Wellness and work productivity are linked. You probably know this from experience, and having experienced days when you were under the weather or under stress and had a harder time fulfilling your obligations. It only makes sense that companies that promote wellness as part of their corporate culture have a competitive advantage.
A joint study by Humana and The Economist Intelligence Unit found that employees who are part of wellness programs are 12% less likely to have health issues caused by workplace stress, and almost 10% less likely to find their work interfering with their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Stress is still a problem in the workplace, so company wellness programs make sense. Most employees believe that wellness programs can have a moderate or better impact in stress reduction, and the Humana / Economist study also found that around 90% of employees say wellness programs help them become fitter and happier.
How Companies Can Benefit from Wellness Programs
Employees benefit from working on wellness, but companies benefit as well. Some of the benefits companies with well-planned and well-executed wellness initiatives can enjoy include:
- Higher productivity
- Lower absenteeism
- Lower healthcare costs
- Lower levels of work-related stress
- More motivated employees
- More engaged employees
- Greater team camaraderie
- Better alignment with company culture and goals
How Leaders Can Inspire a Culture of Health and Wellness
Company leaders can make a real difference in how much of an impact corporate wellness initiatives have. Some positive steps leaders can take include:
- Walking the Talk – by participating in wellness programs. Employees trust the behavior or their leaders more than they trust their words, and leaders who actively and regularly participate set a powerful example.
- Sharing Positive Results – by, for example, showing statistics on overall employee health risk improvements.
- Communicating Regularly – through videos, employee correspondence, meetings, company blog posts, company social media posts, and other methods. Reiterating corporate commitment to wellness reinforces employee commitment.
- Making It Easier – by providing healthy cafeteria and vending machine options, installing on-site fitness equipment, or perhaps organizing a monthly fruit and vegetable co-op.
Potential Pitfalls to Watch For
It’s possible for companies to focus too heavily on say, smokers, by taking steps like introducing smoking surcharges. But initiatives that are too much stick and no carrot tend not to work well. Wellness programs that inadvertently create a culture of shame for those who don’t “pass” arbitrary health markers like blood pressure goals are considered unfair and can cause some employees to avoid participation. Corporate wellness programs simply cannot approach the sometimes fine line between encouragement and bullying.
It’s essential that companies use reliable metrics for measuring health rather than arbitrary ones. For example, body mass index calculations can indicate obesity in a person who is very muscular and not fat at all. And finally and importantly, corporate wellness programs must not in any way breach health privacy concerns. Companies are allowed under new EEOC rules to require that employees share health data to obtain a financial incentive (or pay higher health insurance premiums), but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This type of heavy-handedness can seriously alienate some of your older workers who possess irreplaceable company knowledge.
Steps for Tying Wellness into Your Workplace Culture
The first step toward making wellness an important component of corporate culture is to assess where your company stands right now through surveys, interviews, and technology. Next, you can use your wellness initiative as an opportunity to learn what cultural changes make sense anyway. If other parts of your corporate culture are broken, a wellness program generally won’t fix them.
Buy-in from managers and executives is essential. A “do as I say, not as I do” approach, or a senior leadership staff that’s indifferent to a company wellness program pretty much dooms the initiative from the start. Kick off the wellness program together in a way that engages employees at every level, and look for opportunities to tie in wellness with your corporate culture. A retailer, for example, may offer additional wellness perks (like free yoga sessions) during its peak sales season.
If you really don’t care about the health and well-being of your team, then you can’t expect your employees to be engaged and invested in what they’re doing. Corporate culture isn’t something that’s topically applied to “the employees,” but an endemic set of characteristics that makes your company unique. I encourage you to check out my books, which go into much greater detail on the importance and how-tos of creating the right corporate culture.