Taking a Cafeteria Approach to Wellness Programs

A woman does yoga outside.

Wellness programs don't need to be one-size-fits-all.

Wellness programs don't need to be one-size-fits-all options. In fact, in today's diverse workplaces it's unlikely that a single offering will appeal to all employees. From yoga to cooking classes to support for pregnant staff and new parents, and even to transit assistance options, organizations are getting more and more creative at coming up with a menu of wellness options to appeal to their employees.

A Variety of Options

Typically, when we think of wellness we think about things related to physical health such as weight or blood pressure. Mental health should come into play too, especially in the workplace where stress can impact a person's job satisfaction and productivity. The "wellness net" is now broader to encompass things like stress, anxiety and depression. According to the National Wellness Institute, there are six dimensions of wellness:







Financial Wellness

There's another dimension that can also come into play in the workplace: financial wellness. An employees' financial situation can have an impact on their overall wellness — and the bottom line of the organization they work for. PwC reports there's a tie between the financial wellness of employees and an organization's bottom line and recommends that employers consider investing in financial wellness programs.

Concerns occur at both ends of the age spectrum — younger employees tend to be concerned about the student debt they've accumulated, while employees nearing retirement are concerned about the potential for their plans to take them through the rest of their lives. Some also feel they need to withdraw from these funds before reaching retirement age. According to PwC, employees' top financial concerns are as follows:

-Not having enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses (50 percent)

-Not being able to retire when I want to (29 percent)

-Not being able to meet monthly expenses (29 percent)

Employers obviously play a role in terms of providing employees with fair and equitable wages. In addition, employers can assist employees through education and access to resources and information to help them better manage their finances and make well-advised investment decisions.

A Balance Between Organic and Organized

Given the wide range of potential wellness initiatives and the varied levels of value that individual employees may place on these offerings, it makes sense to consider ways to offer both organized (sponsored) and organic (employee-driven) approaches to ensure needs are being met.

Brandon Carter, marketing communications manager for Access Development, says his organization provides employees with a good mix of organic and organized wellness initiatives and benefits, largely stemming from the passion that the business founder and chairman has. "He's always inviting employees to train with him," says Carter. "I personally have lost 60 pounds since starting here and have completed four triathlons and a marathon."

Access Development engages employees in the process and has a "Be Well" committee that organizes events and activities, including employee-led yoga and salsa dance classes. "We include mental health in our benefits and cover 100 percent of preventive care visits," Carter says. Employees are engaged in the process, which raises awareness of wellness opportunities and encourages participation.

Best Practices

For HR leaders, identifying wellness initiatives that resonate with employees can boost engagement and participation. Important steps that HR can take to improve the performance of their wellness initiatives include:

-Asking employees for input both formally (through surveys and assessments) and informally (through conversations and committees)

-Monitoring, tracking and trending participation data

-Setting specific objectives and tracking outcomes can help ensure that time and money are being well spent

-Involving employees in the process by forming teams and committees

-Communicating about the availability of programs, initiatives and information available to aid employees in achieving wellness in all aspects of their lives

Organizations should want to see their employees healthy — physically, mentally and financially. By providing a wide array of options, employees can have the opportunities they need to achieve personal wellness in the workplace.

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