Healthy Employees, Healthy Business: Getting Started With Employee Wellness Programs

Healthy Employees, Healthy Business: Getting Started With Employee Wellness Programs

If you haven’t thought about an employee wellness program for your company yet, now is just the right time to start.

HR professionals report that their biggest challenge in 2017 was healthcare costs, but their biggest priority for 2018 is employee engagement. The great news about wellness programs? They happen to reduce costs and increase engagement simultaneously. And the benefits don’t stop there: focusing on worker well-being can help you gain a competitive edge in both employer branding and employee retention.

But what does an effective wellness program entail?

You might have an existing idea of a wellness program that includes some combination of medical health care, a gym membership and emergency counseling or services. In reality, truly successful employee wellness initiatives should go much deeper. 2017 saw over 21 US States declining in collective well-being – a metric defined by one’s sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, community and physical health. Clearly, employees are in need of more support from their workplaces in order to maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle.

Helping employees stay in good health also brings you added benefits as an employer; healthy workers correlate to fewer voluntary changes of employer and worker compensation claims, and increased resiliency and adaptability.

The health of your workforce directly affects the success of your company. When it comes to employee wellness, we should be proactiveinstead of reactive.

Studies have shown that worksite health programs can reduce instances of absenteeism, increase productivity, slow the progression of chronic illnesses and ultimately have a positive impact on business operations.

Companies are already catching onto these benefits, as they are not only optimizing healthcare offerings, but displaying increased awareness for wellness outside of healthcareplans. Trends toward employee well-being in HR departments include financial wellness programs, mental health awareness initiatives, digital wearable tech and social connectedness.

Employee health isn’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s imperative to tailor health programs to specific employee needs.

Providing comprehensive general health coverage for your workforce is important, but in order to be a true asset for the well-being of your valued employees, you should go beyond the surface level.

Let’s consider the differences between white and blue collar working conditions and potential health complications. While back pain and muscle cramping aren’t unique to blue collar workers, the likelihood that these complications will arise within this physically active worker group is higher than it is for white collar workers. On the other hand, white collar workers often have other health concerns related to prolonged periods of sitting or mental stress.

As an employer, you have the opportunity to maximize the health and happiness of each workforce segment through bespoke wellness plans.

Many employee wellness programs sound ideal on paper, but remain underutilized once implemented. Tackle this common pitfall with excellent program design.

UC Berkeley has released an in-depth how-to guide for creating and maintaining healthy workplacesa. While this kind of comprehensive guide should be an excellent resource as you shape your company’s plan, I’ll outline a few best practices here. Keep these guidelines in mind when kickstarting your own effective wellness program.

Let your employees shape their benefits.

Try to go into your program planning with as much information as possible. It’s best to administer a preliminary survey to assess the needs of your teams. This can help you compartmentalize different groups who may have different health concerns, while also allowing your employees to feel valued and taken care of.

Be flexible.

While I don’t mean physically flexible, that’s also an end goal. Employees should feel flexible enough with their schedules to be able to tack on an extra event or workshop centered on health or wellness. Blue-collar workers, especially, often have rigorous schedules that prevent attendance at outside events. Be sure that the pathway to accessibility always remains open for those who need it most.

Think beyond the workday.

Your employees matter to you, but if you are only caring about them during work hours, they won’t get that message. Employee well-being extends around the clock. This means that your initiatives shouldn’t only be company-centric; they should be employee-centric.

Gamify and engage.

A little healthy competition can go a long way for happiness and well-being – even better if it involves exercise or nutrition. Hold inter-departmental games, complete with rewards and incentives. Have influencers who are already passionate about exercise, nutrition or general wellness lead by example.

Build muscle, build teams.

Throw in a 5 minute workout during a morning stand-up to get the blood and ideas flowing, or take one hour during the work week to do something active with your entire team. This not only gets people smiling and laughing, but it keeps them energized throughout the day.

Recognize and reward progress.

We all know how difficult it is to start a new healthy habit or break an old, unhealthy one. Show your appreciate and support loud and clear, whether it’s with positive reinforcement and recognition, or tangible rewards such as company-branded tracksuits or tickets to a big game.

Employers are becoming more aware of their employees’ health. Now is the opportunity to follow suit in a way that not only benefits your organization, but sets you apart from the competition.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Leave a Reply