May is Global Employee Health and Fitness month making wellness top-of-mind for employers. The initiative, spearheaded by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity and the National Association for Health and Fitness, encourages employers to emphasize the benefits of maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Actually, this makes sense to do year-round given the impact good health – physical, mental and financial – can have on your employees’ productivity.
“Employers should consider a broader approach to promoting workplace wellness for Global Employee Health and Fitness Month.”
Here are some thoughts on creating an ongoing, multifaceted approach to promote workplace wellness within your organization:
Physical wellness pays dividends
Two studies by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (including one alongside Brigham Young University and Healthways’ Center for Health Research) revealed considerable evidence regarding the value of workers’ physical health and wellness:
- Employees who eat healthy on a daily basis or exercise 30 minutes a day three times a week are 25% and 15% more likely, respectively, to have higher job performance than those who don’t
- Companies endorsed for their wellness initiatives saw 235% stock value appreciation over a six-year period, greater than the 135% average of the S&P 500
- Increasing physical activity at work keeps the brain performing at a high level, bolstering chances of greater productivity and engagement
There are many ways to promote physical wellness. Here are a few to consider: provide healthier snacks and lunches, start an intramural sports teams, offer discounted gym memberships or on-site exercise classes, and encourage workers to get outside and walk during their breaks. Talk to, or survey, your employees to find out what they would be most inclined to use.
To be successful, wellness programs require engagement and healthy behavioral changes and the best way to encourage participation is through incentives. In fact, a joint Harvard University-University of Chicago study found little value in wellness initiatives that offered minor participation incentives or were overly broad. As such, be sure to consider what incentives your employees will value the most such as extra paid time off.
Good mental health is equally as important
In a 2018 study, workplace consultancy firm Peldon Rose found that 72% of employees want their employers to directly support mental health. Providing your employees with resources they can voluntarily access when they are struggling from depression, anxiety or other conditions should be part of your workplace wellness initiative. This may mean hiring a qualified in-office counselor for employees, or offering a benefits plan with low-cost behavioral health services. The impact this can have on performance and absenteeism can be significant.
Another idea that could have an impact is to implement a training program focused on recognizing the clear warning signs of mental health struggles, according to Forbes. This can be helpful for both employees and managers in identifying and addressing warning signs or troubling behaviors.
Financial wellness rounds out a holistic wellness program
Millennials are now the most represented generation in the U.S. workforce and one concern that many Millennials share is financial wellness. Of course, that concern is not limited to just Millennials – financial security is something we all strive to achieve. As such, more and more companies are looking to incorporate financial wellness into their benefits program. If you are not one of those companies, take the opportunity to explore your options.
Whatever programs or services you decide to implement, according to SHRM, it’s important to make it a continuous initiative rather than a one-time thing. Even if it’s just a monthly session about general budgeting, retirement planning, credit card debt management or some combination thereof, employees will be far more appreciative of that than a one-time seminar.