By Tara Gibson - September 15, 2020
Virtual wellness checks for employees are regarded as an effective way to keep on top of employees' physical and mental health when they are working from home. However, when your business has a large remote workforce, extracting the truth about employee wellness can be a challenge.
Over the past few years, the progress of digital technologies - such as cloud computing, virtual private networks, and video conferencing - has meant many roles can be fulfilled just as effectively from home as they can in an office. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, it was estimated 5% of the workforce worked from home on a full-time basis, with many more sharing their time between the home and the office.
When the COVID-19 crisis started, the percentage of the workforce working from home was estimated to have increased to 31%; and, although some communities are starting to re-open, many businesses have indicated they will allow employees to continue working from home - permanently if they wish. However, this flexibility of working arrangements presents some significant business challenges.
The pros and cons of remote working from an employee's perspective are well-chronicled; and, for those who are self-disciplined, the pros (better work-life balance, no commute, location independence, etc.) outweigh the cons (isolation from colleagues - which can be a blessing!). From an employer's perspective, the pros generally consist of cost savings on office rentals and salaries.
The cons of remote working from an employer's perspective are harder to define because different businesses encounter different challenges according to how they operate. For example, businesses that connect remote workers with on-premises data centers via virtual private networks will encounter different security challenges than businesses with cloud-based operations monitored by IAM policies.
However, most technological challenges can be overcome with the installation of new software or the procurement of new hardware. By comparison, remotely managing employees is an ongoing challenge that can have different levels of complexity depending on the communication tools being used to connect with employees, get visibility into their productivity, and check on their wellbeing.
Virtual wellness checks for employees are considered essential by many HR experts to keep on top of employees' physical and mental health during the COVID-19 crisis - particularly their mental health. One study into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on mental health found that 45% to 50% of young people working from home were experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to discuss mental health in large group video conferences. Due to the stigma attached to mental illness, many employees are uncomfortable talking about it in a group environment, and reluctant to admit experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression - i.e. lapses in concentration - as these may be perceived as having a negative impact on their productivity.
Furthermore, while many businesses have excellent in-house employee wellness programs, these are not designed to be used for group virtual wellness checks for employees - most often being one-on-one sessions designed to comply with the requirements of ADA, GINA, HIPAA, and PPACA. However, one-on-one virtual wellness checks for employees are impractical in businesses with large remote workforces.
SMS virtual wellness checks for employees are a capability of a mass notification platform. What distinguishes SMS virtual wellness checks for employees from group video conferences is that they are SMS text messages in a question and answer format that are simultaneously sent to each remote worker so they can be replied to in private. A typical initial text message could look like this:
Q: How are you today?
A#1: I'm fine. Thank you.
A#2: I'm feeling unwell. Will not be able to work today.
A#3: I'm concerned I may be developing an anxiety disorder
Each remote worker replies to the SMS text message by pressing a number on the keypad of their mobile device (for example #2 for “I'm feeling unwell”). The replies are collected and collated on the mass notification platform so businesses can immediately see who is working, who is physically unwell, and who may be experiencing mental health issues.
Depending on the replies received, follow-up SMS virtual wellness checks for employees can request details of the symptoms (for replies #2 and #3), enquire whether they would like to speak with someone from the in-house wellness program (for reply #3), or ask employees who replied #1 if they have the capacity to cover absent employees' workloads.
The benefit of conducting SMS virtual wellness checks for employees in this manner is that businesses are more likely to extract the truth from employees about their mental health, more efficiently direct compliant in-house resources to where they are required, and mitigate the risk of projects falling behind schedule - either due to ill health or due to the undisclosed symptoms of anxiety affecting productivity.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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