` Elle Hopkins, director – total rewards at Medallia on adapting their physical wellbeing strategy | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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11 May 2020
by Dawn Lewis

Elle Hopkins, director – total rewards at Medallia on adapting their physical wellbeing strategy

Physical wellbeing is perhaps the most straight-forward pillar of employee wellbeing to implement. Yet, during a lockdown, office running clubs and discounted gym memberships have little effect, while health cash plans and other medical insurances can also be hard to utilise.




Elle Hopkins, director – total rewards at Medallia, a Silicon Valley based technology company providing employee experience and customer experience solutions, explains how they have been adapting their physical wellbeing strategy to ensure employees continue to stay active.

All levels, all abilities

One of their big successes has been the introduction of a virtual Yoga class that is held on Zoom. The 45 minute sessions run four times a week (twice in EMEA and twice in APAC).

“We use one of our established wellbeing and fitness partners who, when lockdown happened, were able to set up some online classes up for people to use,” explains Hopkins. “However, we also wanted to run something for our teams as a group activity and so asked them to reach out to a Yoga instructor to run a couple of initial sessions for us. It has grown from there and has been really popular with our international employees.”

The benefit of doing live sessions is that the instructor can watch participants and teach them about positioning and posture.

There were also other reasons for introducing Yoga, in particular, its accessibility.

“The reason Yoga works is because it’s an all level, all ability thing to do. Some people might not be able to keep up with a HIIT class but they can keep up with Yoga,” says Hopkins. “We also have people who have been in lockdown in Spain and Italy who literally haven’t been able to go out to exercise, so for them these classes have been really well received.

“It has proved really popular and it is definitely something we would consider continuing post-lockdown.”

Prior to coronavirus these virtual classes did not exist. As part of its UK employee benefits, Medallia already offered access to a provider that offered a range of classes and activities for people to choose from at different venues. So running a regular group class for employees, either onsite or virtually, is entirely new for the organisation in the region.

Tapping into internal skills

Beyond offering virtual Yoga classes, employees have been taking things into their own hands when it comes to implementing physical wellbeing activities for their colleagues.

The company utilised its internal communication channels to encourage employees to sign up to share their own skills with their co-workers. So far they’ve had people from across the global organisation hosting core workout classes, stretch sessions, HIIT classes, lacrosse coaching, running training and virtual running together, to name but a few. In the EMEA region there have also been cook along sessions, with great success.

“This initiative has been completely owned and organised by Medallians – they are the real heart of our organisational culture and engagement – rather than HR pushing it and driving these initiatives, it is our employees.

“We are a feedback driven company, and do very much have a culture of people putting forward ideas and asking if people want to join in with them,” says Hopkins.

Spreading the word

Of course, key to any of these activities is to communicate with employees and encourage them to take part and be physically active. Hopkins explains that that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to do one of the classes, but they should aim to get outside or take physical breaks every day.

“We have our communications channel [Slack] where colleagues encourage each other to exercise and to get out and walk. When we started in UK lockdown there were a lot of people who were nervous about being stuck at home – many of our people are young, single and live in shared houses or in small homes alone, and so it’s really important for them to have that support and encouragement to go outside or seek connection with colleagues as much as they can.

“We also encouraged people to use their commute time differently – so if they normally leave at 8am then they could still leave home at 8am and go for a walk, exercise or listen to a podcast within that time, and then go back home to effectively arrive at work, mimicking the start of the working day,” explains Hopkins.

Physical wellbeing equals mental wellbeing

Like at many companies, the mental wellbeing of employees stuck at home has been a key priority, and the team at Medallia regularly talk to employees about how mental wellness is linked to physical wellness, and that ability to get outside or keep your body moving.

She explains that one of the downsides to working from home can be difficultly switching off at the end of the day, especially if someone doesn’t have a dedicated workspace and works in their usual living or sleeping area. And so reminding employees of the importance of downtime is also key.

“There’s a really clear connection between physical and mental wellbeing. You almost feel like we don’t need to say it, but we do anyway. We’ve also been reaching out to employees directly to offer extra support by just giving them a phone call and reminding them of the support tools in place,” adds Hopkins.

Prior to coronavirus, Hopkins says that their physical wellbeing strategy in the UK was fairly standard and included the usual benefits such as discounted gym membership through their medical scheme, which tend to be quite individual activities. Yet now, the company has seen people collectively pull together as one to exercise together, to encourage each other to get outside, to offer their skills to colleagues, or simply to take part in themed Friday morning breakfast meetings.

“That’s one of the great things – we never doubted that they would – but we’ve really seen our people come together to support one another,” concludes Hopkins.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.

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