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It’s safe to say that the pandemic surprised everyone. The gyms and the yoga studios closed. Going to therapy wasn’t always possible. Neither was hugging or going to the office. Working from home has increased as companies turned to online tools to communicate and manage their business.
A survey by Gartner, Inc. showed that 82% of global organizations encouraged employees to go online. Of these companies, 61% of them have implemented check-ins while 29% of them didn’t change their rules and requirements.
The main concern of business owners (or at least 30% of them) was maintaining company culture. In the corporate world, creating comfort and a set of values is key to keep employees focused and loyal. That’s why Google created its welcoming and colorful headquarters with open spaces, tons of common areas, and coffee bars.
The bottom line is: happy employees are productive employees. How to keep them motivated and healthy while working from home during a global pandemic?
Enter Microsoft and its new features for Teams and Outlook. Through technology, the company focuses on well-being and mindfulness. Here are the pillar concepts and changes.
- The integration with the app Headspace, which centers around meditation. So workers can disconnect.
- A virtual commute in Teams to create boundaries between work and home. This way, employees can structure their day instead of working at odd hours or on Sundays.
- The Stay Connected feature makes it easier to connect with coworkers, to make sure people don’t lose human interaction.
- The Protect Time feature is used to schedule a time for work and breaks. This customizable experience ensures employees take useful and mindful breaks.
Thanks to these new tools, the employees of Microsoft can design their day. They are not just working, working, and working. As they would do in a non-Covid world, they are taking time for their health. They are finding time to meditate, take breaks, and disconnect to be with their families. Barbie Stafford is the marketing director of Microsoft 365.
There’s a recognition that employee well-being is important and a catalyst for productivity(Barbie Stafford)
The online Corporate Wellness Magazine wrote about a 2011 PriMed Management Consulting study of its workers. It found that 93% of 480 surveyed employees were at risk for depression, stress, and obesity. PriMed studied ways to reduce these risks in its workforce. How?
- To reduce depression, PriMed sponsored sessions about therapy and on how to overcome negative thinking. The company educated its people: asking for help is ok.
- To address stress, the business started an after-work exercise program and it started guided imagery sessions.
- To reduce the risk of obesity, PriMed created a weight management program, Lose to Win. The program didn’t focus on weight loss, but rather on healthy eating, and onsite exercise.
These changes happened in 2011, way before the pandemic. The corporate world has started facing the truth: employers can’t ignore mental and emotional health.
As Corporate Wellness Magazine reports, “The best way to mitigate the risk of low participation is regularly and visibly offer sessions which signal that the company is interested and open to the topic [of mental illness in the workplace].”
“Wellness programs have often been viewed as a nice extra, not a strategic imperative. Newer evidence tells a different story,” the Harvard Business Review wrote, “companies can use wellness programs to chip away at their enormous health care costs, which are only rising with an aging workforce.”
Every study points it out: healthy employees cost businesses less. All the way back in 2001, the Harvard MD Anderson Cancer Center created an injury care unit for its employees’ health. After six years, the lost workdays declined by 80%. In turn, they reduced costs. The Center saved $1.5 million and the workers’ comp insurance premiums declined by 50%.
Harvard studied 10 organizations with wellness programs and it discovered that leadership plays a key role in the well-being of employees. Leaders can create a culture of passion, persistence, and mindfulness. If the employer takes time off to exercise, workers will feel less guilty about taking a fitness break.
Leaders set the example. The company Johnson & Johnson has been implementing changes for years with its 1979 Life for Life program. Its facilities are tobacco-free and the workers who have HIV/AIDS have access to antiretroviral treatment. Johnson & Johnson employees have dropped smoking and they have lower blood pressure. Once again, better wellness programs led to cost reductions.
The benefits of implementing mindful programs and features are for both the employer and the employees.
Forbes has reported about businesses waking up. Some of the companies include Exubrancy, BurnAlong, BetterSpace, and InsideOut. For example, BetterSpace (which focuses on improving and protecting mental health) helps corporations create programs and raise awareness among participants, employees, and business leaders.
Daniel Freedman is the CEO of BurnAlong. To Forbes, he said, “corporate wellness is moving from being a nice perk to a must-have; from a fun, team-building wellness event here and there to a 24/7 opportunity.”
Microsoft grabbed the opportunity by collaborating with the app Headspace. And the company’s employees aren’t the only ones who can benefit. The app is launching a show on Netflix. It’s narrated by the co-founder Andy Puddicombe and it’s called “A Guide to Meditation.” It helps viewers build a daily practice and it helps people learn and understand.
The well-being leaves the office’s walls, and it reaches the workers’ homes. As the pandemic accompanies 2021, businesses and employees are becoming mindful. Finding a work-home balance is key, even when working from home.
When people work outside of the office, they tend to overdo it. They don’t take breaks and they are always connected. An unhealthy behavior. Companies are starting to focus on the well-being of their workforce, to make sure people aren’t just numbers. Their people are their strength.