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How to support remote employees' health and well-being

Health Benefits • November 22, 2023 at 7:41 AM • Written by: Elizabeth Walker

Roughly 41% of U.S. employees1 work remotely for either some or all of their work hours. This non-traditional work arrangement helps employers save money, gives workers more freedom, and even boosts business productivity. But, not being in a physical office location can leave remote employees feeling isolated from their teammates and more prone to burnout.

According to TELUS International2, 45% of remote workers feel less mentally healthy when working from home. The need to feel continuously available online—which impacts four out of five workers, according to TELUS—can create a poor work-life balance and negatively impact employee well-being.

No matter where they live or work, you must support your staff’s health and well-being to maintain a productive, engaged, and satisfied workplace. But, you may have to use different strategies to support your remote workers’ needs effectively.

This blog details seven ways you can support your remote employees' overall well-being so you can build a healthier and stronger workplace.

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1. Offer personalized health benefits

Health insurance remains one of the most important benefits you can offer your employees. Our 2022 Employee Benefits Survey Report found that 89% of remote workers value having a health benefit.

If you want to promote the health and wellness of your employees, offering health insurance is an easy solution. But, if you have remote workers, you’ll need to provide a health benefit that works regardless of where your employees live and can meet their diverse medical needs.

Because a single traditional group health plan often doesn’t work in multiple states, consider offering a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). An HRA is an employer-funded health benefit that allows you to reimburse your employees tax-free for their individual health insurance premiums and qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses.

HRAs are customizable for every employer. You can choose your monthly allowance amount and what medical expenses to allow for reimbursement, and your employees can choose the individual health plan from the Marketplace or a local insurer that works best for them, improving their satisfaction, healthcare outcomes, and morale.

The two types of HRAs ideal for remote workers are the qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA) and the individual coverage HRA (ICHRA). With both benefits, you can reimburse your employees for their individual health insurance premiums, allowing them to choose the best plan for their needs and location.

A QSEHRA is an excellent option for small hybrid or remote teams because it’s specifically for organizations with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). However, it has annual maximum contribution limits set by the IRS.

An ICHRA is available to employers of all sizes but is particularly beneficial for employers with 50 or more FTEs, also known as applicable large employers (ALEs), looking to satisfy the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

An ICHRA works similar to a QSEHRA but with greater customization. For example, employers can offer a unique allowance amount to different employee classes. So, if you have remote employees who live in a more expensive location, you can offer them an allowance to purchase an individual health plan in their geographic area without going over their allowance amount.

Additionally, you can even offer your local employees' group health insurance coverage and your remote employees an ICHRA with the flexibility of employee classes. However, you can’t give the same class of employees the choice between the two benefits.

2. Provide various employee stipends

A stipend is another flexible employee benefit that can meet every employee’s needs. Stipends are fixed allowances provided to employees to help cover various lifestyle expenses. Employers typically add the stipend to an employee’s paycheck or reimburse them for eligible expenses.

You can offer a stipend for practically any expense and provide as much allowance as your budget allows. Stipends are also available to employees nationwide because they typically have fewer compliance regulations than tax-free benefits.

However, the IRS considers most stipends taxable income, so you must report them on an employee's W-2.

There are a few ways you can offer a stipend. The first is as a one-time payment, like a bonus. You can also provide it regularly (i.e., every month, quarter, or year). Or you can reimburse your employees for their approved expenses. This means you’ll only pay for your employees' actual costs instead of paying up front.

Below, we’ll briefly walk you through some unique stipends you can offer your remote employees to improve their health and well-being.

Health stipends

First, let’s talk about health stipends. These stipends can cover your employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses and health insurance premiums. Unlike HRAs, which can only be used to reimburse qualified health purchases that are defined by the IRS, health stipends can work with whatever health plan your employees have, including Medi-share policies, their spouse’s group health plan, supplemental insurance plans, and more.

International workers, 1099 contractors, and remote workers are all eligible to participate in a health stipend, making them a flexible benefit able to cover expenses that HRAs and traditional group health insurance don't always cover, such as mental health benefits and alternative medicine.

However, you can’t require employees to submit receipts or invoices to prove they spent their stipend on any items included in IRS Publication 502. You also can’t ask employees for proof of health insurance coverage.

