Fitness trackers and calorie counters are all the rage these days, even at work. From providing wearable watches to count steps, to free spinning classes and healthy snacks, to nap rooms, workplace wellbeing programs have started to take center stage as a key perk in today’s modern offices.
However, as employee wellness becomes the latest buzzword on the top of CEOs’ minds as a way to sell their company to prospective employees, do these initiatives really work at improving wellbeing? Or are these programs more show than substance?
According to predictions from research firm Gartner, by 2020, 40 percent of employees can cut their healthcare costs by wearing a fitness tracker. The organization goes on to say that wearables provide a wealth of useful information for healthcare professionals to have access to historical and contextual data.
One potential stumbling block here is the ruling by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding obtaining medical information from applications.
Here we provide some tips to help you create an effective workplace wellbeing program that will make your employees happier, healthier and more productive, as well as helping reduce insurance costs.
Tom Paladino, CEO and founder at Paladino and Company
Architects, developers, and building operators need to design their space with wellness in mind. The good news is that some have already started to recognize that wellness frameworks play a critical role in building design, business operations, and social responsibility. For example, the WELL Building Standard has become the top third-party validation for organizations pursuing a certifiably well space.
When designing Paladino’s headquarters in Seattle, we prioritized spaces that allow collaboration, natural ventilation, and daylight to flow freely. Employees choose where they want to work within the office each day and find the space that matches their task.
Though HR talks about wellness often, they are excluded from conversations of how the built environment can impact health and performance. Inviting the human component in at the start of the building planning process allows HR to become change agents and drive significant gains for the business.
Once designed and built, HR is essential in educating occupants how to properly use the space and promote healthy programs and options to encourage attraction and retention.
Financial wellness matters too
Mary Hannah Burwell, marketing manager at Financial Wellness Benefit platform Questis
Most wellness programs in the past focused only on physical and mental wellness. However, financial wellness benefits are beneficial not only for employees but also for their employers, as they improve employees’ financial situations so they can be more productive, happier, and overall better workers.
By implementing a financial wellness platform, the employee who may not be able to afford financial help on their own, gets help with everything from a rainy day savings fund to paying off student loans, to saving for retirement – all paired with a live certified financial planner that they can chat with at any time. Basically – everyone wins.
Cultural fit is key
Rebecca Zirkle, owner of Wellfitness Coaching
- Make sure your company culture is aligned with your wellness program initiative. Don’t have a challenge to eat your veggies if you are serving donuts at meetings.
- Conduct a needs assessment: find out what the employees health risks are. This can be done by employing a health risk appraisal (HRA) each year, and then designing program interventions around the most prevalent risk areas.
- Have a wellness committee: this should be voluntary but should include representatives from different departments, levels of leadership, and health status. These should be people who are enthusiastic and can recruit others to participate in the program.
- Evaluate the program: Compare HRA data yearly to see the impact of the wellness program. You can also measure health claims (although this data likely won’t change for a few years), absenteeism, productivity, etc to determine the effect the program has had in the workplace.
Extend wellness to day-to-day work
Beth Shepard, wellbeing consultant at Health Enhancement Systems
- Evaluate and improve working conditions first; a wellness program added to a toxic environment where employees are stressed, overworked, and given little autonomy or respect will not have much of an impact on wellbeing
- Ask workers what types of wellness offerings are most appealing and would have the most value for them.
- Extend wellness offerings to dependents. Household members have the power to make or break your employees’ wellness efforts; including dependents adds a level of social support that’s hard to beat.
- Foster a culture that supports intrinsic motivation — the only kind that leads to sustainable health behavior change. Do this by giving workers a reasonable amount of autonomy in their day-to-day work, opportunities to cultivate competence, and embedding social support into the workplace culture, but also into every wellness campaign and crafting messages reflecting autonomy, competence, and support in all wellness communications.
Take stress into account
Amy Ritsema, co-owner of OnSite Wellness
When designing a wellness program for any business, it’s important to think beyond diet and exercise, taking into account the role of stress in the workplace. Stress can be a major source of not only absenteeism, but more importantly, presenteeism – coming to work sick or stressed and under-performing as a result.
By implementing a stress reduction program as part of an overall wellness initiative, employees are given an opportunity to not only learn how to deal with stress, but reduce it in their life, and identify how to make the effects work for them instead of against.
When employees have access to not only exercise programs, but lifestyle coaching, educational workshops, and one-on-one accountability, stress is addressed from all angles.
OnSite believes that a more holistic approach to wellness will help create a culture of productivity and happiness in the workplace.
Wellness doesn’t end at work
Marty Boyer, president at mobile wellness app Physi
You bring and take your wellbeing with you: it extends beyond your four walls. The benefits of wellbeing impact your workplace, but remember that a wellness program has to impact employees’ life, not just their time in the office
There aren’t many secrets to helping people stay well. Most people know that eating well, moving, sleeping regularly and drinking water are key elements to remaining healthy. However, the distance of what we know is best for us and us actually doing it is the challenge that we have. Therefore, we think the companies that do it best are those that create the environment of wellness in their workplace.
The right behaviors have to be nudged when making the choice to be healthier. If you can execute and create the value and culture of wellness in the workplace, you’ll win.
What are your tips for creating a workplace wellbeing program?
You’ve heard what the experts recommend when creating a workplace wellbeing program, but what advice would you add? Let us know in the comments below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the top employee wellness apps for your business