Corporate wellness is not a new concept. It has been around for decades at this point, although it has expanded dramatically in recent years as the impact of employee well-being on performance, productivity, employee retention, and overall business success is becoming more recognized. While there are thousands of ways business owners, HR professionals, and other decision-makers can help employees improve their well-being, not all of them are effective. This report will highlight 10 of the most effective methods, how each works, and how both employees and the overall organization will benefit.
Before we delve into how to improve employee well-being, it’s important to establish why it matters in the first place. Employee health and wellness has a significant impact on business success over time, but doesn’t well-being fall into the realm of personal responsibility, rather than corporate responsibility? That might have been true at one point, but today, it falls under corporate responsibility. Not only that, but it has come to be a key consideration for creating a healthy corporate culture, and fostering the best employee retention.
According to a study by IBISWorld and published by Politico, the corporate wellness market in the US alone has risen to $8 billion. That number is projected to reach $11.3 billion by 2021. As the market has grown, so too has the understanding that well-being is a critical consideration for organizations of all shapes and sizes, in every single industry on the planet. Two-Thirds of all organizations report that employee-focused well-being programs are essential elements of their corporate culture, and even their brand itself.
Of course, this still leaves the question of how-how does an organization help boost employee well-being in a world as increasingly fast-paced as this? How does an organization help its employees improve their health and wellness while simultaneously reducing costs and surmounting obstacles that might limit corporate success and profitability? Below, we’ll explore ten ways to help your organization achieve these goals.
One of the most overlooked, yet critically important elements to employee well-being is the ability to focus on health-related matters. Hourly and salaried workers alike are busier than ever, leaving little time to focus on exercise, to learn about diet, or to explore their health-related conditions. Flexible scheduling and telecommuting can provide the elasticity necessary for employees to improve their health on their own.
Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Survey found that 86% of employees valued flexible scheduling, and 70% valued telecommuting capabilities. However, only 50% of employers offered to schedule flexibility, and only 27% offered some form of telecommuting. The single most important benefit here is that it frees employees to focus on well-being when it works best for them, rather than tying that to a rigid work schedule.
The previously mentioned survey by Deloitte also found that 67% of employees valued having designated office space set aside for wellness purposes, but only 27% of employers provided any sort of wellness-specific space on corporate grounds. By providing a designated space where employees can go to focus on health and well-being, employers provide a convenient way for employees to relax and unwind, perform meditation, or even get in a quick workout during the day.
A business need not make significant financial investments for this strategy to show results, either. A designated space could be nothing more than a room set aside for wellness purposes, equipped with yoga mats, stair climbers, or other basic fitness and health equipment. It would take very little to institute a morning, afternoon or evening workout program that encouraged employees to take part while on the property, as well.
Wearable technology has advanced a great deal and provides a significant amount of insight into our health and well-being. There are also wearables that tie into both iOS and Android platforms, as well as standalone devices that can connect to both, such as Fitbit fitness trackers. While wearable technology does represent an investment on the part of the organization, issuing them to employees can provide a great deal of impetus to propel them toward better health and fitness.
Wearables can also tie into other strategies, such as rewards, incentives, and the like. By investing in affordable yet high-quality wearables that work on a variety of platforms, your organization can improve health, foster a sense of accountability, and even begin inculcating healthy habits in employees, such as walking each hour, tracking calories burned, and meeting daily and weekly fitness goals.
Human beings are competitive by nature, and organizations can harness that trait to help improve employee well-being. Creating employee fitness challenges provides the means to get groups of employees involved together and competing against one another in a friendly environment. You can create different challenge tiers suited to different fitness levels, different well-being goals, varying health and mobility levels, and more. Then, using wearables, each employee’s progress toward the challenge goal could be tracked.
Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock, you’ve heard of “flash mobs” – groups of people who mob a particular location at a preset time, usually with humorous results. Your organization can adapt a similar strategy with an hourly flash walk. You can organize this in almost any way necessary, from department-specific flash walks to individual teams at specific times each hour.
This would encourage all employees to get up and walk once per hour, which provides them with physical motion, reduces the amount of time spent sitting down and also encourages employees to engage with one another while doing something that improves their well-being. As such, it offers both physical and psychological health benefits.
