Company Culture

RfH Insights: Great Ways to Support Employees (and Yourself) Amid COVID-19

March 26, 2020
November 7, 2023
Andy Przystanski
Lattice Team

RfH Insights features actionable advice curated from Resources for Humans, Lattice’s online Slack community of 8,000+ HR and recruiting professionals. Interested in joining the conversation? Register here.

We could all use a pick me up. Remote work and social distancing can make us feel anxious, lonely, and just not feeling ourselves. Some employees are on double duty, balancing day jobs while watching the kids at home. HR teams, responsible for managing the transition to remote work, are especially susceptible to the pressure.

Resources for Humans is a Slack community of over 8,000 HR leaders. Since the pandemic began, members have shared advice on how to support employees’ mental and physical health during the outbreak. Here are some of the key themes.

Meditation Programs

There’s never been a better time to find your workplace zen. Prior to the outbreak, at least a third of companies had a meditation or mindfulness program in place. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a safe bet that interest has spiked.

Community members pointed to meditation as a way to stave off stress. Ashley Blackmon-Hynson, a People Operations Generalist at Plenty, leads her team through weekly “zen in ten” sessions. Others launched Slack channels dedicated exclusively to mindfulness, where employees could share tips and articles on the subject. One talent acquisition leader even offered her services as a part-time mindfulness instructor to the rest of the community.

Giving employees access to meditation apps was another option. “As we collectively navigate feelings of fear, anxiety, and isolation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we’d like to do what we can to help,” said Olivia Johnson, Employee Success Manager at Elevate Labs. Her company developed Balance, a personalized meditation app. In light of COVID-19, Johnson’s company is now offering free, year-long subscriptions to the service.

Physical Wellness

Promoting wellness at a time when gyms are closed doesn’t have to be a stretch. Teams were accommodating employees with virtual alternatives, including online fitness classes and competitive challenges. At least one company launched a company-wide steps and stairs challenge, using Fitbit to administer it. Others encouraged employees to take advantage of the Peloton app’s 90-day free trial.

Yoga classes through online platforms like ClassPass were also popular. One company even made yoga a part of its everyday culture. “Our employees are hosting little yoga or stretch breaks on Zoom,” said Shannon Ferguson, Head of People at Blueboard.

Whatever the activity, HR professionals just wanted to help their teams stay on the move. That meant daily challenges, Zoom group workouts, and even a little physical activity before meetings to get the endorphins flowing. “We're doing a bunch of stuff. This morning during our all-hands we had everyone do 25 star jumps,” said James Driver, Director of Talent Management at Freespee.

Social Events and Activities

With the shift to full-remote, teams were looking for ways to connect and socialize. HR professionals were organizing costume contests, social events, and online games to keep spirits high. The community was full of creative ideas. One HR professional had even organized a remote work spinoff of MTV Cribs, where employees gave walking tours of their homes.

Most activities take minimal effort to implement while still providing fun and value. “We’re doing a question of the day in Slack, which is just a lighthearted prompt that helps people connect and share fun facts about themselves,” said Ferguson. Some of her team’s other remote activities sprouted naturally. “One employee gave us a tour of her houseplants — she has hundreds — and provided tips on how to raise them,” she said.

Sometimes it’s the simple things. Most community members organized virtual lunches or happy hours to raise spirits. Ferguson was actually in the middle of preparing for one of those happy hours. “Four Zoom rooms, each with a different theme, that people can pop into and chat,” she said. We’ll toast to that.

Keeping Kids Busy

Staying productive while remote is hard enough. School closures have made it even harder by forcing employees to juggle work and keeping kids also stuck at home busy.

Dawn Sprague, VP of People at Tempo Automation, shared a wealth of resources for parents, including learning platforms like Outschool, ProdigyGame, and KhanAcademy. For kids looking for fun activities in between, she recommended Playworks, a nonprofit that works with schools to craft games and activities for recess. The company published a free list of at-home games, each with videos explaining how to play them. Kids might not be the only ones to appreciate the service.

“While this is geared toward kids, who says it has to only be kids? Playing is definitely a great way to take care of ourselves. For those that have kids as you’re working from home, it might help with them as well,” she said. Some also recommended puzzles, board games, and even movie marathons to keep kids’ boredom at bay. Lucie Zajíčková, People Operations Generalist at Productboard, shared a list of nearly 100 activities.

Others recommended coloring books. Alec Melger, US Operations Specialist at Design Pickle, even shared a preview of a coloring book his team was working for employees’ kids. Given coloring’s therapeutic effects, adults might want to print a few pages for themselves. 

Remembering Self-Care

HR professionals have worked hard keeping employees in a good place. But they aren’t immune to the same pressures. More than ever, a little self-care goes a long way.

“As we learn new ways to collaborate to achieve business goals while juggling our personal lives, it’s important to prioritize our own mental health in order to respond effectively to each new challenge,” said Lisa Lee, an HR leader at a Canadian tech company.

Elianne Wijler Klinefelter, HR Director at Soft Stuff Distributors, described the pandemic’s first weeks as a “bad dream” she couldn’t wake up from. She’s breaking the spell, finding solace in family, meditation, and routine. “My husband and I are both working from home. We take some time in the morning and afternoon to go for a walk around the block,” she said.

“Almost forgot, Animal Crossing comes out on the Switch tomorrow, and I expect that to help with self-care too,” Klinefelter said.

In between meetings, many took comfort in a different breed of company. “My puppy has become a great therapy dog since I’ve been home. He comes over any time I show signs of stress. Even a huff is enough to cue him,” said Andrea Battaglia, an HR Manager in New York. Pet ownership might be social distancing’s biggest game changer, as many in the community shared photos of their four-legged officemates.

“HR people, especially, are having a tough time right now...It's so heartwarming to see everyone come together, sharing resources and offering support wherever they can,” Klinefelter said. HR teams have never faced a test quite like this, but they’re in it together.

What’s your team doing to promote employee health and wellness during COVID-19? Share your experiences and see what others are saying by joining the Resources for Humans Slack community.