While some states are lifting shelter-in-place restrictions in place due to COVID-19 pandemic, others are more slowly relaxing restrictions. With an indefinitely remote workforce, how can population health professionals continue to provide wellness initiatives that are on-point, engaging, and effective?
One of the best ways to determine a jumping-off point for your wellness program is to administer a quality health risk assessment (HRA) to identify participants who report unhealthy habits, stress, and lack of social support. From there you can evaluate the highest risk areas for your population, assess the results of your previous programs, and put a plan into place to support the mental, physical, and financial health of your population.
Embrace Digital Distribution with Your Remote Workforce
When you’re working with a remote team some things become obvious fairly quickly. For starters, issuing a paper HRA isn’t practical. Mailing them out, waiting until everyone completes them, and getting your population to then mail back the paper copies could take weeks—and the manual nature of paper assessments can lead to lower completion. A digital HRA streamlines the process and removes friction for your population. Additionally, a digital HRA provides your population with the flexibility to complete the assessment anytime, anywhere—and across multiple devices.
Digital HRAs also provide real-time results to participants, weighing the answers a participant provides and intelligently scoring their responses to calculate health risks within seconds. This means your participants receive immediate insights into their health risks, rather than having to wait until everything is mailed, sorted, calculated, and communicated back via manual processes.
A digital product can also be adjusted to provide resources alongside the results so that if someone is informed they’re at risk for developing diabetes, they could be provided with information on the condition at the click of a button.
Providing Health and Wellness Resources and Opening the Lines of Communication While Working Remote
Once your HRA has been administered and the results analyzed, you can begin to track high-level population health concerns within your population. Here are a couple of common health concerns that are particular to a remote workforce:
Sedentary Lifestyle: It’s well known that a sedentary lifestyle leads to a higher risk of certain chronic conditions, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Working from home and restricting time outside of the home can lead to more time spent sitting. Gone are the trips to the corporate cafeteria, a stroll to the printer, or chatting by the watercooler on the way to the conference room. In this example, a program to encourage activity throughout the day would benefit a remote population. Encourage your population to get more active by standing at the kitchen counter while working or taking calls via cellphone while walking the dog.
Conditions Related to Stress, Anxiety, and Overwork: While many people may have been excited about the prospect of eliminating their commute and being home for meals, there’s evidence that working from home could negatively impact on work/life balance. When your work and living space are the same, it can be difficult to set boundaries. Many may find themselves working longer hours as they attempt to balance work, childcare, and household responsibilities. If this is something your population is at risk for, you may encourage setting clear boundaries in their day. Some examples might be settling down at the computer at their normal start time, taking a “real” lunch break, and closing shop at the end of the day. If the HRA data shows that your population is experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, you could promote telehealth counseling services, host daily meditation over video conferencing, and connect employees who are in financial distress with community resources.
It’s also important to note that the communication channels available to population health professionals are also more limited for remote populations. Age-old approaches like workplace posters and flyers about wellness initiatives pinned in common areas are no longer feasible.
Expanding your digital outreach can help offset this missing communication channel. For example, your population might respond well to a monthly internal newsletter that contains company policies, changes with the pandemic situation, and tips and tricks for managing their physical and mental well-being while working from home. Urge management to host virtual meetings that promote comradery and conversation, such as a trivia quiz or an in-home scavenger hunt.
As you reevaluate your population health programs in this new reality of working remote, it can be helpful to keep in mind the reason we as population health professionals do this work—to promote the healthy lifestyle behaviors that improve the physical, social, and emotional health of the individuals we serve.
Interested in learning more about creating a lasting culture of health within your organization? Download our whitepaper to learn the benefits of having a well-developed culture of health.