Wellness. A term loosely tossed around these days by the media, insurance providers and within the four walls of many companies – or at least by HR departments. By now, many of us have read the studies exploring traditional corporate wellness programs and understand the highs and lows associated with rolling them out to employees.
It’s easy for employers to be overly prescriptive with their wellness programs, telling employees to “complete this health risk assessment (HRA),” “take that biometric screening” or “participate in this specific program.” But it’s unclear how these tactics benefit both employees and employers – outside of maybe achieving a handful of short-term gains.
I call this approach “Wellness 1.0.” By and large, it’s failing, or delivering middling results at best. Companies have narrowed the focus to a nagging “do this, don’t do that” strategy and are overlooking the most important thing: creating a wellness program that jibes with the company culture and actually engages employees and supports them in making healthy behaviour changes – rather than telling them how they should act.
We’re facing a true workplace engagement crisis. A staggering 52 percent of Americans admit to being disengaged, and only 18 percent say they’re actively engaged on the job, according to a recent Gallup Poll. So with just 30 percent of employees really tuned in at the workplace, how are we getting anything done? Moreover, how do we fix this?
The new Wellness 2.0 movement starts, first and foremost, with creating a culture-first mentality. That vision creates more productive employees, focusing on their total quality life, from work/life balance, to physical and mental health, to social, financial and spiritual wellbeing. To get the best from employees, employers must care about their employees beyond the corporate walls and support them across all aspects of their lives. Wellness 2.0 means a shift to the Total Quality of Life mentality, and hones in on establishing deeper connections across the board, connecting employers and their teams with platforms that enable people to make healthy changes and support each other along the way.
So, how do we develop mindsets geared toward culture-first and Total Quality of Life? By changing the game when it comes to wellness programs, making them what they should be: More engaging, social, fun and part of everyone’s day-to-day.
Health Goes Beyond the Workout
Wellness 2.0 focuses on an all-encompassing definition of health: Physical, mental, family/social and even financial. Connecting employees with a single online platform, linking them with programs that make wellness interactive, fun and rewarding, and driving them to it every day helps address these challenges. The end result? Less time stressing about daily burdens, from workouts to 401Ks, and freeing up more time to do quality work. Wellness, after all, is the balance of stress-free health and accomplishment. First, you must understand your employees and their needs and start building from there.
Take an employee who’s having financial trouble. What if you helped her overcome that burden with financial counselling once a month, or offered a way to cut commuting costs by working from home twice a week? Chances are, you’ll not only have removed a piece of the problem, but you’ll get more from her. She’ll feel commitment toward your business in the same way you’ve demonstrated commitment to her well-being.
Mesh With Your Mission
Make your wellness programs align with your company’s overall mission. True Wellness 2.0 programs begin with questions like:
What will it take to help my employees make this business succeed?
How do I inspire passion and promote energy with my employees?
This thinking and attitude starts at the top with the CEO, who must take on the role of the “Chief Engagement Officer.” This CEO must think of creative ways to help employees meet their personal goals while at work. For instance, implementing a quarterly “do good” day, allowing employees to volunteer during the workday to fulfil their philanthropic needs.
An initiative like this not only makes the employee feel good about achieving personal goals, but it enhances their relationship with the company. That vibe of creating “social good” is contagious and it’s likely that the entire organisation will feel motivated and engaged as a result. People feel proud about working for a company that demonstrates it cares about its employees and what’s important to them. It’s a win/win.
Promote and Deliver Healthy Options
Wellness programs should encompass physical activity and nutritional eating habits. They’re the foundation of health that drives everything else. By doing something as simple as making the options in the cafeteria healthier and removing the fryolators on campus or having a gym accessible for employees to fit in a workout during the middle of the day, you’ve already achieved one step in creating sharper, more engaged employees and a healthy culture.
Don’t take your efforts too extreme or make moves too quickly, though. You can’t take away Pizza Friday overnight. Work on a plan that has a gradual shift of replacing some of the less healthy items with healthier alternatives. A culture shift takes time and is more effective if employees feel like you’re on board with them. Once employees start feeling better about themselves and achieving personal goals like losing weight or kicking a bad habit like drinking soda, you’ll begin to tap their cognitive power as well. They’re sharper, more passionate and more creative and will continue to become more engaged, striving for bigger and better goals both personally and professionally.
It’s All About Relationships
Wellness 2.0 is effective because it extends beyond the workplace. We recently conducted a poll of nearly 10,000 employees on their thoughts about wellness programs. Seventy percent of them told us that wellness programs positively influence the culture at work and 58 percent said their participation in wellness programs has a positive influence on their colleagues, friends and family.
It may seem silly to worry whether or not your cube neighbour is eating enough veggies, getting eight hours of sleep a night or working out each morning, but it’s important. These things have an impact when it comes to morale and teamwork. We spend most of our waking hours at work, so it’s important to feel a part of the community, especially one that encourages and pushes each other to meet professional and personal goals.
Many companies have taken a social gaming approach to wellness. Each week, employees set personal goals, competing against one another to earn bragging rights, rewards and points. Some companies organize 5K races to challenge employees to compete internally or achieve personal goals. Doing something fun and personally rewarding builds camaraderie both inside and outside of the company. When people establish stronger relationships with their colleagues, they carry that passion into their work. Many of our customers have started to extend their wellness programs to spouses and families of their employees to develop the same culture of wellness at home.
Wellness programs must evolve from being force-fed to culture-driven, focusing on a Total Quality of Life approach.
Health and wellbeing is motivationally contagious if done right. Don’t get caught up in the humdrum that was Wellness 1.0.
Think big, act bigger and get your employees on board to drive higher engagement and productivity in your workplace.