The idea of wellness initiatives in the workplace is nothing new. Many big businesses have been doing it for years in an effort to boost productivity, improve morale, and create a positive business culture. And considering the fact that health costs eat up as much as 50 percent of corporate profits, implementing such initiatives are well worth it.
But whether or not specific initiatives work well over the long run is key.
Any company can set up an on-site gym or create an office basketball team in an effort to keep their staff healthy. Yet studies have shown that initiatives like these have done little to benefit personnel or companies as a whole if they lack specific characteristics.
Rather than aimlessly throwing a health and fitness program together, corporate wellness initiatives should be well-thought out and planned in order to ensure its efficacy.
Cathy Kenworthy, CEO of Interactive Health, a leading provider of health management solutions and corporate wellness programs, has said: “Employers pay for half of the health care costs in this country. There’s a huge interest employers have in being able to marshal effective, proactive strategies around managing health care costs.”
Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Have a Massive Effect on Wellness
At the crux of an effective wellness program is an ultimate change in lifestyle for the long haul. Short-term goals and changes may work for a limited amount of time, but without changes in the fundamentals of health, such initiatives will be short-lived at best.
In fact, recent studies have shown that variable lifestyle changes – such as ceasing tobacco use or increasing exercise – can slash at least one-quarter of health care costs.
But these lifestyle changes need to be taught and encouraged, both in the workplace and out. When implemented properly, wellness initiatives in the workplace can help employees improve their health, while boosting morale and company culture at the same time.
The Life-Work Connection
A key component to corporate wellness initiatives is to show employees how specific actions will improve their lives in general, particularly outside the office. A job shouldn’t just be a job; it should be a place that is seamlessly united with their lives outside the workplace.
This is especially true among the millennial demographic, who expects more to their job than just an office and a desk. Having a corporate wellness program in effect can be that connection between work and life that they’re looking for.
Of course, a company’s bottom line is always going to be a part of the equation in an initiative such as this, but it shouldn’t be the only highlighted component. At the end of the day, employees need to know that the powers-that-be truly care about their health and well-being.
They should feel comfortable knowing that their wellness is of importance to company executives. Knowing that they’re cared about – and cared for – encourages workers to not only be more productive, but more loyal to the company as a whole.
Leading By Example
Perhaps a corporate wellness initiative would be optimized if upper-level executives practiced what they preached. By having up management following precisely what’s being proposed in the wellness program, the initiative itself will be more convincing, and ultimately more effective and successful.
Having a bunch of vending machines filled with candy bars and cookies isn’t exactly setting the right message. And management that reaches for these treats on a regular basis isn’t doing much to set a precedent either.
Filling a board meeting table with healthy snacks, on the other hand, sends the right message. And if there are any group activity programs being put together, having executives attend even a few of them from time to time can set the right example too.
The Bottom Line
While corporate wellness programs are becoming increasingly common as a business strategy to improve the health of employees and ultimately boost productivity, there are certainly ways to ensure the programs work the way they are intended to.
It really boils down to creating a healthy and wellness-inspired work culture with employees, rather than just for them. After all, executives and front-line employees working together with a shared goal can do wonders to foster a better work environment that benefits everyone.
“The business case for this is solid, too – employers use the aggregate (and de-personalized) data from their program to design smarter and more affordable health benefit packages,” added Interactive Health’s Kenworthy. “In fact, these programs might be the signature achievement of this generation of business management.”