Climbing the Other Curve: Tools for flourishing under lockdown

Lockdowns can be brutal—especially on workplace health.

We’re in it together—flattening curve after curve of COVID-19 outbreaks. But we’re doing it alone—millions of us working from home, under enormous strain.

It’s a perfect storm of isolation, being sedentary, and screen reliance—and we’re not faring as well as we could be.

Struggling with motivation. Struggling to focus. Struggling to connect with our work’s purpose—and our workmates. 

It speaks to a major new risk faced by organisations—of getting stuck behind the curve on workplace health—at great risk to culture and viability.

And there’s a name for it—‘languishing’.

The idea of languishing is based on decades-old research—recently revived and popularised in major publications.

We see it happening in workplaces everywhere—but especially during repeated and extended lockdowns.

It’s sparked a powerful idea in workplace health—a spectrum of wellness that runs from languishing in poor health and wellbeing, to flourishing in purpose and productivity.

It’s a new curve—and at Vitality Works, we’re driven to help your workers climb it. We know that small investments do more than prevent large  losses from languishing—they drive huge returns in a flourishing workforce.

We’ve learnt this before and during lockdowns—for distributed as well as remote workforces. We’ve collaborated end-to-end with clients across Australia and New Zealand on tailored programs.

We deliver what’s possible in remote flourishing—supporting people across three crucial problem areas—collaborating on what’s next in workplace health, safety and wellbeing.

Pressure down—stress and anxiety.

Work stress can be enabling or disenabling. The stress of new work, of challenging work, or simply more work is familiar to us all. But extended lockdowns and remote work have introduced a different kind of stress—the stress of things missing.

There’s not enough connection.

Dr Sarah Curtis—Head of Client Partnerships at Vitality Works—has found the experience of clients reflects the predictions of research.

“Conversations around the watercooler are about so much more than gossip or the latest news”, she says.

Sarah says that the moments between formal work meetings—which are unplanned in normal, physical offices, act like a social ‘pressure valve’ that helps a work culture regulate itself—and with it, regulate its members.

“Working alone from home has introduced a new stress, and new anxiety. Together these form a major problem to worker wellbeing, limiting empathy and generosity”, she says. 

Put stress and anxiety on a long enough timeline, and companies face serious workplace culture problems.

“High staff turnover, increased presenteeism—people not engaged at the the level their organisation needs to thrive”, says Sarah. 

That’s why Vitality Works has pioneered remotely delivered programs to reduce stress and build connection—in structured, accountable ways.

Jan Beacham delivers tailored Vitality Works programs—including stress-reducing programs like Mindfulness, connection-creating programs like Virtual Cooking Class—and integrated programs like Good Day Project. Jan sees first-hand the way tailored programs help people climb the curve from languishing to flourishing.

“We evaluate every program—and I’m always touched by the feedback”, says Jan. “Participants report higher energy levels and a huge reduction in stress—I love that we’re making that difference”.

Culture boost—morale and teams.

We’ve all experienced ‘Zoom doom’—hours of meetings focused on screens can slowly erode any feeling of connection. The more time you spend on screens, the more morale and connection slips away.

It’s a dangerous part of languishing during lockdown—and it’s eroding our morale and sense of belonging.

“Screen-based communication leaves behind a huge wealth of subtle information—which is usually what helps us connect”, says Dr Sarah Curtis.

“Subtle emotional cues are not taken up”, explains Sarah, “because the neurodynamics of screen-based connections are just so much less powerful”.

With relational dynamics flattened, positional dynamics come to the fore—and threaten the subtle, ‘sticky’ parts of workplace cultures that enable management functions.

“You start to see diminished culture”, says Dr Curtis, “it can snowball to affect onboarding and productivity—it just all adds up”.

Fixing a workplace culture can be like turning a ship—it can take time and resources that are hard to find. That’s why Vitality Works collaborates with clients on remotely delivered programs that make people feel connected—and prevent presenteeism and morale problems before they take the ship off course. 

It’s a part of her role Jan Beacham enjoys.

“We work closely with clients, interview key team members—then we develop sessions to meet the exact needs. There’s a factor of care there—we’ll make it work because every culture’s different”, she says.

One program that stands out to Jan is the mini-masterchef Cooking Classes developed for one team.

“We listened to what they needed—then we actually hired Callum Hann, the Masterchef winner, to deliver a cooking course with a nutritionist”, says Jan.

“Our Bollywood Dance classes have also been a hit”, Jan says, “when you hear comments like ‘can we please do this daily!’ or ‘absolutely hilarious class!’, you know that people are connecting and feeling part of something”.  

Feeling fitter—movement and exercise.

Physical health is also a major concern.

Over the last two decades, ergonomic thinking and principles have rippled through workplace furniture, layout and design—all based on full visibility over work habits and equipment.

But your workers at home are in a complete blindspot—and sitting at home can be outright dangerous for your staff.

Walking between desks, walking to meetings, walking to the lunch room, the board room or the local cafe—it’s all gone. Add in home office equipment that’s cobbled together—and you’re facing serious risk. 

Dr Sarah Curtis sees the risk with clear eyes. “‘Sitting is the new smoking’ was a truism before the lockdowns began” she says. “18 months in, working from small rooms repurposed as home offices—we see more people sitting for longer periods than ever before”.

The organisational problems that flow from injured workers can of course cost millions—directly and indirectly. Workcover claims are a major organisational burden—not to mention lost productivity and damage to morale and work culture.  

The answer? It’s largely exercise—and remote programs that inspire it.

“We offer virtual ergonomic assessments” says Jan Beacham, “but that’s really just the start”.

Vitality Works programs harness every possible motivation for exercise—including team gamification, individual drive, and adapting exercise to suit lifestyle preference.

“We use walking groups, a health coaching program—as well as integrated programs like 10,000 Steps and our Fit24 Challenge”, says Jan.

Programs were quickly adapted to remote delivery, as were virtual 1:1 health coaching offerings and virtual exercise classes.

“I can’t pick a favourite”, says Jan. “We have physios, nutritionists, sports scientists—we have exercise physiologists and mindfulness instructors—they all help people get up and active—and the feedback is incredibly positive”.  

Flourishing fast—remote programs ready.

Strategic, tailored programs for distributed workforces are emerging best practice in workplace health—and climbing the curve from languishing to flourishing under lockdown and remote work has moved from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’. 

Vitality Works has built programs on its experience that safe people make strong organisations—and that healthy people make thriving cultures.

We’ve pioneered programs that move people from languishing to flourishing—in mental health as well as physical safety.

Under lockdown, we’ve made remote delivery a platform that takes people from languishing to flourishing—and keeps workplace culture alive.

For Jan Beacham, digital participation and remote delivery is about pioneering what’s next in workplace health.

“Take our laughter therapy sessions,” says Jan. “We’re seeing people let loose into something  probably too whacky for the old office—but people are braver at home, and the laughter’s infectious—and we’re hearing people keen to take that practice back into the post-lockdown office”.

With lockdowns extending and recurring, it’s an image we can all hold on to—and one every company can access remotely. 

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Contact Dr Sarah Curtis on 0405 124 998 or sarah.curtis@vitalityworks.com.au to book a free discovery session to find out what’s next in programs tailored to your workplace needs.
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