Engaging Remote Workers in Health Initiatives

The pandemic has significantly changed the way many companies conduct business. From requiring face masks to implementing new cleaning protocols, most businesses are seeing permanent changes to their day-to-day operations. One of the most widespread changes has been the number of employees that now work remotely. As COVID-19 cases began to rise rapidly, most companies told employees to work remotely to follow stay at home orders. In fact, a survey by Clutch, a B2B services provider, found that 66% of employees are now working from home.

The benefits of working from home (no commuting, more time with family, etc.) are very appealing to many employees, but the pandemic has pushed health and safety to the forefront of that list. In a survey by the PwC Healthcare Research Institute, 70% of workers said they would be unwilling to return to the workplace with the main reason cited as fear of getting sick (54%) followed by an unwillingness to take public transportation (21%). Further, most employees who are currently working remotely have a strong desire to continue to do so. A New York Times survey showed that 87% of remote workers wanted to continue to work remote at least one day a week, with 59% saying they would like to work remote four or more days per week. Even individuals who are looking for employment are interested in remote work with 59% saying they would be more likely to apply at a company that offered the option to work from home.

While many employees enjoy working from home and employers can address their health concerns by offering remote work, it’s not without its downsides. Even before the pandemic, employee disengagement was measured at an all-time high of 87% according to Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report. Thirty percent said they weren’t receiving information about process and policy changes and 43% said they were excluded from important meetings, both contributing to the high rate of disengagement. At a time when companies are not only looking at how to best transition to remote work but also how to ensure the health and safety of their employees, this presents a real challenge.

As employees continue to work remotely, it can be difficult to ensure their health and wellbeing from a distance. Employees may not be aware of all the tools and resources available to them and may be unsure who to reach out to with questions. To make it even more difficult, 66% of HR managers surveyed by Robert Half said their company’s health and wellbeing offerings have increased 66% in the last five years. While that’s a good thing, 54% of employers reported to Health Advocate that they were using different platforms to manage these programs. As each platform typically requires its own username and password, this is a major deterrent to employee use and engagement.

As employers look at how to better reach remote employees and effectively deliver health and wellbeing programs, there are steps to take that can create a better user experience:

  • Centralize and Simplify: Create a centralized way that employees can access all their health information and available resources. Having multiple platforms only creates confusion and provides a disjointed user experience. Choosing one platform to address all the needs of the employee health management program is key. The platform should provide a simple and consistent interface that allows for information to be easily accessed.

  • Provide Incentives: It’s important to understand that employees often need encouragement when it comes to changing health behaviors and people often require different types of motivation. Think about what incentives employees would enjoy most and create activities that are both engaging and meaningful. Adding gamification to incentive plans can make them more appealing and create a healthy sense of competition. Remote workers can participate in online workouts or healthy cooking challenges. A good starting point is to send out a survey asking what types of activities and incentives would be most appealing. The right platform can allow for the creation of customized surveys that are easily deployed to all employees.

  • Track Analytics: Analytics will not only reveal the effectiveness of health and wellbeing programs, it will also tell employees a lot about themselves. Employees may receive surprising biometric data or find that they enjoy participating in certain physical activities. Analytics provides employees with ways to track their progress and keeps them motivated to keep moving forward. It also provides employers with valuable insights into what’s working and what’s not. A platform that allows for the easy tracking and reporting of important data is key to streamlining the process.

  • Communicate: A big point of disengagement for employees is they aren’t receiving important information or being included in important opportunities for collaboration. To truly encourage participation in a health and wellbeing program, employers need to keep a continuous flow of communications. It could start out with a simple survey asking employees what kinds of activities they enjoy and what incentives would motivate them. From there, employers should communicate every step of the way: when the program is launched, when updates are made, when new content or features have been added, when new incentives are available and when milestones have been hit. Choosing a platform that automates these notifications and ensures that employees are getting timely information is essential. Automation also means that HR departments aren’t tasked with tracking, producing and distributing communications.

By choosing the right platform, employers can continue to engage their employees in health and wellbeing efforts even when they are working remote. The best platform will provide an easy-to-use interface that makes it easy to track and report results, manage incentive programs, create surveys and automate notifications. Contact Applied Health Analytics to learn more about Applied Health Analytics’ bIQ™ Population Health Management Platform and how it can help engage remote workers in employee health initiatives.