Work-life balance is never an easy thing to achieve, but it’s much more difficult for new parents. An organization can help improve employee well-being by investing in or creating new parent career coaching to help employees integrate their work life and personal life to improve their sense of fulfillment and ensure that they can uphold their new responsibilities as parents without sacrificing their career aspirations. This is particularly important for families in which both spouses/partners are career-oriented and struggling to be both a good parent and successful on the job.
While well-being is tied to physical exercise, the role of diet cannot be ignored. Most of the chronic diseases to which Americans are subject (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) are diet related. The problem is that too many people either do not realize the connection between diet, health, and disease or struggle to make informed food choices because they lack access to accurate information.
Providing your employees with diet coaching can help them realize how the foods and beverages they consume impact more than their waistline. If you have an onsite cafeteria, changing to a healthy menu throughout the week can also have an immense impact. If your organization does not have a cafeteria, invest in healthy food vending machines in the break area, or consider providing healthy snacks or meals at corporate events in conjunction with coaching programs.
Another connection with our competitive human nature, reward and incentive programs can drive employees toward better well-being by offering something that they want or value. These programs can be tied to other initiatives quite easily, too. For instance, use an incentive program to get employees involved in company-sponsored fitness challenges. Or, reward employees who consistently beat fitness challenges by tracking their progress through a wearable device. The rewards and incentives offered don’t need to be costly – they don’t have to cost much of anything. Consider offering a paid day off, or a gym membership. You could offer a gift box filled with healthy foods or a subscription to a paid health app. It could be virtually anything, so long as it has value to your employees.
For businesses and organizations constructing their facility, or relocating to a new area, you can take control of employee well-being in unique ways by designing and building with intent. What does this mean? Simply put, it means creating a mindful plan for your facility that includes a focus on improving overall employee well-being. For instance, you could design a facility with more sets of stairs, and wider stairways.
Combine that with fitness challenges and incentive programs, and you’ll find your employees are more than happy to take the stairs rather than the elevator. You could also design a fitness room in your facility, create walking trails around the property or an indoor walking track, or even design an employee-only gym on the premises.
Well-being is not all about physical health and weight loss. It’s also about mental health. One of the best ways to improve your employee’s mental well-being is to help them learn about and master mindfulness – the art of living in the now, rather than focusing on the past, or the future. You can combine mindfulness training with many smartphone apps, ranging from meditation-focused apps to all-over-health apps that include mindfulness and breathing activities. A more mindful approach to life helps your employees reduce their stress levels, improve their sense of well-being, and even increase their productivity.
We’ve discussed ten tactics to help improve employee well-being and health, and we’ve briefly touched on a few of the ways you can integrate these into the business. However, that aspect requires further discussion. How do you create a plan for improving well-being and then bring everything together within your organization?
There are myriad ways to achieve this, but a lot will depend on the programs and tools that you choose to institute. Perhaps the simplest method is to use wearable technology and then monitor each employee’s achievements and progress. This information can be used to help determine how each competition is progressing, or who has won specific incentives. You could even use that data to help determine new incentive tiers – higher step counts, higher calorie counts per day, etc.
Of course, you’ll see some benefits to your organization from these initiatives. Employees working for a company that takes its responsibility to employee health seriously have much more loyalty and stay with their employer for longer periods, reducing churn and costs associated with interviewing, hiring and onboarding new workers.
There’s also the fact that healthy, focused employees are much more productive – just five minutes spent in mild exercise each hour can reduce the costs of lost productivity. There’s also a financial benefit to be found. The Harvard Business Review discovered that employers lost 2.3 times more in productivity than in healthcare costs, and those costs occur while the employee is on the job (not out sick).
The data from wearables can also be used to achieve other organization-wide benefits. For instance, health information and related data can be used to reduce insurance costs, saving both the organization and employees a great deal of money over time.
Ultimately, Deloitte sums the situation up well. In the organization’s previously cited 2018 Global Human Capital Trends, authors Agarwal, Bersin, Lahiri, Schwartz, and Volini conclude by saying, “Well-being is becoming a core responsibility of good corporate citizenship, and a critical performance strategy to drive employee engagement, organizational energy, and productivity. It is also a growing expectation among the talent companies most want to recruit, access, and retain. No longer an optional or narrowly focused element of the reward menu, well-being is now front and center as a business imperative.”
How do you create your own corporate workplace wellness challenge? The best workplace wellness challenges include a behavior change model known as AMSO - Awareness, Motivation, Skills, and Opportunities. By analyzing each aspect of the model, you can begin to see how each step is important in developing your own workplace wellness challenge.
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