbeing agenda in the hybrid world must be an inclusive one that considers those splitting their time between home and the office, and fully remote workers.
Physical exercise initiatives for the hybrid workplace
While some employees are now fully remote and others are splitting their hours between home and physical workplace – some with little consistency in terms of the days they can spend in either – it doesn’t mean enterprises can’t unite their people to get active together.
Examples of activities that everyone can get involved in when they’re in different physical locations include:
- Weekly or monthly runs where people set out at the same time and run for the same distance or length of time, then share their results with each other. This can also be replicated with walking, jogging, and cycling.
- Virtual yoga, pilates, and workout sessions via Zoom. Employees working from corporate premises can join from a communal space, remote workers from their home, and, importantly everybody can take part together.
- For remote workers, or employees who choose to work from home some of the week, a fake commute is not just an effective way to separate their home and work life, but an opportunity to take exercise before work, after work, or both.
- Virtual health fairs that feature sessions from external health and wellbeing experts, as well as talks from employees who are enthusiastic advocates of activities others can get involved in.
It has also become common for organizations to provide employees with access to wellbeing apps and discounts on wearable fitness tracking devices, but what more can employers do to encourage their people to get up and about, wherever they choose to work from? This is where your intranet software can help with features that can keep your people informed, connect them with others interested in the same activities, and inspire them to take part by being motivated by their co-workers who are actively posting and discussing health and wellbeing activities.
Promoting physical wellbeing initiatives to your hybrid workforce
Having a digital home for your business keeps everyone connected in the hybrid workplace, and this can be the natural platform to promote wellbeing initiatives and inspire engagement in them. Here are a few ways enterprises can leverage their intranet software to promote physical wellbeing initiatives in the hybrid world:
Empower wellbeing advocates to inspire others
Some employees will naturally be enthusiastic about joining or leading wellbeing activities and sessions as it is a common interest for many. It’s worth reaching out to your employees and asking for those who are willing to come forward, and give them the power to create and deploy communications that inspire and resonate with the wider organization.
This is where having an intelligent CMS editor within your intranet software can prove valuable. Content analysis built into the editor can help to ensure anyone with the right intranet permissions can create clear and positive professional-grade communications that are visually appealing (whether you include sweaty photos is up to you).
Not only does this remove any strain from your internal comms team, it allows those who are willing to lead the activities to write and construct content that looks professional and is easy to read, no matter what their skill levels are when it comes to writing and design.
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By empowering these employees to create and share communications in this way, their co-workers will be receiving authentic communications from people who are passionate about getting active which can be more meaningful and inspiring than something that has been ghostwritten by a member of the comms team (not that we’re suggesting internal communicators don’t love exercise).
Build digital communities for health and wellbeing
Virtual communities are an effective means of connecting dispersed employees who have common interests. If your intranet software enables community spaces, having a dedicated community for each health or wellbeing activity that takes place in your organization is a great way for people to find out more about them, get involved, and keep up-to-date with and inspired by the progress of co-workers.
A little healthy competition between teams may even inspire people to get more active than they usually would have.
Inspire action with attention-grabbing homepage posts
Your intranet’s homepage should be the first place your employees go to discover work-related news and update. It is also a prime location for promoting health and wellbeing initiatives. While some intranets feature rigid, un-customizable homepages, one that provides a dynamic homepage editing experience with drag and drop blocks that can be resized and adjusted will allow you to quickly and easily shout about health and wellbeing activities, or direct employees to relevant content from a prominent location.
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Social intranet features such as a blog widget on your homepage allow employees to publish their own posts about activities they’re organizing, or share their health and wellbeing experiences, tips, and advice. When ‘likes’ and comments from their co-workers are enabled, you may see an uplift in engagement which can support a culture of health and wellbeing for everyone, no matter where they are.
Anchor all relevant content and information to a dedicated wellbeing space
A dedicated wellbeing area within your intranet makes it easy for employees to find everything they need for all their fitness needs, whether they’re searching for sessions and challenges to join, inspiration for organizing their own activities they can invite others to be part of, or simply satisfying their curiosities around the type of wellbeing initiatives taking place. The dedicated content area can be linked to from your intranet’s homepage via a widget or from the menu bar.
Gamify the experience
Some enterprises may even choose to gamify the experience by introducing a little bit of friendly competition. For example, giving monthly recognition to the person who completes the most steps, or captures the best photo during their walk, run, or bike ride, can encourage employees to take up the challenge and get involved.
A lifeline for lagging employees
There’s no denying hybrid working can help employees strike a better work-life balance, or that this can lead to improved productivity and greater job satisfaction. Yet every individual’s physical wellbeing has an impact on their employee experience, and this is something to bear in mind as the impact home working has on physical health becomes clearer.
However you choose to motivate and mobilize your hybrid workforce, it is important to consider how to communicate your wellbeing initiatives effectively, and this is yet another area where intranet software can prove its value.