When it comes to employee satisfaction, environment has become one of the most important factors that employers need to focus on, especially post-pandemic. But what exactly are both job-seekers and current employees looking for in their workplace environment (hint: it’s wellness in the workplace, but we’ll talk about how to promote that in this article)?
Recent research conducted by Gartner shows that today’s employees and job-seekers are looking for the freedom and control over both the type of work they’re doing, when they’re doing the work and where they’re doing the work.
Today’s employees value flexibility and ability to manage their personal needs while also achieving needs and goals of the business. This research recommends that employers should intentionally design and nurture their company culture with a human-centric approach.
One of the most important factors that play into an employee’s capability to balance their personal needs along with their responsibilities at work is being proactive about managing their personal health and well-being. Employers can’t be sure that all employees will do everything they need to manage their personal well-being. What they can do is design programs and provide resources that will engage and motivate employees to do it on their own.
In this article, we’ll be talking through all the ways employers can promote wellness at work and answering the following questions:
- How do you practice wellness at work?
- How important is wellness at work?
- How do you promote wellness?
- What are examples of wellness activities at work?
- 4 Tips to get started with wellness at work?
How do you practice wellness at work?
Wellness can never be approached with a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Everyone has personal needs, interests, and abilities that are unique to them and this is an important thing to keep in mind when promoting wellness in your workplace.
One of the best ways to determine the needs, interests and capabilities of individual employees is by simply asking. Employee wellness surveys, or pulse surveys are a great way to gather this data. Ideally, you want employees to be as honest as possible in order to know how they really feel about certain aspects of wellness, so anonymity is key.
Some example questions you can include in your survey are:
- When do you feel happiest at work?
- How satisfied are you with your current responsibilities?
- To what extent do you feel like your role speaks to your personal interests and passions?
- In what ways do you feel like the company could support your mental well-being?
- In what ways do you feel like you need support in general
The level of excitement, receptiveness and open-mindedness to incorporating elements of wellness into your workplace’s day-to-day structure and overall culture will vary from organization to organization. The more innovative and forward-thinking your organization is, it’s likely the people in it hold the same values and mindset. Organizations with employees that are generally less informed or familiar with the concept of wellness and how it relates to the workplace may be more difficult to get on board with the idea.
This is why you should be thoughtful about the way you approach not just the structure of your wellness program or initiatives, but you should be empathetic to the way you approach employees with the new concept. It’s also why asking for their input and feelings about the concept before creating the structure or program is so important as well. Employees will be more receptive to and willing to engage in a program they feel they helped create or had a say in.
As Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices become more prominent in today’s modern workplace, some key factors to consider about members of your team when incorporating wellness initiatives or programs into the workplace might include:
- Physical capabilities
- Dietary needs or restrictions
- Cultural backgrounds
- Religious beliefs
- Personal interests and hobbies
- Gender identities
How important is wellness at work?
Wellness, in all of its various forms, can often be overlooked and undervalued when it comes to where employers choose to spend the company’s dollars.
Unhealthy behaviors, health risks and chronic illnesses can all add up to cost companies millions of dollars each year. Wellness has always been an important component of a high-functioning organization, but only recently have employers started seriously investing in employee wellness.
Physical wellness has been recognized by U.S. corporations for over a century, more increasingly since the 1980’s. Mental wellness has been more recognized as an important and respected area of wellness, but there are actually 7 areas of wellness that factor into our overall well-being. Although not all areas of wellness are tended to in the workplace, all seven areas can affect our performance at work.
According to the Corporate Wellness Market Size, Share, Trends & Analysis Report by Grand View Research, in 2020, the global corporate wellness market was valued at 52.8 billion dollars with employers on average seeing a 3:1 ROI.
Currently, 65% of employed Americans say that they feel satisfied with their jobs and just 20% say they feel passionate about their job (source: apollotechnical.com). A 2021 study by Lighthouse Research & Advisory reported that employers see slightly more benefits from investing in employee mental health than the people employed by the company receiving the benefits and support. When companies offer mental health benefits, both the employees and the employer reap the benefits of the investment.
The most common results wellness programs typically produce:
- Higher productivity
- Better overall performance
- Greater satisfaction and engagement
- Less likely to leave the job
- Easier to recruit new talent
- Fewer sick days
How employees benefit:
- Healthier work-life balance
- Increased performance; more energy and ability to focus
- More frequent and higher quality opportunities for professional growth
- Improved relationships (in and outside of the workplace)
How employers benefit:
- Lower healthcare costs
- Higher productivity quality and quantity
- Higher quality talent acquisition and retention
- Financial gains and an average ROI of 3:1
How do you promote wellness at work?
There are a wide variety of workplace wellness activities that employees can be participants in. Focusing on different types of wellness can help create a well-rounded culture of wellness at your organization. The National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) Information acknowledges 7 main areas or “dimensions” of wellness:
- Physical: Caring for and maintaining the health of your physical body through exercise, proper nutrition, healthy sleep, etc.
