Helping Employees Build Wellness into Their Day

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Employee wellness programs are a great investment that can provide benefits in a number of important areas. Not only can they reduce your organization's healthcare costs, but they can also serve to boost employee engagement, enhance productivity and help you recruit top talent.

Reducing Healthcare Costs

According to Harvard Business Review, some types of workplace wellness programs can reduce employee hospital admissions by about 30 percent and lead to significant reductions in overall healthcare costs and premiums, as employees adopt healthier practices (with the support of employee wellness programs). The precise ROI of your wellness programs will, of course, depend upon the specifics of both the program you implement and your employee health profiles.

Wellness to Engage and Attract Top Talent

For a good example, let's look at one of the most competitive industries today, the technology sector. A new report from the Aberdeen Group, explains that top U.S. technology companies are effectively leveraging employee wellness programs to recruit and engage the most sought-after talent. In fact, firms committed to wellness programs have found that talented tech employees are more productive and engaged around company goals. These talented employees also remain with their employers longer despite the burgeoning number of lucrative job opportunities in today's tech sector.

Tech employers who acknowledge and accommodate the full humanity of their employees, supporting them as they strive to integrate their work and personal lives, often see their employees reward them with heightened productivity and engagement, confirms the Aberdeen Group. Investments in employee wellness also make these tech firms more profitable and a more attractive destination for outside tech talent, notes the report.

Getting Started

You don't need to invest in a full-fledged wellness program to start seeing benefits. Starting with small changes is often best. To drive employee adoption of these small wellness steps, or any wellness program, consider the following three strategies:

  • Communicate the why and the what. Use all your communication channels, from internal websites to meetings to notice boards/wallspace to educate employees about your wellness initiatives. Be sure to emphasize how the wellness initiative will benefit employee health, and keep encouraging them to explore all your available options.
  • Offer employees space and time to engage in wellness. There's no point training employees in meditation or mindfulness, for example, if your organization doesn't offer them quiet spaces or free time to meditate. Make adoption of wellness practices easy by removing the barriers that might get in the way.
  • Consider incentives that might drive employee adoption. If you want employees to walk more, how about offering a contest to see which employee takes the most steps per week, using fitbit? You could offer the winner a $100 gift certificate to a sporting goods retailer. If you're not sure what incentives would motivate your employees to adopt more wellness into their workday, just ask them for ideas.

A Few Simple Wellness Suggestions

Being productive means having the ability to restore oneself from normal workplace stressors such as time pressure and "difficult" human interactions. When employees don't restore as stress presents itself, workplace stress can accumulate to the point where restoration becomes a major challenge (i.e., burnout can occur). Encouraging employees to take restorative, short breaks every few hours will boost organizational and individual wellness.

Enhance Their Calm

For example, some employees might benefit from going to a quiet room for 15 minutes and meditating, perhaps focusing on their breathing with their eyes closed. Even simple, easily-accessible activities such as looking quietly out the window at trees and flowers can boost employee productivity, according to a 2015 study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology. HR leaders should do their best to encourage and accommodate these small, but impactful, ways employees can de-stress during the work day.

Encourage Movement and Stretching

Being sedentary for long periods of time is bad for employee focus and energy, as well as the human body. A recent TechRepublic article argues that "sitting is the new smoking." Researchers recommend two to four hours of varied movements, such as standing, stretching, walking, and other activities, during an average workday, explains TechRepublic. For instance, to get your people moving you could introduce walking meetings or promote a walking club for employees to join at lunch.

Where should you focus your wellness investments, and how should you drive employee adoption? Keep it simple and start by asking your employees for their input. The benefits of wellness are clear, so why not start your program today?