Valuing workforce wellness during Employee Health and Fitness Month

Numerous businesses observe Global Employee Health and Fitness Month during May. 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.

"Employers should consider a broader approach for Global Employee Health and Fitness Month."

But promoting workplace wellness should be a multifaceted effort, one not limited to physical health and nutrition. Don't neglect the health of the mind – or the wallet.

Weighing benefits of physical wellness promotion

A workplace wellness initiative should have a clear goal: realizing bottom-line gains for the organization and its personnel. Fortunately, two studies by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (including one alongside Brigham Young University and Healthways' Center for Health Research) have unearthed considerable evidence regarding the value of workers' physical health and wellness:

Organizations can promote physical wellness in many ways. Offering healthier snacks and lunches, putting together intramural sports teams, adding gym memberships as optional addendums to employee benefits packages and simply encouraging workers to take their breaks walking around in the fresh air may all be effective. The particulars may not be as important as the intent, but you should certainly consider what you think your employees will respond to most favorably before making any policy changes. 

Also, these programs require engagement and healthy behavioral changes from staff to succeed. A joint Harvard University-University of Chicago study found little value in wellness initiatives that offered minor participation incentives or were overly broad. HR must establish programs focused on specific aspects of physical health that feature incentives employees truly value, such as extra paid time off.

Well-being of the mind

Workplace consultancy firm Peldon Rose found in a 2018 study that 72% of employees want their employers to directly support mental health. Putting resources in place for workers to access voluntarily when they fear they're struggling from depression, anxiety or other conditions can make a significant difference. It should be incorporated into your workplace wellness initiative. This can mean hiring a qualified in-office counselor for employees, or perhaps offering a benefits plan with low-cost behavioral health services. 

Although only medical professionals can make diagnoses, consider implementing a training program focused on recognizing the clear warning signs of mental health struggles, according to Forbes. Workers who might not otherwise speak to HR personnel about mental health resources of their own volition could be amenable to their direct supervisors talking to them in a one-to-one about troubling behaviors that managers have noticed.

A holistic approach to financial wellness

The American economy is well off at present, but we're not even a decade removed from the Great Recession's end, and many employees' memories are long. They want to be more sensible with money than in years past, and quite a few businesses are helping them along by implementing financial wellness programs. Now is a great opportunity to follow suit if you haven't already. 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it's important for any such program to be 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 they would be of some seminars that you held during Employee Health and Fitness Month and then never offered again.