You already know that a workplace wellness program can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. A healthy workforce means lower health insurance costs for the business and for employees. Healthy workers work more productively, more willingly, and more efficiently. They contribute to a positive workplace culture that inspires buy-in to your mission and objectives.
With this in mind, it pays to investigate how wellness programs actually add value to employee experience, as well as what you can do as a leader to make wellness (or well-being) a fundamental part of that experience.
Workplace Wellness and Employee Experience Go Hand-in-Hand
Here are seven ways that workplace wellness intrinsically affects employee experience. We’ll go into more depth on each of these topics below.
- Better Health
- Lower Stress
- Higher Creativity
- Improved Morale
- Increased Productivity
- Positive Engagement
- Common Culture
While you can’t promise your staff that they’ll achieve certain results if they participate in a wellness program, you can, indirectly, affect them for the better if they take it upon themselves to make better health choices, leading to less injury, illness, and chronic disease.
One can easily find worldwide studies and statistics from the past several years, indicating improvements in several areas of employee health, including mental health, thanks to participation in some sort of wellness activity in the workplace.
In general, wellness programs should:
- Encourage healthy eating
- Promote physical activity
- Offer weight loss assistance and smoking cessation classes
- Help team members overcome unhealthy habits like tobacco use
- Reduce stress
Stress and physical health are closely related, given the strong mind-body connection. Prolonged exposure to a stressful work environment typically leads to physical problems, which commonly include headaches, pain in the neck, back, and shoulders, gastrointestinal issues, and insomnia. Further, stress affects employee productivity more than any other factor and is detrimental to a positive employee experience.
Stress does not affect only the person experiencing it. Outwardly, they might have trouble dealing with clients or other co-workers. They often speak and act in a negative manner, refusing to act as part of a team. This often creates a toxic work environment, where cooperation and honest communication have broken down.
Low employee morale hinders the desire and the ability to work productively. Years of research have cited improved employee morale as one of the many benefits of wellness programs. In fact, it may have more of an influence than previously believed. In other words, when people feel good at work, they have a more meaningful employee experience and tend to have higher engagement and retention.
According to the results of a 2017 HUB Benefits Barometer Study, “Wellness can provide a morale boost: 54% cite employee morale as their most improved metric from implementing wellness programs.”
Simply put, healthy workers are more productive. Not only must they be physically present in order to be productive, but they also need to be healthy. The problem of “presenteeism” (similar to “absenteeism”) occurs when the employee is present at work, but not fully engaged because they are sick or stressed out. Wellness programs aim to combat this common problem.
You can see a positive cycle occurring when healthy workers are more engaged. In turn, feeling engaged can lead to even better physical, mental, and emotional health. On the other hand, low engagement can lead to lower morale and even tangible financial costs for the company.
A recent Forbes article highlights the importance of wellness in engaging workers: “Employees feel engaged when work feels more like a community and less like a factory. Employee wellness programs help foster a sense of community in the workplace.”
Given the previous discussion regarding the benefits of these programs, business leaders and their employees all can agree on the importance of wellness initiatives at work.
Ideally, a holistic approach that incorporates physical activity, nutrition, and mental health fosters a common culture of appreciation for being able to focus on both individual goals as well as a healthy work environment overall.
The seven benefits above are interconnected. Numerous scholarly articles point out how productivity promotes higher morale, which fosters better creativity, et cetera. Each one affects and is affected by, at least one other. Wellness is the umbrella under which these other things reside.
Making Employee Wellness a Fundamental Part of Employee Experience
You know what your goals are as an organization, and you know that a happy, healthy staff is necessary to help you reach those goals. Now talk to your employees to determine the types of programs that would benefit them.
For instance, many people want to educate themselves on general healthy living practices. Others are looking for a weight loss program. You can provide the learning opportunities and encourage them to take the time to get involved in wellness activities. They will make it a priority if you show support for their goals.
Encourage employees to participate in fitness initiatives. Suggest that they join with others to form a walking group or pair up as workout buddies. Does anyone take the time to start a company softball team anymore? Spending an hour in the nice weather after work is a great alternative to rushing home with your eyes on your smartphone.
Most employees are always chasing the elusive “work-life balance.” They don’t want to be tied to a chair or an office for eight hours or more per day. Then they feel the need to make up for it by taking time just for themselves and participating in activities that promote wellbeing. This is where your workplace wellness program fits in.
Community engagement also can be an indirect benefit for both you and your employees. A prime example is sponsoring a corporate team for a local fundraising race. Your employees are demonstrating the desire to be involved with the local community while getting fit in the process. This engagement indicates that your employees are actively participating in their own employee experience – a strong indicator that you’re creating a culture people want to be a part of.
Finally, with a successful wellness program in place, your company is more likely to attract top job candidates looking for above-average benefits packages. You’ll be one step ahead of the next organization in terms of recruiting.
Don’t forget to periodically evaluate your program, with employee input, to determine whether adjustments are needed.