What Does Employee Wellness Really Mean?
Brianna Johnson

Increasingly, firms are focusing on “wellness” programs and their value in maintaining employee health and happiness. “Wellness” and other buzz phrases like “work-life balance” were once considered a low priority on the strategic totem pole. But today, these ideas are now commanding more attention as firms strive to enhance employee well-being and retention. In this post, we’ll explore five ideas for bringing overall wellness programs to your workplace to improve the overall health and sustainability of both your people AND your firm.

In many firm wellness programs, the focus seems to be almost exclusively on improving physical health and not taking into account the overall well-being of the firm’s people. Well-rounded wellness programs focus on physical well-being and also additional factors like mental, emotional and spiritual health. We recommend that you shift your focus away from standardized programs that drive improvement only on physical measures (like BMI, cholesterol, and high blood pressure) and instead focus on a holistic approach for supporting health in many areas simultaneously.

Other ideas that aren’t necessarily related to physical fitness but improve well-being are things like stress management techniques and education, family activities that employees can participate in with relatives, and personal development opportunities. When employees gain leadership skills, confidence, or increase their technical knowledge, they’re improving the mental health aspect of wellness.

How can you shift your focus toward a comprehensive wellness approach? First, evaluate your current efforts for improving employee wellness and measure the benefits they’re providing. Some questions to ask yourself related to improving employee well-being include:

  • Ensure that your corporate culture is supportive of improving employee wellness. Ensure that your leadership team is unified in its commitment to corporate wellness. Discuss the importance of leaders modeling wellness behaviors and supporting those employees who make the effort. For instance, your firm’s leadership and managers must support employees in taking a workout lunch break, doing desk exercises intermittently during the day, eating healthy options offered at company functions or leaving early to volunteer when needed.
  • Establish holistic goals for the program. Craft your firm’s employee wellness vision statement and the goals you hope to offer improvements toward. An example of a wellness vision statement is, “We strive to provide a workplace that is positive and supports our employees in sustaining a high level of well-being and achieving personal health.” Some examples of specific goals within that vision may include:
    • Embracing a corporate culture that aims to relieve stress and promotes teamwork and collaboration, as evidenced by employee engagement surveys
    • Offering programs and activities for boosting physical fitness levels, as evidenced by participation rates and health measures
    • Stimulating learning through training and professional development, as evidenced by client satisfaction surveys
  • Educate your employees on the importance of taking care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Your people are more likely to sustain efforts toward improving wellness when they understand the benefits of doing so. These benefits can be expressed or illustrated in saved time, money, feeling better or looking better. For instance, research on the ROI of wellness programs suggests firms experience $1 to $3 decreases in overall health care costs per dollar spent on the programs, increased productivity and employee morale, and decreased absenteeism and turnover.
  • Ensure that your managers and leaders have positive relationships with their people. The manager-employee relationship is extremely important in embracing wellness goals because managers have great influence over their direct-reports and workplace satisfaction. That relationship needs to be transparent and supportive of employee goals (professional and personal). Along with that, if it’s obvious that a supervisor isn’t participating in the wellness efforts but is advocating his or her subordinates do so, they’re likely to lose their credibility and any chance of furthering the firm’s employee wellness goals.
  • Ensure that your offerings maximize the number of employees participating. If your firm’s main effort toward wellness is providing gym memberships, you’re potentially alienating a segment of your employees who feel a gym does not fit with their wellness goals or lifestyle. Not everyone feels comfortable going to public gyms, especially if they are new to workout programs, exercise machines or classes. You may have a number of employees who smoke and would benefit more if they were offered the opportunity to participate in smoking cessation classes. A major factor of successful wellness programs is providing a variety of options so that there is something that appeals to everyone.
  • Drive employee participation through motivation, not just incentives and rewards. You want to make sure you aren’t offering rewards for one-time participation and that you’re creating an environment that rewards initial participation AND long-term effort and maintenance.

There are many factors to consider when creating a successful employee wellness initiative. The outlook on wellness, achieving buy-in and participation from all levels, and the specific program offerings all have unique considerations based on your people and your firm’s goals. Join us for our web seminar next Tuesday, August 12 at 11:00am ET on “Promoting Employee Wellness in Your Firm: An Exploration” where we will dive deeper into this topic and discuss a simple process to improving employee well-being holistically. Visit www.convergencelearning.com to register. Hope to “see” you there!

Kind regards,


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