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Wellbeing In The Workplace: A Winning Idea

According to  Tilly Hetherington – Operations Executive at CVWOW, wellbeing is increasingly featuring on the agenda of employers and employees alike, with countless studies indicating a direct correlation between the happiness of a workforce and the subsequent success of the business. As a result, many organisations already have structured wellbeing strategies in place that range from encouraging healthy eating and fitness to formalised occupational health services. Given that absenteeism costs UK businesses more than £15 billion every year, improving employee health and wellbeing can have a positive impact on your company’s finances, as well as increasing productivity and engagement in the workplace.

The NHS, for example, recently announced the launch of a new £5 million health and wellbeing initiative for its 1.3 million health service staff. The new programme will be based around three pillars: a drive for improved staff health; occupational health services for GPs; and healthier food and nutrition. Estimates put the cost to the NHS of staff absence due to poor health at £2.4bn a year, so in comparison, the cost of implementing the scheme is absolutely a worthwhile investment.

This is undoubtedly a sizeable task, but there are also a huge number of organisations with fewer staff that could benefit from similar initiatives on a smaller scale.

A joint venture between Vitality Health, Mercer and the Telegraph is the Britain’s Healthiest Company Awards. The first of its kind in the UK, the scheme seeks to explore the wellbeing of Britain’s employees. The awards are based on research from 111 companies across the UK, with 32,538 employees voluntarily submitting responses to surveys on all aspects of wellbeing.  These awards take into consideration small, medium and large corporations, ranging from 50 to 1000+ employees.

Winner of the Healthiest Employees category as a small business (50-250 employees), Sanofi Pasteur MSD, goes out of its way to encourage lunch-break activities. The latest project at their head office is Midday Mile Walks, which one-third of employees will be taking part in and there are now plans to introduce a lunchtime yoga class.

Sweaty Betty, winner of the same category as a medium sized organisation (250-999 employees) offer employees flexible working hours, an on-site gym and tax breaks on bicycles as some of their health-boosting benefits.

At the other end of the scale is Johnson & Johnson, winner of Britain’s Healthiest Company as a large organisation (1000+) who have a long history of caring for the health of their employees. Johnson & Johnson have developed a company-wide health and wellbeing strategy, incorporating a variety of programmes. These include the ‘Make It Count’ programme, which empowers staff to monitor, manage and understand their blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol. The ‘Energy for Performance in Life’ programme encourages employees to learn how to manage their energy levels efficiently to tackle challenges in their work and personal life.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson offers a range of policies and benefits including: private health care; flexible working; ergonomic workstations; on-site fitness centres and the provision of free fresh fruit and filtered water.

These are just a few examples of how the company looks after its people. Johnson & Johnson recognises that there are many other ways to support the wellbeing, health, energy levels and sense of work-life balance of its people. These have all been captured in the company’s ‘Little Book of Wellness’ which is distributed to all UK employees across the three sites.

Whether a comprehensive strategy is in place, or an employer is making small steps to adjust for the good of the team, overall the return on investment is clear. Tony Wood, UK leader of employee health & benefits, Mercer, said:

“We now have direct evidence to prove organisations who invest in the health of their people have a competitive advantage. The top 20pc of organisations in Britain’s Healthiest Company 2015 had 41pc less lost productivity than the lowest 20pc of organisations. This should place wellness firmly on the agenda of business leaders.”

Wellness Benefits for Workers

According to Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, for many workers the encouragement of wellness can lead to better physical health greater job satisfaction and a more positive mental outlook. Studies also show wellness programs result in fewer workplace injuries.

Other benefits include increased stamina lower levels of stress and a better self-image and higher self-esteem.

According to the Cornell University Institute for Health and Productivity Studies employers can save between $300 and $450 annually per employee as a result of reduced health expenditures from an annual wellness investment of $100 to $150 per employee.

Some would say that an even bigger benefit than the costs savings to both employers and workers is that a workplace wellness program increases the (mental and physical) health and morale of employees resulting in increased productivity and reduced absenteeism and turnover higher job satisfaction and short-term disability claims. In fact a recent study showed that corporate fitness center participants had 1.3 days fewer short-term disability claims yearly per employee than non-participants and had fewer health risks.

In addition to the cost savings and increased productivity studies have found that employees are more loyal to organizations that establish wellness programs — and that adding a wellness program strengthens the organization’s values and corporate culture.

Finally a high quality fitness and wellness program is an employee recruitment and retention tool.

Elements of Wellness Programs

While wellness programs should be tailored to the needs of each employer’s workforce some standard elements of many wellness programs include:

  • health education/awareness
  • weight loss
  • nutrition/healthy eating
  • fitness
  • biking/walking to work
  • lunchtime exercise classes
  • stress management
  • smoking cessation
  • alcohol and drug abuse counseling
  • preventative education

The best starting place should be to talk with and/or survey employees — about their views of health and nutrition exercise and fitness and interest in participating in a wellness program. Some organizations have reported finding weak involvement in programs that are not customized to the needs of employees. Furthermore top management — and all levels of management — must not only support the wellness program but set an example by being active participants.

Other elements of successful wellness programs includes:

  • the use (hiring) of a “Wellness Czar” (or coach director motivator manager)
  • conducting annual on-site health fairs (where workers could obtain flu shots cholesterol screenings blood pressure readings and other healthy-living assessments and information)
  • publishing (in print or online) a wellness newsletter full of healthy-living tips wellness program news and aggregate employee health results
  • supporting community-based health programs
  • establishing a workplace wellness library
  • developing a point system for awarding of “Wellness Prizes” (such as stress balls water bottles and other wellness merchandise; health-food-store gift certificates; gym membership and/or personal-trainer coupons; spa treatment coupons and sporting-goods stores gift certificates). Some employers offer cash incentives reserved parking spaces extra time off and reductions to healthcare premiums. The key for incentives is that they must be items that will motivate employees from the beginning ?- and keep them actively involved in the wellness program (by providing positive reinforcement for good behaviors and ongoing participation).

Ultimately, employees who believe their employer cares about their wellbeing have been proven to be more engaged at work than the average worker.

Workplace-wellness programs clearly benefit both employees and employers.

Employers who value their employees should consider starting a wellness program — or taking an existing one to the next level. While there are some financial costs the benefits are abundantly clear — and make both financial and moral sense.

As the workplace wellness program is developed or enhanced remember to make changes throughout the organization — by replacing bad snacks in vending machines or breakrooms with healthy options and updating and upgrading the menu in company cafeterias.

Workplace wellness resources: Employee Wellness Program.
Individuals can find wellness resources — health nutrition fitness balance and more — at EmpoweringRetreat.com: Tools for a Healthy and Happy Life.


About Dr. Ev D'aMigo; PhD

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