Best tools to support your remote workforce

The remote workplace comes with a lot of benefits — including increased productivity and better focus. But it’s also causing challenges to both employees’ mental and physical well-being.

Disruptions from the coronavirus have infiltrated the daily lives of employees. Everything from proper nutrition to child care and financial concerns are major focus points to many.

Many companies are now stepping up their efforts to adapt their benefit offerings to support employees who work from home. Employers are considering options like work-from-home office policies and stipends, ergonomic workplaces at home or mental health and telemedicine checks.

From virtual fitness memberships and snack boxes to tech tools and online wellness resources, here are some of the best tools employers can provide to support their remote workforce.

Free food at home
While almost everyone is working from home, many employees have lost a popular office perk – free food. That’s why Stadium, a New York City-based group lunch delivery company, introduced a new service in early June where employers can have snacks delivered nationwide to any home office. The service, called SnackMagic, lets employees choose individual snacks and beverages that they like within a gift budget set by the employer.

The coronavirus has also exacerbated the challenge of accessing healthy food and proper nutrition for many across the United States. To address those concerns, meal subscription company Freshly created a new service called Freshly for Business to provide healthy and affordable meals for employees working remotely. The program allows employers to offer free or subsidized meal plans consisting of up to 12 meals per week. Employers including PwC and KPMG, among others, are partnering with Freshly, which costs an average of $8 per meal per employee.
Mindfulness and stress management
To help employees cope during the pandemic and national protests, companies are seeking out mindfulness tools to support their struggling workforces.

As a result of these circumstances, Unplug Meditation, a Los Angeles-based drop-in meditation studio and app, is seeing a surge in corporate programs, and has partnered with companies including Disney, Mattel and Google. The app offers everything from virtual meditation and sound bath sessions, to team building, stress management and customized wellness programs.

Chill Anywhere, a mindfulness and meditation app, is built specifically for the workforce, and provides live mindfulness video practices. It can be offered as an employee benefit or part of an organization's Employee Assistance Program. App users can track their mood before and after each session to see how their mindfulness practice impacts their day-to-day lives.
Financial wellness
As the pandemic sends shockwaves through the U.S. labor market with layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs, employers are making efforts to support the financial security and resiliency of their employees.

SmartPath, a financial counseling platform, launched a free online resource called the Money Moves Quiz to help employees build confidence and a secure financial plan by answering 15 questions about their current situation. The questions cover topics such as levels of emergency savings, home ownership or employment status. Based on the answers, SmartPath will provide a clear financial plan tailored to the employee’s needs.

In March, Alegeus, a consumer-directed healthcare solutions company, introduced a new offering called the Employee Care Card, a debit card that enables employers to offer targeted financial support for employees to address their most immediate needs during the pandemic. Employers determine the amount they wish to contribute per employee, as well as the type of eligible expenses they want to allow — from groceries and home office supplies to educational supplies. Unlike cash or gift cards, employers control how the dollars can be spent, preserve unspent dollars and gain real-time insight into employee spending trends.
Support for working parents
With forced school and camp closures this summer, many working parents are struggling to balance caring for their children while working.

As head of an HR tech company and mother of two, Rachel Lyubovitzky, CEO of EverythingBenefits, felt the effects of this firsthand. That’s why she decided to offer Outschool.com, an online education platform for children ages 3 to 18, as a benefit to her employees. Outschool offers classes on subjects ranging from life skills, arts and music, to math, coding and science.

Screen Sitters, a virtual child care service connecting sitters with families to entertain children via live 1:1 video, is another service offering overextended working parents some relief. Employers can get flexible packages that integrate into their existing benefits programs. All of the company’s sitters are vetted through a 5-point screening process to ensure safety and a hassle-free transaction for the parents. Children get a personalized experience, as the sitter plans sessions ahead of time based on each child’s personal interests.

