Workplace wellness programs need to be holistic in order to benefit companies and individuals alike.
Effective workplace wellness programs help reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, increase engagement, and reduce employee turnover.
Measuring results can help develop and improve workplace wellness.
Research has found that employee wellbeing benefits individuals and companies alike. However, studies have also found that employee wellbeing programs aren’t always as effective and beneficial to a person’s health.
Though the question of whether companies should offer workplace wellness programs is settled (the answer is an obvious YES), there’s still much that can be done to improve these efforts and their respective impact. Long gone are the days of wellness programs that focus on getting people to stop smoking or lose weight; instead wellness programs today are much more holistic and work to address mental, physical, social, spiritual, emotional, occupational, and intellectual health.
Suggested Reading: “20 Wellness Initiatives for Your Coworking Space”
Effective workplace wellness programs can help reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, engage the workforce, reduce employee turnover, increase customer satisfaction, and increase profitability. You can read more about this research here.
How to Improve Workplace Wellness
1. Develop and Nurture a Culture of Wellness
A culture of workplace wellness needs first and foremost for the workplace environment to be conducive to wellbeing. It’s an environment that reduces or eliminates barriers in order to encourage workers to make healthy decisions and adopt healthy behaviors.
Strategies to create a culture of wellness include:
- Mandate movement. Have a central staircase, encourage people to take regular breaks, encourage walking meetings, and offer bike storage and shower facilities to encourage people to cycle or walk to work.
- Offer healthy snacks and beverages. Unhealthy eating has been categorized as an occupational hazard. Instead of offering hyperpalatable snacks and sugary beverages in your kitchen or during events, fill your kitchen cabinets with healthy snacks like walnuts, blueberries, oatmeal, and jerky. When it comes to food in the workplace, it’s not just about eating, it’s about nourishing our bodies. Check out The Best Snacks to Improve Cognitive Function in the Workplace
- Reward healthy behavior. Provide incentives in order to increase engagement and participation in your workplace wellness programs. Give companies a shout out, offer a one hour-massage discount, offer a day off, or pay employees who get a full night’s sleep like this Japanese company.
Suggested Reading: “Feeling Stressed? Clock in Fewer Hours and More Zzzz’s”
2. Focus on Your Workplace Environment
This goes hand in hand with creating a culture of wellness. In order to create such a culture, the built environment needs to be conducive to wellness. To show people that you truly care about their wellbeing, your workplace needs to make them feel better, not worse, when they walk in and as the hours go by.
Workplace environments that are conducive to wellness include the following elements:
- Great indoor air quality (here are some Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality)
- Reduce noise levels as these can be a source of stress and distraction
- Bring the outdoors in through biophilic design and by adding plants to your workplace (here are the 7 Best, Low-Maintenance Plants for Indoor Environments)
- Let the light in! Natural light is the secret ingredient for a happy workplace (here are 11 Tricks to Maximize Natural Light in the Workplace)
Effective communication is needed to drive participation and engagement with your workplace wellness programs. Communicate openly and honestly with employees about which programs you want to offer, ask them for feedback to see if they would be interested in them, and clearly define your goals and expectations.
Communication about wellness should be regular and communication channels should be used to communicate about events (from your workplace or external community like half marathons, biking outings, etc.), as well as to communicate about when success will be measured and to give a shout out or highlight a specific program or success.
Without proper communication, workplace wellness programs won’t reach their full potential and impact.
4. Address Mental Health
Workplace wellness programs that fail to address mental health are, to a certain extent, incomplete. Though there’s traditionally been a negative stigma around mental health in the workplace, companies can no longer ignore it and they need to provide emotional support to employees.
Depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health disorders cost companies thousands of dollars a year in the form of lost productivity, increased absenteeism, and having an unengaged workforce. Not to mention that people whose mental health is not optimal tend to have a harder time focusing and solving problems.
Here you will find several ways in which you can address mental health in the workplace.
5. Track, Measure, and Follow-up
The effectiveness and impact of workplace wellness programs can be measured in a variety of ways depending on the program. Companies should conduct regular evaluations of wellness programs, and follow-up with participants to get their take on the program’s effectiveness, attractiveness, and how it can be improved.
Some things you can measure:
- The number of sick days over a period of time
- Measure employee turnover and engagement (engagement can be measured by sending surveys and comparing how many people participated vs before your programs)
- Individual measures for specific programs and participants (weight, blood pressure, average steps walked daily, etc.)
There are various technology platforms out there that can make it easier for companies and individuals to track their success and monitor their progress.