- Intellectual: Caring for and maintaining the health of your mind through learning, continuously expanding our knowledge and skills, and sharing them with others
- Emotional: Caring for and maintaining the health of your emotions through learning about your feelings, values and moods and understanding how to properly identify and obtain your unique needs
- Social: Caring for and maintaining the health of your external relationships, maintaining and nurturing casual, close and intimate relationships with others and contributing to/engaging with your community
- Spiritual: Caring for and maintaining the health of your spiritual identity through finding purpose, value, and meaning in your life and living in a way that is aligned with those aspects, with or without organized religion
- Vocational (or occupational): Caring for and maintaining the health of your personal satisfaction and sense of fulfillment and belonging through your career, hobbies and lifestyle.
- Financial: Caring for and maintaining the health of your financial well-being through financial literacy and making decisions about money that are realistic, responsible and inline with your unique circumstances
- Environmental: Caring for and maintaining the health of your social, natural and built environment through understanding the ways in which different environmental factors affect your overall well-being. Additionally, understanding your unique environmental needs to maintain your own overall well-being.
When it comes to workplace wellness or worksite wellness, we could incorporate all seven of these areas into our wellness practices, but realistically, we want to focus on the areas most relevant and appropriate to the work environment. For areas that are more personal and less prominent in the workplace, we can be mindful and respectful of our peers’ unique feelings, needs and circumstances. A great way to acknowledge these areas of wellness is to offer an unbiased and inclusive resource library.
Physical and, more recently, mental (intellectual and emotional) wellness are the most common areas to focus on when it comes to employee wellness. Most commonly, these initiatives are facilitated through healthcare benefits like incentive programs and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). EAPs have helped millions of employees through mental health issues since the 1930’s.
Many employers would consider spiritual and financial to be more personal areas of wellness that we may not want to emphasize in the workplace.
Social, occupational and environmental wellness are often overlooked when it comes to wellness in the workplace, but they are all still important areas that have a powerful impact on our overall well-being (including our performance at work).
What are examples of wellness activities at work?
- Offer time off for mental health needs
- Offer employees a private, quiet space to meditate, sit in silence or process difficult emotions when needed
- Encourage employees to find ways to incorporate their passions into their role
- Host educational mental health discussions and lunch and learns to help employees understand their own mental health needs and how to properly care for them
- Offer a resource library for mental healthcare
- Even just linking to a great resource like Mental Health America (MHA) is a great way for employers to support employee mental health
- Offer incentives for participants to make healthy decisions like visiting a fitness facility, eating a healthy snack or getting proper rest
- Provide healthy snacks in the workplace that are considerate of everyone’s dietary needs or restrictions
- Offer a resource library or lunch and learn presentations on physical health education like nutrition, proper sleep, healthy exercise, etc.
- Provide free weekly lunches to encourage employees to engage with one another over casual, non-work related topics
- Host quarterly team outings or happy hours to build camaraderie among team members
- Support friendships among coworkers outside of work
- Plants not only clean the air, but are proven to have a calming effect on our minds, reduce anxiety and increase serotonin in our brains. Incorporating plants throughout the office or physical workplace wherever possible is a great way to improve mental and physical wellness by maintaining environmental wellness
- Another way to support physical and mental wellness through environmental wellness is to incorporate natural light as much as possible. Natural sunlight can help your body produce vitamin D, which can help protect bone, muscle and heart health. It can also help improve symptoms of depression and increase serotonin
4 Tips to get started with wellness at work?
Tip 1: Conduct an initial pulse survey to structure your wellness initiatives
As mentioned earlier in this article, pulse surveys are one of the most effective tools to gather accurate information about what employees want and need from a wellness program or work culture.
Learn more about pulse surveys and how to get the best use out of them here.
Tip 2: Form a wellness committee
Put feelers out for who would be interested in owning certain roles and responsibilities pertaining to wellness in your workplace and see who takes a bite! A wellness committee can play an important role in keeping the people at your organization informed about wellness practices, answering wellness-related questions. Once you’ve got a wellness committee formed, check out this list of 19 easy activities for your wellness committee to do!
Tip 3: Create a space to discuss all things wellness
Starting a digital chat space or channel (or even getting creative, and starting an automated wellness WhatsApp chatbot) dedicated to discussing all things wellness is a great way to keep employees engaged with the company’s wellness initiatives and informed about wellness facts and best practices.
Tip 4: Host lunch and learns to teach employees about proper wellness
Sometimes teaching people why and how to do something is better than telling them what to do. Providing or presenting educational resources to employees about wellness best practices, facts, activities, routines, ideas, etc. can have a great impact on the success of your company’s wellness initiatives. This will also help create long-term behavioral change and sustain total well-being.