According to researchers, health behaviors play a significantly larger role in health outcomes than access to, and quality of, care. As employers focus on strengthening workforce resilience and supporting a safe physical return to workplaces, they cannot overlook their part in influencing health behaviors and related health outcomes.
Returning to a physical workplace is now a priority for many organizations. It’s critical this is done with a clear focus on safety, using technology and human-centered changes to policies and processes to help employees stay safe and feel valued.
- Listen to employee concerns and use data to respond quickly and appropriately. Organizations need to adopt and implement new human-centered policies, personalized to employees’ needs, to support physical health and wellness. To create these policies, leadership must make use of data and technology to assess risk, while also staying connected with workers’ evolving concerns.
- Address employee mental health using technology to provide needed assistance. Mental health was already a pressing workplace issue. Competing home and work demands, new health risks and feelings of loss linked to COVID-19 have increased workers’ stress. Employers can help by reducing the stigma of employee assistance programs, peer support and vetted solutions, such as chatbots and digital therapeutics. They might want to offer incentives too: one leading technology company, for instance, now offers employees discounts on mindfulness apps.
- Design change programs and related policies to support shifts in work arrangements and travel. With waves of COVID-19 outbreaks anticipated, adapting the work environment to limit viral spread is essential. Regular virus testing, coupled with reconfigured offices and the use of personal protective equipment, will give workers the confidence to return to the physical office. Guidelines must be flexible enough to account for local variations in the virus’ spread and workers’ individual needs. Workers with health concerns or caring for loved ones in a high-risk category require additional flexibility.
As we move further into the next phase of the recovery period, employers will need to consider how to ensure the ongoing wellbeing of the workforce. Building long-term resilience will require a proactive strategy that continues to protect and support employees while considering how to make bigger transformations that create long-term value.
1. Adopt an integrated suite of technology solutions to monitor and enable workforce health and safety
Employers can use technology to build trust with their employees. One car manufacturer is using wearables that vibrate when workers come within six feet of each other, as well as thermal-imaging scanning to detect fevers. Such tools make workers feel safer, supporting a new social contract with employers. AI-based tools that monitor social distancing in real time create additional trust. Ideally a platform rather than a single app is desired, so that workers have a complete picture of the safety of their environment.