Health And WellBeing In The Workplace

Jan 22 / Margaret Stockley

What can you do to make your workplace a culture of wellbeing?

For decades, research has made us aware of the need to take care of our health, nurture our environment, and foster our social connections through better habits in areas including nutrition, adequate sleep, physical exercise, tobacco cessation, social activities, and community volunteering.
Yet obesity levels continue to rise especially amongst those entering the workforce, inactivity is a growing problem (with sitting being labeled as bad as tobacco), and a December 2017 study by the organization “Monitoring The Future” reports that 1:3 high school seniors participate in vaping, and not always with nicotine. Many of these students will be entering the workforce within the next two to five years.

On top of that, there are additional areas of personal, social, and workplace-related anxieties that if unchecked lead to stress and lack of engagement. These include:

  • Unrealistic pressure, e.g. expecting a response to emails in the evening after a workday
  • Existing chronic health concerns
  • Mental health issues
  • Lack of sleep
  • Strained relationships with co0workers
  • Financial concerns

A New Approach
With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering around 4%, many companies are looking for innovative benefits to recruit, engage, and retain employees. The top 100 Great Place To Work companies all have a thriving wellness program, amongst other benefits, that addresses more than physical or mental health; their programs engage, improve morale, and promote participation versus presenteeism.

In other words they are focusing on the whole person and creating a culture of wellbeing.

With all the research and data available, how does a wellness program manager sift through them and decide what is the best approach to develop a program for their own company; one that is effective within a set budget and speaks to their unique workplace demographic?

This question is further compounded by the rise of millennials to become the largest generational group in the U.S. workforce. A PwC study found that millennials will comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020 and that the ability to develop their career and “grow and progress through the organization” is important as well as having flexible work arrangements and a sociable work environment where they can volunteer in their community and participate in social office activities with colleagues of all ages, not just their peer group.

What Do Managers Need To Do To Promote Engagement And Wellbeing In The Workplace?
A flexible wellbeing platform allows all programs to be customizable based on the vision and needs of the company and the pre-programming information. Feedback from direct managers, HR, and face-to-face interactions by designated wellness team members can also generate great ideas around activities and ongoing support during the information gathering stage and later on in the evaluation stage after a program has been completed.

A strong and consistent communication plan can also be a useful resource in managing change and the resulting positive shift in culture to one of wellbeing. Maintaining flexibility within the planning stages and during each event is important as requirements evolve, regulations are updated, and additional information is received. If the program plan is too rigid, it can result in low participation, low engagement, and poor results.

Evidence-based training helps managers have access to the latest methods to help them build programs that meet the needs of their organization and deliver meaningful initiatives that promote engagement and positive behavior change amongst employees.

A Solid Investment
Society, schools, education, and the workforce all have a role to play in addressing what are often modifiable health behaviors.

The economic costs to society and to business are more than costs associated with lost productivity or recruiting and retention. It is the overall impact on our wellbeing that is affected and crosses over from the workplace to our personal lives and back again in a loop.

Research is clear on the link between productivity and wellness programs that shift the culture to focus on a holistic approach to wellbeing. These programs focus on helping people to find their personal why to modify a behavior, to be excited about their work, and to be actively engaged.

Investing in wellbeing programs is an investment in your employees with a positive physical, economic, and social impact.

What can you do to make your workplace a culture of wellbeing?

About Margaret Stockley: She is the founder of the Professional Organization for Wellness Certification (POWCERT) and CEO of the Aspire2 Wellness Group. Margaret is also the author of multiple books including “Transforming Workplace Wellness”. 

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