When I worked for Fortune 500 companies I could see that employee burnout was on the rise.  The physical and mental toll on employees meant that they couldn’t reach their full productive potential.

As a former competitive athlete, I also understood the importance of commitment and support to focus on the simple, consistent routines that would help myself, and others, feel better, more energized, and happier. It’s why I started Sprout Wellness, a leading global enablement solution for workplace wellbeing. Our flexible and holistic design empowers organizations to embrace wellbeing by identifying and rewarding healthy behaviours.

The gap between home and work is closing, and many employees are starting to feel the exhaustion from their work life blending into their homes. We no longer have those triggers that tell us it’s time to stop working — like a commute home, or an appointment we have to run to. Coffee breaks with coworkers aren’t an option anymore either. 

As we adjust to working from home, we’re faced with the question: when do we stop working if our home and work blend into one? Work is filling the void left by participating in our favourite activities like sports, going to the gym, and seeing friends. Then, there’s the additional mental stress of the unanswered questions: Does my boss know I’m online? Is there an end to the workday? How safe do I feel in my role? It takes a mental toll on an already stressful situation.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, stress related employee absenteeism cost Canadian businesses a staggering $3.5 billion each year.  According to an Angus Reid April 2020 survey, 50% of Canadians reported that their mental wellbeing had worsened over the course of the pandemic, while 40% stated that their physical wellbeing has deteriorated due to inactivity.  This is the time for corporations to take the lead and commit to supporting the physical and mental health of their workforce.

So, what can employers do?

Many employees are experiencing working from home for the first time.  With new working conditions and the need for social distancing, practicing healthy habits is harder than ever.  Providing clear support and actionable tips can help maintain the wellbeing of your workforce.

– Communications from leadership and management let employees know that their wellbeing is important.  72% of employees with high levels of well-being say they also have high managerial support.

– Share examples from team leaders of how they are staying healthy.  Your company is in this together. Personal examples go a long way.   Employees are 34% more likely to be engaged in well-being programs when their managers are actively involved.

– Send reminders to your employees to take their breaks.

– Provide resources (like Sprout) and tips on how to build and maintain healthy habits

– Create company-wide wellness goals.  Use your company’s communications channels to share updates and/or for employees to post about their own

What can employees do?

– Designate a spot in your home, preferably at a table near natural light.  This way you know you are in “work mode” while benefiting natural light

– Eat your meals away from your workstation.  Again, the mental break and taking time for mindful eating will result in a more product afternoon

– Free online resources.  Yes, you can get fit for free!  Many online workouts are available that do not require equipment, can be done at home and include modified exercises for all fitness levels.  Check YouTube, or even gyms and yoga studios for online classes.

– Virtual buddy for accountability.  This is an important one!  We work harder when we are part of a group.  Studies show that we exercise for longer and improve our performance when we exercise with someone.  FaceTime and exercise with a friend or workout alongside your favorite online trainer.

Martha Switzer, Cofounder and CSO of Sprout, a leading global enablement solution for workplace wellbeing. Our flexible and holistic design empowers organizations to embrace wellbeing by identifying and rewarding healthy behaviours.