Wellness stipends

Remote workers typically get less daily physical activity than their in-office counterparts. A recent Upright survey3 found that the average remote worker only takes 16 steps from their bed to their in-home workspace. This lack of physical activity can lead to adverse mental and physical health issues that can be difficult to combat.

Luckily, you can leverage a wellness stipend to support your remote employees' physical and mental health. With a wellness stipend, you can help your employees pay for their wellness expenses. These stipends generally cover activities and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle, like gym memberships, fitness classes, wellness apps, home exercise equipment, mental health counseling, fitness trackers, and more.

An unhealthy workforce is more likely to be absent or unable to focus. Therefore, an employee wellness program or stipend is more crucial than ever for creating an engaged and healthy remote workforce.

Remote work stipends

A dedicated home office setup is a remote employee’s first step to productivity. But, it can be expensive to create a comfortable and effective home office environment. One estimate4 found that creating a home office could cost almost $2,100.

A remote work stipend allows fully remote or hybrid employees to buy items and cover expenses incurred while working remotely. This includes ergonomic office furniture, office supplies, noise-canceling headphones, coworking space costs, webcams, high-speed internet bills, upgraded hardware, and more.

Remember, the federal government requires all employers to reimburse remote work expenses if those expenses lower an employee's net income to less than the state's minimum wage. Some states, like Illinois, California, Montana, and Iowa, have more requirements.

So check your state and local laws to see if offering a remote work stipend can help you comply with local reimbursement laws.

Family stipends

A recent survey found that working parents are more likely5 to work weekends and longer work days than those without children. If these employees work from home and manage their households simultaneously, it’s no surprise that burnout may be inevitable.

Offering a family stipend can be very valuable for these employees, as it can help reduce distractions and financial burdens that may impact an employee’s productivity in and outside the workplace. These stipends can cover many expenses related to family life, like childcare services, elder care, pet sitting, fertility treatment, and more.

Family stipends are inclusive enough to meet every employee’s needs—no matter where they live or their family situation—so they can better manage their personal lives and come to work focused and refreshed.

Travel stipends

One of the advantages of a remote work environment is that employees can do their jobs from anywhere. While this means they may have more time to travel, it doesn’t mean they have the funds. By offering a travel stipend, you can financially support your employees when they want to visit new places.

Unlike reimbursing your employees for business trips, travel stipends allow employees to travel wherever they choose and cover expenses like transportation, hotel stays, baggage and passport fees, meals, and leisure activities.

When employees take time to travel, they can focus on being active, relieving work-related stress, and recovering mentally and physically. Adding this stipend to your benefits package shows your employees that you care about their overall well-being and encourage a healthy work-life balance, leading to higher morale and job satisfaction.

3. Share mental health resources

There are several options for in-office mental health benefits. But, it can be difficult for remote employees to know where to turn. Depression, anxiety, and sleep loss are becoming more common6 among remote workers.

To support the mental wellness of remote workers, create a list of resources and share it regularly, such as in company-wide meetings, in your employee handbook, or on instant messenger. To be inclusive, include federal, local, and online resources so all your employees have options and access regardless of location or needs.

A few general mental health resources include:

  • Employee assistance programs (EAP)
    • EAP is a free work-based program where employees can access counseling, referrals, and resources for their personal struggles, work-related problems, and mental health issues. Most counseling uses virtual methods, so it’s a good option for remote employees.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline
  • The American Psychiatric Association Foundation
  • Veterans Crisis Line
  • Online counseling apps like Talkspace, BetterHelp, and Talkiatry

Providing these resources can be a much-needed lifeline for any of your remote employees who are struggling. Coupled with a health or wellness stipend, you’ll give your employees access to comprehensive mental health to get the help they need.

4. Offer a robust PTO policy

Just because your remote employees work from home doesn’t mean they don’t need time off. Offering paid time off (PTO) gives remote employees more flexibility when determining their work-life balance. It also gives your workers time to rest and recharge, which is essential for remote employees whose lines between work and home can become blurry.

Simply put, offering a comprehensive PTO policy improves your company’s productivity, reduces employees’ chance of burnout, and creates a positive work environment.

You can structure your PTO policy in many ways, whether it accrues, rolls over annually, or is unlimited. The right policy for you will depend on your business needs, size, location, and industry. Whatever structure you choose, your remote employees will value your commitment to their health and well-being.

