- Many employees are not feeling enthusiastic about returning to the office, and are bracing for the significant shift in lifestyle and routines that it will bring.
- By implementing wellness and meditation activities into the week, employees will provide unique experiences that employees otherwise would not have access to at home.
- This will stir enthusiasm for the workplace, while simultaneously providing employees with the peace and comfort they’ve been looking for during the past year.
This article was originally published on Work Design Magazine.
In the last 18 months, companies have learned to adapt quickly to the ever-changing landscape of lockdowns and quarantines. While many felt trepidation about moving entire operations virtually, the need of the time demanded employers to think on their feet and for employees to respond quickly.
Despite a fear of loss in productivity, a recent study showed that productivity actually increased by 5% during the pandemic and is expected to continue to improve as technological upgrades outlast the end of our time in lockdown.
The gain in productivity, however, came at a cost. In a recent CDC report, feelings of anxiety and depression have experienced sharp increases among the working-age group since the beginning of the pandemic and continue to climb.
As employers excitedly prepare to welcome their staff back to physical offices, many employees are on the opposite end of the enthusiasm spectrum, bracing for the significant shift in lifestyle and routines that returning to office work full time will bring.
The freedom and liberties afforded by working remotely have allowed a large part of the workforce to be gainfully employed while working from remote and sometimes scenic locations. For others, since commuting time was effectively eliminated, employees had more time to focus on keeping fit and eating right.
Feelings of anxiety and depression have experienced sharp increases among the working-age group since the beginning of the pandemic, and continue to climb.
The challenge – and opportunity – for employers will now be to put programs in place in the physical workplace environments to not only convince employees to return to work but convert them into feeling joyful and enthusiastic about returning to the office.
A practical and rewarding method to begin creating a positive buzz around returning to a full-time office schedule is to develop in-house programming that prioritizes employees’ wellness and happiness.
Wellness programs in corporate America have improved leaps and bounds over the last two decades. In the early 2000s, an employee would be lucky to receive a discount to the local gym as a company benefit. Now, one can generally find more wellness options available, and companies are also heavily invested in the mental well-being of their employees.
Leaning into wellness at this crucial time will not only boost morale and enthusiasm about returning to work but will have long-lasting, positive impacts on company culture, productivity, and the bottom line.
Here are some ways any employer, big or small, can create a culture of enthusiasm for returning to the workplace full time:
1. Bookend Each Workday with an Activity Focused on Wellness
While remote work has afforded many benefits to employees, in a recent study conducted by Oracle, 41% of employees polled stated that there was no longer a distinction between personal and professional life, and that boundaries of acceptable work time versus time-off were blurred more than ever.
One way to signal a reversal of this trend is to kick off the start of a workday with an activity geared towards calmness and relaxation. Even a 10-minute breathing exercise or quick discussion of intention setting can set the right tone for the rest of the day.
Similarly, at the end of the workday, capping off the day’s activities with a group meditation or yoga class can further show your team of employees that you value their boundaries and look forward to attending these events in the office in-person.
2. Build Time in for Low-Key, Regular Team-Building Opportunities
One of the key challenges many faced in the pandemic was the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Bringing back group events in the workplace is a significant first step in unwinding these feelings of being alone.
The somewhat outdated way of approaching team-building centered around week-long retreats, volunteer days, or other full-day events to encourage the team to get to know each other better.
In our new dynamic landscape, having more direct and regular access to team get togethers, in a casual setting, will provide a more organic and low-pressure environment for authentic and friendly team building.
Some successful ways to accomplish this are scheduling weekly lunch gatherings (with no agendas in place) or cultivating a regular session of in-person learning experiences with the employees’ topics.
The more a team member is involved in planning and executing the event, the more “skin in the game” and invested they will be in attending and becoming an active participant in future events.
3. Introduce Meditation Programs to Increase Productivity, Reduce Stress and Increase Empathy
Going back to the Oracle study, 7 out of 10 people reported that 2020 was the most stressful year of their working lives. Companies need to address stress in the workplace or risk burnout.
Many companies offer free downloads for introductory meditation apps such as Calm or Headspace. For any employer looking to get the most out of a meditation program, consider bringing in an expert teacher that can train the company in meditation and help create a culture around balance, well-being, and happiness.
Meditation has significant benefits for both the employer as well as the employee. Studies have shown that meditation helps every team member, from the entry-level intern to the CEO, perform better at their task. Meditation improves creativity, increases reaction times, and sharpens one’s ability to make fast, highspeed, accurate decisions that do not stress the body.
Meditation can also increase one’s ability to feel empathy and compassion, and friendliness. With all these benefits combined in one practice, bringing meditation into the workplace strengthens workplace culture organically. It’s genuinely a win-win practice that should be implemented in every company environment.
By implementing these wellness activities into the weekly programming, employees will be given extraordinary experiences in-person that they otherwise would not have access to at home, which provides them with the peace and comfort they’ve been looking for. With renewed enthusiasm, both the employee and the employer can easily transition back into a workplace environment with less anxiety, least stress, and maximum bliss.