6 employee wellbeing initiatives to support your distributed teams

With the dawn of the ‘Great Resignation’, where record numbers of people are leaving their jobs (over 4M in the US), employee wellbeing initiatives for distributed teams couldn’t be anymore critical than now. And with most of our waking hours spent at work, it’s important to have an environment where we feel happy, supported, and satisfied. 

Plus, let’s face it, the ripple effects of the pandemic have posed a real challenge for HR and L&D professionals in managing workplace wellbeing in a tangible way. 


On one hand, remote and hybrid working has created a physical disconnect between staff, which impacts the potential for team connections and relationships. 


Then, on the other hand, employees also have new expectations about what normal at work should look like when working remotely.


With that being said, putting measures in place for employee wellbeing in a remote, hybrid or 100% office-based environment is achievable, especially when people teams really delve deeper into the full meaning of employee wellbeing.

What is employee wellbeing?

When we talk about employee wellbeing we’re referring to an employee’s overall experience and satisfaction at the workplace. This involves their experience with their workload, colleagues, their work environment, finances, and more. To sum up, employee wellbeing refers to physical, social, financial, and mental wellbeing at work.


Traditionally, workplace wellbeing measures have focused on perks, freebies, and initiatives to encourage physical health like bike-to-work schemes. These are valid activities, but with covid- adapted work settings having an adverse impact on stress and burnout levels, wellbeing initiatives that focus on mental health will go a long way in supporting distributed teams.


1. Look after your wellbeing first

Before we get into the round-up of tips, it’s also important for people professionals to look after themselves first, and take advantage of resources available to support their own mental, physical, and social wellbeing at work, before embarking on that of their organisation. You can compare this to the good old best practice of ‘fastening your own oxygen mask before fastening that of others’.


Employees should also be ready to assess their situations and speak up about what could be improved. Making sure there’s a clear and safe space to do this is down to our next initiative...


2. Prioritise a healthy company culture with gratitude

Reviewing company culture and how teams are praised, recognised, and rewarded for their efforts goes a long way in boosting morale and productivity. Studies show that practising gratitude improves happiness and in turn productivity.   What this is practice looks like is giving a shout-out to unsung heroes through email announcements or corporate social media channels (i.e. slack).


At Busuu, we pride ourselves on celebrating individuals who demonstrate our corporate values of trust, effectiveness, ambition, curiosity, and happiness. We religiously share weekly value shoutouts to colleagues that embody those values which really encourages a culture of gratitude.


It goes without saying that consciously showing gratitude to the efforts of team members also supports employee wellbeing. When these values are clearly communicated and demonstrated in company meetings, online check-ins, intentional thank you notes, internal comms, and more, staff wellbeing is supported. 


Gratitude is also one of the simplest ways to support the mental wellbeing of distributed teams.


 3. Demonstrate intentional support for mental health

Another initiative to improve employee wellbeing for distributed teams is to focus on their mental wellbeing. HR professionals need to integrate mental health solutions if they don’t have them already, and if they do, it’s important to clearly communicate and share what’s in place regularly. 


Free counseling support, mindfulness coaching or apps that support mental health can really help here. Organisations can even go as far as promoting wellness action plans with their teams. These are free and practical ways of supporting hybrid teams to consciously reflect and note down what is impacting their mental wellbeing, then take necessary steps to resolve the issue.


4. Tackle burnout

When looking at the results of a recent Gallup report, 76% of employees experience burnout, and without a doubt, this negatively affects mental and physical workplace wellbeing. 

Stress and burnout are not trivial issues, when constant they directly correlate to health problems like anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, and depression. With better-managed stress through an encouraged work-life balance, better relationships with colleagues, and clearer communication about responsibilities and expectations, burnout can be tackled. 

With these strategies in place, absenteeism can also be minimised and employee wellbeing is maintained.


5. Connect your teams & encourage workplace friendships 

To continue on the subject of burnout, one of the key ways to tackle it is by encouraging connected teams and workplace friendships. Studies show that connection and support from others is a cure for burnout. Aside from that, through workplace socials like office get-togethers, coffee-chats,  team lunches, team-building days and more, employees can get a boost of the oxytocin needed to feel happy, energised, and in turn more productive at work. 


When looking into ways to connect distributed teams, HR departments can also implement tools that shuffle team members for virtual or in-person chats. This encourages opportunities for employees to take breaks and connect with each other. And it directly correlates to productivity, as 'watercooler' moments like this also help relay key info that might have got lost in translation during the move to remote working. 


6. Offer a variety of benefits that suit different interests

HR and L&D professionals can also offer a variety of benefits and perks, which can support the wellbeing of their people in a holistic way. Solutions like Perkbox are a great aggregator of these benefits, with offers right from subsidised grocery shopping to discounts on entertainment and free access to fitness apps. 


Companies can also look at the different life stages of their employees and introduce flexible work options that support team members with children, or look at perks that promote a strong work-life balance. Days off on birthdays or company days off really help here, at Busuu we introduced one following our annual summer party. 


Other benefits include investment into your teams’ learning, development, and career advancement (with a focus on e-learning solutions for distributed and hybrid teams). Online resources and platforms like our language-learning solution is a great way for remote and globally distributed teams to connect with each other, by learning a language to better communicate with each other.


To summarise

Workplace wellbeing is determined by a variety of factors including external macro events that are out of an employer’s control – of course, we’re alluding to the pandemic here. However, by starting with these initiatives which tackle mental, social, and financial wellbeing at work, HR professionals can feel empowered to do what’s within their control to improve the employee wellbeing of their teams.


To learn how you can use language learning to support a strong culture of wellbeing at your workplace contact us.


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