The wellness trend that started over a decade ago remains in full effect as companies continue to increase the focus on employee health. We even have a month dedicated to Global Employee Health and Fitness, which is observed every May. Spearheaded by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity and the National Association for Health and Fitness, this initiative encourages employers to emphasize the benefits of maintaining a healthier lifestyle and to persuade workers to keep wellness top of mind.
But why limit promoting wellness in the workplace to one month? Why not make it a year-round companywide priority? Your company is sure to reap significant benefits; considerable evidence exists to support the impact that good health – physical, mental and financial – can have on productivity.
Take a closer look at our thoughts on creating an ongoing, multifaceted approach to promoting health and wellness (in all their forms). Ideally, you want to incorporate the emphasis on employee well-being into the work environment, HR operations and, ultimately, into the company culture.
Tackling physical wellness in the workplace
Your company may be filled with gym rats, but even the most avid exercise junkie can benefit from a work environment that encourages good physical health. And, let’s be honest, most of us can stand to be a little healthier. We all tend to think of our weight first when talking about physical health, but that is only one component. Good nutrition, regular exercise and preventative maintenance checks are all part of the bigger healthy picture.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can promote physical wellness at your company:
- Provide healthy snacks and lunches
- Start an intramural sports team
- Offer discounted memberships to gyms in the area
- Arrange for on-site exercise classes on a semi-regular basis
- Encourage workers to get outside and walk during their breaks
To maximize participation in any program you establish, be sure to talk to or survey employees throughout the organization to find out what their preferences are when it comes to healthy food options and types of activities.
To generate substantial benefits from any wellness program you implement, you need real engagement and healthy behavioral changes from your employees. Research shows that the best way to encourage participation is through the use of 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. Be sure to consider what incentives your employees will value the most, such as extra paid time off, gift cards or fun outings with their department.
Supporting mental health is equally important
In a 2018 study, workplace consultancy firm Peldon Rose found that 72% of employees want their employers to directly support mental health. Considering the degree to which depression has an effect on the workplace, as noted in a 2018 study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this should not be surprising. As such, the issue is well worth your time to address.
Providing your employees with concrete, meaningful resources that they can voluntarily access when they are struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems should be part of any workplace wellness program. This may mean hiring a qualified in-office counselor or offering a benefits plan that includes the option to take advantage of low-cost behavioral health services. The impact such actions have on performance and absenteeism can be quite significant.
Another option to consider that could have a truly meaningful impact is to implement a training program focused on recognizing clear signals of mental health struggles, according to Forbes contributor Alan Kohll. This can be beneficial for 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 financial wellness is a common and major concern for this demographic group. That does not mean financial wellness is relevant only to millennials; financial security is something we all strive to achieve. But there has been a lot of media attention given to the financial stress younger generations are feeling, which may be part of the reason more companies are recognizing the importance of incorporating financial wellness into their benefits programs. If you are not one of those companies, take the opportunity to explore your options.
The benefits will outweigh the costs
Two studies by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (including one alongside Brigham Young University and Healthways’ Center for Health Research) revealed considerable evidence to support the benefits good health (physical, mental and financial) can have across an organization:
- Employees who observe healthy eating habits 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 do either of those things.
- Companies endorsed for their wellness initiatives saw 235% stock value appreciation over a six-year period, greater than the 135% average of companies on the S&P 500 list.
- Increasing physical activity at work keeps the brain performing at a high level, bolstering chances of greater productivity and engagement.
Whatever programs or services you decide to implement, according to SHRM, it’s important they be a continuous initiative rather than a one-time thing. For example, holding a monthly session about general budgeting, retirement planning or credit card debt management will be more appreciated and have more long-standing effects than a one-time seminar. A consistent, steady approach is key to the successful implementation of any wellness program.