As companies across the country enable business continuity plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are now facing the abrupt change to remote work. Adjusting to home-based work, especially during this time of social isolation, brings up unique challenges for employees with chronic conditions. We’re highlighting some of these challenges, what employers can do to help, and what resources can be implemented to support employees from a distance.
Addressing Fear and Loneliness
People with chronic conditions are at higher risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 and they are experiencing increased fear and anxiety as a result. As individuals across the globe are being instructed to stay at home, employees are missing out on routine interactions with coworkers, which can potentially contribute to loneliness and depression. In an office, there can be casual encounters for co-workers in the hallways or at the water cooler. However, without those organic opportunities to casually see coworkers, it’s more difficult to find those informal connections.
What can employers do? To address loneliness and fear, implement top-down protocols to support remote work. For example, encourage managers to check in with their employees by phone daily. Another strategy is to provide resources for members to communicate with team members or supportive care. Use web meeting software with video “on” so your team members can see each other, and encourage participants to keep their video on. This software can also be used to host casual coffee hours or lunch breaks, offering employees an informal avenue to chat with each other. Additionally, providing resources that offer a human component delivers another stream for human connection. For example, Pack Health communicates with members weekly, via phone, text, and email.
Adapting New Daily Routines
Employees who are new to remote working often struggle with establishing healthy habits at home. If no one is dropping by the office for lunch or an afternoon walk, it can be easier to let those healthy breaks slide. Meal planning, making time to eat and exercise, staying hydrated, and maintaining medication adherence can all be tough as employees adjust to remote work and new routines.
What can employers do? Encourage employees to fully use their break time and be flexible with allowing employees to sign off their computers for lunch and mid-day breaks. This gives employees the time to prepare and enjoy their food, or take the time to exercise. At Pack Health, our Health Advisors are experts at helping participants overcome barriers and make plans for success. We seek to understand each person’s daily challenges, and then deliver tools to help overcome those challenges, such as easy meal preparation ideas, short at-home exercise routines, reminders for medication adherence, and time-management strategies.
With new shelter-in-place recommendations and retail limitations, employees with chronic conditions may have a more difficult time than most getting out and shopping for groceries, medications, and household items they need. The stress of additional health concerns can impact work productivity and, in turn, overall health. Employees may struggle to deliver work if they are worried about having the supplies they need to maintain their health.
What can employers do? Remind employees about mail-order pharmacy options you may have available, as well as supplementary offerings like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Pack Health. We are here to assist participants with grocery delivery or pick-up options, meal kit subscriptions, as well as pharmacy delivery. We can also connect participants with local resources in their area. For example, if there is a need for a food bank, medical equipment, or a listing of area COVID-19 testing sites, we can guide employees in the right direction.
At Pack Health, we know and understand the difficult strain that COVID-19 has brought to all companies. We are here to help in whatever capacity we can through our programs. To learn more about how Pack Health is working to support teams, employees, and organizations across the country at this time, click here.
Mary Beth Basu, CHC, RDN, LDN