How to not go crazy when you WFH — from a health expert

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Keeping cool, calm, and collected in our careers, personal lives, and financials have been quite the challenge this year. Attempting to balance your career with the stress-inducing demands of childcare, health scares, and an uncertain job market is enough to make anyone snap.

Lucky for you I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Erika Zauner. She is the CEO and founder of HealthKick; a comprehensive site that provides members access to affordable online platforms and holistic approaches to career-focused wellness programs that aid everyone struggling with the unique roadblocks COVID-19 has put up in its wake.

Corporate wellness programs need to work for everyone’s unique needs and this is what encouraged Erika to start this business in the first place.

“After I attended business school, I worked at a much larger company with a formal wellness program, but we struggled with participation. I was part of the employee committee leading the program and it became clear to me that our corporate program, which offered a discount to Weight Watchers, on-site fitness classes, and an annual health fair, was disconnected from the health and fitness brands that my peers and I were actively engaging within our personal lives.”

I implored further into which programs she found were more popular amongst her teammates.

“Brands like Barry’s Bootcamp, Crossfit, Blue Apron and Calm resonated more and conveniently fit into our already busy lifestyles, meeting our unique interests and wellbeing needs. Friends at other companies shared the same frustrations with their companies’ wellness programs, and that is how HealthKick was born. I realized that in order to provide the best-in-class consumer experience for corporate programs it’s important and more effective to offer employees resources they want and need to make healthy living convenient, accessible and fun.”

HealthKick focuses on five pillars of wellness. I asked Erika to go into more detail on what it means to sweat, nourish, thrive, wear, and groom and how engaging with these pillars specifically will help keep you balanced during a tumultuous year. Stop merely surviving and start thriving with these useful career bolstering tools today! Corporate wellness expert Erika Zauner goes into detail with her unique wellness plan that’s helped countless full-time workers deal with work from home related burnout this year.

“Corporate wellness programs provide many different resources and activities that support employees mentally, physically, and financially with five core wellness pillars. These include Sweat, Nourish, Thrive, Wear, and Groom.”

During this pandemic, Erika and her colleagues at HealthKick have emphasized the importance of focusing on the nourish, thrive, and sweat pillars. She explains why, “In the past, corporate wellness often focused primarily on physical fitness, but as times have changed, these programs have evolved too. The additional stressors of a WFH environment for many employees have brought to the forefront the need to also support employees’ mental and emotional health and take a more holistic approach to wellbeing. At HealthKick, we have seen an increase in requests from HR leaders for resources around supporting mental wellbeing and providing wellness options that are accessible from home. When it comes to remote working and being on Zoom calls all day, every day, we have really geared our focus on the Nourish, Thrive and Sweat pillar.”

Let’s get into the 5 pronged pillars of wellness, shall we?

1. Sweat

“With people having long workdays, in addition to juggling childcare, homeschooling, and the health and safety of their families, many do not have the time to exercise as frequently as they would like. Working out allows people to clear their heads and release any negative and stressful energy they may have. With the Sweat pillar, HealthKick caters to the employee and individual interests and wellness goals by providing workouts that fit within their lifestyle and schedule throughout the day. These include Livestream fitness classes, like Peloton and Aaptiv, 250+ studio and gym offerings, and more.”

Erika adds, “Prior to the pandemic, social interactions were constant throughout the day- from picking up lunch with co-workers to meeting up with friends after work. During WFH, it’s essential to find new social outlets in your day, and Livestream workouts are a great way to interact with others and get your endorphins flowing. The best workout is the one that your body needs that day – it might be an invigorating HIIT class with Fhitting Room Live or Barry’s At Home or a gentle yoga class with Alo Moves. Tuning into your body is key to feeding it the emotional nourishment it needs. You don’t need to exercise for an hour each day but take advantage of the 10, 15 or 20-minutes you have to get your heart rate up, or even just take a walk and get fresh air. While we used to leave our desks to pick up lunch or get an afternoon coffee with a colleague, we need to build that time into our day now in a purposeful way.”

A bonus is that the sweat pillar goes hand in hand with the thrive pillar.

Getting outside in nature is also one of the best ways to stay active while also boosting your mental state. Eat lunch outside while the weather remains nice or enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up while getting your head out of your laptop for a few minutes and enjoy the cool weather. It is also important to make sure you are moving every day. If you can’t get outdoors during the week, make sure you spend part of your weekend in nature. A walk, hike or a bike ride, are all great ways to experience nature in a socially distanced way.”

2. Nourish

The right diet goes a long way in how we feel mentally and physically throughout the day. During times of crisis it is especially important we nourish ourselves with brain-boosting foods, whether it be to help us focus or improve our mood.

“Working from home, people are logging more hours than ever before. It is important for employees to constantly refuel their bodies with nutritious snacks and meals that not only provide the brain food to keep them going but to make healthy eating doable and enjoyable. HealthKick provides a variety of meal kits such as Thrive Market, Daily Harvest and more, among multiple grocery delivery services, that make this possible for employees and their families.”

3. Thrive

It is vital we put a primary focus on our mental wellbeing this year. Here are the reasons why and resources you should look into if you’ve had difficulty coping lately.

