05 Jul Wellness Experiences in the Workplace
These days most organisations have some degree of an employee wellbeing strategy, whether it is access to a discounted gym membership, office fruit bowl or a wellbeing week. However many of these programs are implemented without thinking about why you have a workplace wellbeing program in the first place. And secondly are often driven by the wrong business objectives.
What is the purpose of employee wellness in your workplace?
Andrè Spicer a professor from Cass Business School at City University London, in his book The Wellness Syndrome found that many corporate wellness programs have low returns on investment and can actually backfire, making employees less healthy and more anxious about their jobs.1
I have met with many organisations that decided to do a wellness week. There is great buy in from employees as they get inspired to take care of their health and make some serious changes, but after the wellness week there is no follow up. They have been told about all the things they are doing wrong with their health and given no support in implementing change. The box gets ticked and the wellness week gets put on the back burner for another 12 months.
What was the real benefit of your wellness week? What outcomes were you expecting?
Some businesses believe that employee wellness is something that employees can take care of themselves and the business shares no responsibility in this. This is irresponsible considering a person will spend one third of their adult life at work. Other businesses see the importance of wellness but are unwilling to invest in creating a healthy workplace. This is despite overwhelming evidence showing a significant return on investment, ranging between 3:1 and 5:1 return per dollar spent per worker.2
It is crucial to establish and articulate the true purpose of having a wellness program in your workplace. Is it to tick a box and include it as an employee benefit? Is it to collect mountains of data and continue to plot the decline of your employees over time? Or is it to assist your employees in becoming the best version of themselves at work and at home.
When it comes to your wellbeing strategy you have three key stakeholders in your organisation. First, there is the companies priority of driving profits; if the organisation is spending money on a wellness program, it has to be making them money. Then there is the leadership team priority of building culture, increasing retention and improving productivity. Finally, you have the employee’s priority, which is to simply feel valued.
Your corporate wellbeing strategy if focused on the employee experience can be a gift that demonstrates value.
However many companies assume what their employees might want and need. A client of ours had grand plans of a wellbeing strategy with all the bells and whistles, but we encouraged them to start with small focus groups to find what their needs were. Surprisingly we found that all employees really wanted was to feel they can exercise on company time, have greater access to healthy food and be able to disconnect from work on their days off. All these strategies really required was better communication on company policies.
The key to creating an effective wellbeing strategy is to create an employee experience across the four pillars of performance – mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery – in the workplace environment, policies and education programs.
Your workplace environment includes both physical and online. Do you need fancy gadgets and gizmos? Sometimes the simple things like natural light, clean air and fresh food could be enough. Google wanted to encourage their employees to use the stairs more often. In order to do this they painted the stairwells in bright colours and added motivational sayings on the wall, music and fresh fragrances. This simple change made a significant impact on the physical activity and culture of the Google workplace. Do you have a central online platform for employees to find quality information on how to improve their health and be a high performer in the workplace? Or do they follow the latest fad diet and exercise program. Having an online wellbeing hub shows your employees health and vitality is central to your work culture.
When it comes to a organisations Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) policy there is usually a strong focus on having a big S (safety) and a little H (health). Policies should not just be centered on the prevention of injuries and ill health but should encourage the promotion of good health and performance. To enable peak performance of your employees you need clear policies around appropriate times for workers to exercise, how much rest should be taken between shifts, alcohol and food options for company events and expectations around work communications. By bringing the human element back to the workplace, your staff productivity and sustainability is guaranteed to flourish.
Your learning and development programs should be delivered in ways that promote maximal engagement and entertainment. Most people do not connect with knowing more about clinical and medical conditions unless they are personally suffering from them. Hosting initiatives such as ‘Diabetes Awareness Month’ or ‘Mental Health Month’ will not capture the heart and minds of your employees. We have found great success in promoting health initiatives that spark curiosity and focus on healthy behaviours not just statistics and studies such as ‘15 Minutes to Fitness’, ‘Nutritional Myths that Made the World Sick’ and ‘Making Stress Your Friend’.
At the end of the day your wellness strategy should be focused on the happiness of your employees. Happy employees are productive employees.
- Berinato, S. (2015, May 1). Corporate wellness programs make us unwell: An interview with André Spicer. Harvard Business
- Baicker, K., Cutler, D., & Song, Z. (2010). Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health Affairs (Project Hope)., 29(2), 304–11.