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Navigating your teams wellness needs in a new work climate

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Combating compromised health and well-being due to this COVID-19 working environment will need to be the focus of many employers this fall if they wish to keep working their way effectively through this uncertain climate. Pre-pandemic, many Canadian workers sought a flexible schedule that would allow for good work–life balance, but just over half of workers had this option (Graham Lowe Group). Over the last few months we have seen employees report an increase in stress and more anxiety, loneliness and burnout as a result of working from home long-term in isolation.

Emerging trends are showing that the new burnout is driven by uncertainty and fear of job loss; an inevitable blurring of work/life balance and isolation. Many are putting in longer hours to make themselves 'indispensable' in an attempt to secure their position. Many are also discovering that working with colleagues and clients via screens adds a greater strain and is much more tiring than face-to-face interactions, which we have evolved to be more accustomed to.

Employers are likely going to see an emerging problem of workplace injuries sustained at home as well such as chronic strain in their back, neck or shoulders. At the office, we have work chairs, adjustable desks and all the things that the employers provide to keep workers safe, resilient, and high functioning. But with this pandemic, people are working at their kitchen table, or sitting on the couch, hunched over laptops in awkward positions for hours. Leaders can not assume that workers have proper equipment at home and, at a minimum, companies should have a basic health and safety policy for working from home that addresses the ergonomics of workstations.

Early findings from University of Toronto suggest that this COVID climate is also resulting in a number of serious negative health outcomes for women, specifically younger and mid-career women, triggered by a variety of individual, organizational, and systems-level factors. Female health-care workers – who comprise 80 per cent of Canada's health workforce – are at increased risk for stress, burnout and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several measures were identified that can positively impact female health-care worker well-being, including provision of rest areas for sleep and recovery, self-help resources, support, and training programs to improve safety and resiliency. 

In a recent coaching pilot at a Local Health Authority, 12 Weeks to Wellness, a wellness and health coaching provider realized a significant reduction in perceived stress and increased well-being after 3-6 months of telephonic coaching. Download white paper for full story. What makes coaching so effective in reducing stress and improving well-being? It is a partnership between the coach and client, honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life. Wellness coaching addresses multiple dimensions of well-being and seeks to develop self-directed, lasting, positive changes, aligned with the client's values and goals. Coaching has also been shown to be effective for people managing a variety of health conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. It is important to note that coaches take privacy very seriously, and they have a professional code of ethics.

Unlike health fads that come and go, health coaching has strong evidence behind it backing its effectiveness for improving health and well-being. Providing cost effective measures that support employee well-being will have a positive impact on businesses starting to recover– boosting people's productivity, engagement, positivity, resiliency, connection and loyalty, as well as reducing the risks of costly absenteeism caused by stress and various musculoskeletal injuries. Through the upcoming months organizations are going to need a full arsenal of options to combat the strains of COVID-19. Wellness and health coaching are key ingredients towards giving companies and their employees the best chance for success.

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