Every business wants happy, healthy, hardworking employees. Because of this, many businesses have implemented workplace wellness programs to encourage healthy living, but what if the best workplace wellness program actually sends everyone home?
Not for vacation (although vacation is a staple of a healthy lifestyle), but for telecommuting, either part-time or full-time. Of course, not all jobs are fit for telecommuting — if you’re a retail operation, of course, the cashiers need to be at the store. For those companies that can allow it, however, there can be some great benefits for the business, as well as for the employee’s health.
Reduced Stress Levels
One of the biggest causes of workplace stress takes place outside of work. That’s right: It’s the commute. According to WNYC, the average American commutes 25 minutes each way, but a lot of people commute a lot longer. Giving your employees back an entire hour of their day goes a long way toward increasing workplace wellness — and don’t forget the benefits for the environment and to other commuters, who now have less traffic on the roads to deal with.
What about waiting for the dishwasher repairman to show up in those four-hour windows that the repair company gives? It takes five minutes for your employee to open the door, show the repairman to the kitchen and write a check at the end: That’s no more time wasted than walking down to the office kitchen to get a cup of coffee. By allowing your employee to work from home, you’ve just made your employee happier, and you haven’t lost any work.
The same holds true for illness. When employees are sick, they need to rest. But what about employees who have a sprained ankle or who are healthy except for a lingering cough? When these employees work from home, they can keep up with their tasks without spreading illness or straining their body. You’re also sending employees a message that you care about their wellness.
Lots of employees want to work from home, at least sometimes. According to Harvard Business Review, many workers, particularly millennials, want to work from home, and by 2016, an estimated 43 percent of the workforce will do so.
Implementing Your Wellness Programs at Home and in the Office
Of course, cutting commuting time is just one method that can increase workplace wellness; there are numerous other ways to encourage healthy lifestyles in and out of the office. It can be more difficult to run successful wellness programs when employees aren’t in the office to encourage one another. However, there are ways to engage remote workers in a wellness program. For instance, you can implement a “walk around the world” contest using wearable activity trackers or pedometers. You can also take on a wellness program through organizations such as Global Corporate Challenge (GCC). GCC puts your employees into teams and has them count their daily steps, which are converted into miles to see which team can first make it across the city, state or even around the world.
You don’t always have to set up a program or contest to improve wellness. You can do something simple such as sending out daily email reminders. Encourage healthy eating by making it easy for your employees to sign up with a locally grown food cooperative. Some will even deliver directly to your employees’ homes or offices. Make sure that you don’t limit your efforts to the employees in the office. Go ahead and have a lunchtime yoga class, but also offer discounts to area gyms so that your telecommuting employees can enjoy a lunchtime workout, as well.
It’s Not for Everyone
Some people work better in an office environment. Some managers worry when they can’t see their employees physically at a desk. Team building can also be difficult without regular interaction. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration. People who aren’t self-starters or who think that working from home means that they don’t need child care are not good candidates for telecommuting, regardless of the wellness benefits.
Often the best telecommuting plans have people in the office two or three days a week and working from home the other two or three days. That way, you can still have the benefits of working from home and the benefits of being with your team.
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she interviewed and hired employees, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. Her writings have appeared in Inc. Magazine, CBS MoneyWatch, US News, Readers Digest and other publications. She focuses on helping businesses nurture great employees and helping employees enjoy great careers.