This summer, a virtual camp experience is what many facilities and families are choosing to keep their kids safe. Anna Birch, a 23-year summer camp veteran has replaced her usual summer adventure camp programs with an online alternative. The new resource, called The Camp Cloud, provides children ages 6 to 17 with the opportunity to make new friends and engage in guided activities led by institutions like science centers, museums, zoos and aquariums, schools and theaters, without need for significant parental assistance.
Team building
Summer is typically a time when companies plan team outings, parties and activities to give employees an opportunity to bond outside the office. But with COVID-19 taking a toll on group activities, many of those events are now cancelled.

HealthKick, a corporate wellness program, provides a personal well-being hub for companies and their employees to participate from home. From using in-home workout services to taking cooking classes over Skype with meal delivery kits, teams can take advantage of many different activities this summer that they can do together from their new work-from-home offices.
Mental health resources
Employee mental health is a workplace crisis, with many employees experiencing increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic. To address care accessibility issues — including in-person sessions and treatment — imposed by COVID-19, many employers are offering employees access to mental health care online.

Healthstat, a provider of virtual employer-sponsored health centers, is offering a virtual mental health solution, Ment4Me, that helps employers improve access to high quality mental health services for employees who are seeking support for treatable mental health conditions. Ment4Me aims to help reduce the stigma that can often be associated with mental illness. It’s also using artificial intelligence to offer the chatbot “Tess,” a provider of on-demand mental health support.

Mental health benefits provider Happify Health has designed a new program for employees and health plan members to remotely access mental health resources to meet the recent surge in demand. Happify Connect is a part of the organization’s selfcare platform and allows employees to connect with mental health care that is more conducive to the current work-from-home environment. The program directs employees to mental health resources, including self-guided tools within the Happify platform, higher-touch care through integrated partners such as online therapy and a mental health provider directory.

Supportiv, a mental wellness support platform, offers 24/7 chat-based peer support on any emotional well-being topic ranging from depression, anxiety and loneliness to daily life struggles like parenting, relationship conflicts or stress and burnout. Users answer the question "what's your struggle?" for Supportiv to analyze and auto-match them to a small group of peers who relate. Each group has a live moderator to guide the chat, make sure each user's needs are met, and vet the personalized resources that appear as hyperlinks in real-time. It can be deployed as a dedicated web link, integrated into an EAP, or embedded as a chat window that appears on any existing benefits portal.
Physical well-being
With gym closures disrupting wellness benefit offerings as well as employees’ workout routines, employers are now looking to virtual solutions.

Earlier this spring, Virgin Pulse, a global provider of digital wellness and wellbeing solutions, launched a dedicated COVID-19 hub to provide employees with resources — ranging from webinars to blog posts — on fitness and nutrition. It aims to help employees build and maintain healthy routines by reducing stress, staying active, being productive, eating healthy and sleeping well. The hub is a resource app for Virgin Pulse users, but also gives free access to health and wellbeing content, programs and resources.

BurnAlong is an online video health and wellness platform where employees can take classes from a network of hundreds of instructors across 45 categories ranging from cardio and yoga to stress, chronic conditions and diabetes. They can take classes alone, or invite friends and colleagues to join them live online for social motivation. The platform, which is used by companies, hospitals, insurers and brokers, is partnered with on-site and local gyms, studios, instructors and wellness professionals to help people achieve their health and wellness goals.
An ergonomic workplace
With employees using everything from their kitchen table to their couch as their workplace, working from home sometimes brings bad ergonomic habits and solutions.

Bad ergonomic habits, if left unaddressed, could mean higher healthcare costs for the employer, lower productivity and the increased potential for an employee to sustain a medical condition.

To be mindful of employees’ who don't work out of an office too, some employers are reimbursing them for remote office furniture.

Livongo, a digital health services company, is offering its remote workers reimbursement for ergonomic and job essential furniture. With the whole company being remote during the pandemic, the office furniture reimbursement benefit was extended to all employees to help make their home offices more efficient. Even before the pandemic, Livongo had a strong remote workforce with more than 1/3 of its employees working remotely. The company says taking the time to set up a workplace that is safe, comfortable and limited from distractions is important for employees to help manage their time and well-being.