To say this is an uncertain time is an understatement. The coronavirus has our nation on edge, and as an employer we know your top priority is the safety and wellbeing of your workforce. You may be searching for answers, or overwhelmed by questions. We wanted to take a minute and respond to questions we are receiving from our clients and share publicly in case this information is helpful more broadly. Our guidance below is specifically pertaining to how employers can effectively promote health and wellness within their populations amidst COVID-19 and what specific steps they should be taking in the process.
The advice offered below is based on where we are right now. The situation is evolving rapidly, and our guidance will likely change as it unfolds. As appropriate, we will update this post to reflect our latest and greatest thinking, while also addressing any additional questions we receive from clients.
Make sure you are informed.
- Relying on trusted, credible sources is important for you, and your workforce. The CDC has many great resources that can be shared with employees.
COVID-19 Fast Facts
Stop the Spread of Germs
Emphasize the importance of current health and wellness benefits.
- Remind employees of the wellness support they have available and why this is a critical time for them to be caring for themselves and their families, physically, emotionally, socially and financially.
- Encourage employees to limit the information they receive about the virus via social media or other sources and rely on updates and guidance offered by their health providers. Point them toward these resources.
- Check with your current wellness vendors to determine whether they have specific content on coronavirus available for participants to access.
- Promote all health related support you have to offer, including any specific accommodations being made for COVID-19. Make sure your worksite is taking all appropriate safety measures to protect essential workers.
Don’t overlook emotional needs as you focus on physical safety.
- Stress and anxiety are climbing for most employees. There are more unknowns than knowns regarding health, financial stability and long-term impacts from COVID-19. With this in mind, find ways to support your employees with their emotional wellbeing and make sure your managers are sensitive to heightened stress.
- Commit to consistently and candidly communicating about the steps your organization is taking and what employees can expect, including work from home policies, contingency plans and other concerns specific to your business. Admit what you don’t know and what might change as news about the virus unfolds. Be transparent, honest and collaborative with your teams. This will go a long way towards reducing anxious feelings.
- Direct employees back to existing support mechanisms for their emotional and mental health, including tools within your current wellness program that address these issues, an EAP or other solutions.
- Give your employees a voice by gauging their biggest concerns and fears during this time. Make sure they know you care and are listening.
- With non-essential workers operating from home, find ways to keep employees connected and build resiliency. Many will feel isolated or overwhelmed as they juggle family and work responsibilities. It will be important to establish touch points, updates from the company, stress breaks and other activities to keep employee engaged and less worried.
Lean on technology as a primary means of supporting wellness-related activities.
- Promote usage of online portals and e-learning tools for individuals.
- Replace scheduled lunch and learns of other group activities with virtual events or group challenges administered through a portal or Facebook page.
- Host Zoom happy hours or other virtual "pick me ups" for your remote teams.
- This recent blog from CHC has additional ideas for engaging employees in their physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing during the pandemic.
Be flexible and responsive with policies, procedures and benefits.
- Evaluate your current sick leave policies and other benefits to ensure they are properly designed to respond to the situation.
Start preparing NOW for the new normal.
- As we look ahead to employees back and work and the economy re-opening, make sure you are planning for wellness priorities for the second half of 2020.
- Determine whether you need to establish additional COVID-19 safety measures onsite, such as temperature checks to screen employees for symptoms before entering the workplace.
- Don't forget about other important preventive health needs, particularly flu shots. Preventing flu outbreaks this fall will be critical.
- For employers who are scheduling biometric screenings:
- Make sure screening vendors are taking precautions, including extensive training for their staff on sanitation & safety standards, i.e. team checks prior to onsite events to ensure each onsite team member meets defined standards and that phlebotomists properly sanitize between participants.
- Clearly communicate with employees to ensure they are comfortable participating and know that their safety is the top priority.
- Consider an alternative approach by arranging remote screenings or at home testing for your employees.
We will continue to monitor the CDC's updates on COVID-19 as well as their recommendations for healthcare professionals. We will be sharing critical updates regarding COVID-19 to our staff and clients. Of course, please reach out to your CHC representative in the meantime if you have questions or concerns for your organization.