5. Provide professional development opportunities

Professional development opportunities provide financial wellness. According to a 2023 Buffer report7, 51% of remote employees believe their employer won’t promote them if they don’t physically see them. If you don’t consider your remote workers for career advancement, you could experience decreased productivity, lower morale, and high employee turnover.

Supporting remote employees' professional development and growth is vital to stimulating employee satisfaction and your business’s long-term success. When your employees feel appreciated and supported, they'll be more engaged, stay at your organization longer, and feel happier doing their jobs.

Educational benefits include offering online courses, industry-specific webinars, and mentorship programs to encourage your remote workers to expand their skills. Internal promotion also rewards hard work and motivates other workers to strive for their best.

6. Allow flexible work hours

Working remotely or hybrid is one type of flexible schedule. But flexible work hours are just as important. Flexible work hours allow employees to arrange their work hours in a way that supports work-life balance. This is especially key for remote workers who may need to balance family, appointments, and other household responsibilities during work hours.

To compensate for multi-tasking, remote employees may work too many hours, experiencing burnout, poor sleep patterns, and physical and emotional health ailments. This can also jeopardize their productivity and focus at work.

By letting your employees choose their work hours, you give them ownership over their jobs and show them you trust them enough to manage their time effectively. Flexible hours also allow employees to address medical needs privately and whenever necessary.

7. Schedule frequent check-ins

Because remote employees aren’t in-office workers, regular check-ins are crucial for social interactions, team building, sharing updates, and answering questions. Check-ins are also a good time for managers to determine if someone is feeling overwhelmed and learn how to support them better.

Depending on how frequently you and your managers want to engage with your remote workers, you can offer any combination of the following types of check-ins:

  1. Anonymous check-ins: Some employees may hesitate to express their feelings openly, especially if their job is affecting their health and well-being. Sending anonymous employee surveys allows individuals to safely voice constructive feedback without fear of retribution so you can take steps to make changes at your organization.
  2. Daily check-ins: Not all check-ins need to be formal. Reaching out to your remote employees with quick daily messages can reduce feelings of isolation, keep team members connected, and ensure everyone is on track with their work.
  3. Weekly check-ins: Weekly manager/employee one-on-ones are typically standard in the workplace. But because they’re not face-to-face, weekly check-ins are essential to confirm that remote employees are healthy, supported, and have everything they need to succeed. These are also great times to adjust deadlines or project goals if needed.
  4. Monthly check-ins: Managers can use monthly check-ins to connect with their entire team and share accomplishments, discuss overarching goals, and break down any barriers or stressors the team is experiencing. If the group is falling behind, employee burnout could be a contributing factor.
  5. Social check-ins: Remote employees should be able to engage with their coworkers and not talk about work. You can set up fun channels on your organization’s instant messaging app, host virtual events, have happy hours, and encourage team hangouts to help employees bond and learn more about each other.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize and reward good work—especially in a remote setting where people often do solitary work. Share individual, team, and company wins during company meetings, on instant messenger, or via email so they can feel supported and appreciated. Additionally, you can create a recognition program as a more formal appreciation method.


As more companies shift to a fully remote or hybrid workforce, employers must add remote-friendly health and wellness strategies into their workplace culture. From promoting a healthy work-life balance to offering flexible benefits and work schedules, each step toward supporting your remote workers will result in happier and stronger teams contributing to your business’s long-term success.

Ready to revamp your benefits package for remote work? PeopleKeep can help. With our benefits administration software, you can offer HRAs without the hassle.

Schedule a call with our personalized benefits advisors, and we'll help you provide the right HRA to your remote workers.

  1. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/remote-work-statistics/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2020/10/08/mental-health-leadership-survey-reveals-80-of-remote-workers-would-quit-their-jobs-for-this/?sh=729db73f3a0f
  3. https://www.uprightpose.com/the-health-dilemma-of-the-work-from-home-era/
  4. https://growrk.com/blogs/news/the-costs-of-setting-up-a-home-office/
  5. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/remote-employees-are-working-longer-than-before.aspx
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8202819/
  7. https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work/2023

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Elizabeth Walker

Elizabeth Walker is a content marketing specialist at PeopleKeep. She has worked for the company since April 2021. Elizabeth has been a writer for more than 20 years and has written several poems and short stories, in addition to publishing two children’s books in 2019 and 2021. Her background as a musician and love of the arts continues to inspire her writing and strengthens her ability to be creative.