“Work from home has especially taken a major toll on people’s mental health. It is having the opposite effect of work-life balance for many, and instead causing employees to be more stressed, feel increased anxiety, and experience severe burnout. HealthKick is constantly supporting mental wellbeing through the Thrive pillar with offerings from mindfulness/mental health apps, such as Inscape, Calm and Talkspace. With all of this screen time and the “never-ending workday,” individuals are noticing that they need to prioritize taking time for themselves, whether that be staying active, focusing on nutrition, getting enough sleep, or establishing a mindfulness practice to help relieve stress and build a more positive and focused mental state. HealthKick has been able to provide employees and individuals with resources to help establish routines that work with their lifestyles and support their unique needs.”

4. Groom

If you’ve ever had a bad day completely transformed by getting a blowout or giving yourself a manicure then you’ve participated in HealthKick’s “groom” pillar of wellness. When we feel especially stretched thin self-care is the act of being kind to ourselves and the body that has kept us alive and relatively sane this pandemic. Get a massage from your partner, order that bath bomb, give yourself a facial! These small acts of kindness towards yourself can boost your mood. Consider it a thank you card sent by you for you.

Erika told me about her own self-care routine that works best for her distinctive needs when she’s feeling overwhelmed.

“When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit the U.S., we immediately evolved our business to meet the new needs of our clients and members with robust virtual offerings and programming with the launch of HK@Home. Needless to say, we were working around the clock and I found myself waking up already stressed before a long day of Zoom meetings even started. I knew I needed to make a shift. That’s when I made a change to my morning routine to help set my intentions for the day. Now, every morning, I focus on four things I am grateful for before I get out of bed. I started practicing Tony Robbins’ “priming” technique – a daily exercise based on techniques found in yoga and mindfulness meditation. You can’t experience gratitude and fear or anxiety at the same time. So, when you focus on what you’re grateful for you can live in a more joyful state even during these stressful and uncertain times. This daily gratitude practice takes less than 2 minutes and helps shift my energy throughout the whole day. Once you anchor on an emotional state of gratitude, you can always come back to it throughout the day when stressful events inevitably arise.”

5. Wear

Unsure of the equipment and workout clothes you need to break a sweat comfortably at home? HealthKick has a section on their site to set you up with all the right gear in lieu of having a live trainer or in-person gym equipment. Experts are there to guide you to fit you in the best accessories to be your healthiest self when you emerge from the shelter in place once winter is over! Having the right shoes and equipment to fit your exercise limitations can prevent injuries.

What are some programs catered to working parents teaching remote?

“Everyone’s schedules and routines have been turned upside down this year, but especially parents who are working full time and making sure their kids are set with remote learning or the hybrid model many schools are enacting. HealthKick has many partners that cater to a kid’s interests and keeps them active and engaged while parents are working. For instance, JetSweat has a variety of streaming fitness classes that have a section just for kids, helping to get their heart rates up and actively moving.

Homer is also a very popular learning program for ages 2-8 that is personalized to your child’s interests and stimulates the brain. It’s important for parents to not just place their kids in front of a TV or computer all day and instead allow them to work on their motor and thinking skills that can help them in the future. We also provide childcare services such as HelloSitter and Bambino Sitter, along with parenting resources, such as a New Day Pediatric Psychology and Joanna Lowei’s parenting coaching. Parents’ stress levels are higher than ever as a result of juggling multiple responsibilities without the extra care from schools, sitters, etc., that they used to have. HealthKick provides the resources to help eliminate this stress and provide fun activities kids want to participate in that are also good for their health.”

Most of the population is adjusting to career changes like adjusting to a home office or loss of work. Any advice to those folks struggling at home?

“Many of us have set up shop on our beds, kitchen counters and coffee tables. If you can avoid it, set barriers between your living space and your workspace, even if this means working on your couch instead of on your bed. Having a physical change from where we work and where we relax is important to mentally disconnect after the workday. We might be working and living at home, but one of the easiest ways to re-energize your workspace is to change it up. Swap the kitchen table for the coffee table or take your laptop outdoors while you can. Changing something as simple as our setting triggers our sensory system.

When every day feels the same as the next and our routine can get a bit monotonous right now, even these small changes can give us revitalized energy. If you can’t change locations, make it your own. Spruce up your workspace with a plant or flowers, a new lamp so you can actually see, or photos of friends and family, just as you would at your real office – make space your own.”

For those parents suffering from the loss of income or sacrificing their career to focus on their children’s education this year Erika offers some solutions for money management and recovery.

“Since the pandemic started, employees have had new and significant stressors added to their lives – fear for their health and safety, balancing parenting and homeschooling with work, and potential financial strains. COVID-19 has pushed many companies to lay off staff and displace workers; many two-income households have now become single-earner homes, putting more of a strain on those who are not working and causing them to rethink how they are spending discretionary income (if they still have it). This has changed how people are spending their money and balancing savings with new circumstances that people may not have been accustomed to earlier. By providing financial wellness support to employees, companies’ corporate wellness programs can add major value.

For example, HealthKick works with budgeting apps Mint and Pocketguard, which many of our clients’ employees have been leveraging throughout the pandemic. This helps them figure out how they can afford some of the benefits they were previously provided on their own and learn to navigate new financial situations. Many companies are also sponsoring workshops on how to manage finances in turbulent times, and providing stipends to employees to use toward purchases like groceries, meals, childcare, and office equipment, to provide financial support to employees.”

I hope this can serve as a useful guide for surviving the next lockdown! This site has helped countless members of the workforce promote balance, synchronicity, and enrichment in every aspect of their lives, check out how the five pillars of wellness have transformed the following client’s existence in these glowing testimonials.