January 11, 2018

Does your workplace wellness program need a makeover?

Nap rooms, standing desks and vending machines stocked with healthy snacks aren’t simply Millennial playground fare. These wellness perks were named as three of the top workplace wellness trends for 2018 by industry experts and trendwatchers.

While this doesn’t mean that sleep pods should be the next step for office spaces everywhere, it does signal that wellness programs are evolving to address and meet the needs of today’s workforce.

Employees are increasingly blending work and life – and building relationships, participating in communities, and pursuing personal goals through career development at work are becoming the new normal. Employers are also paying more attention to the significant impact of employee burnout, and putting new practices in place to reduce or prevent it.

The focus and value individuals place on health and wellbeing as a whole has deepened and evolved – and the notion of continuous and holistic self-betterment has become part of how people live their lives.

Leading organizations are now approaching workplace wellness more holistically. Ten years ago, for example, wellness programs were more narrowly focused on diet and physical well-being. Today, in a world of total rewards, always-on connection and a war for talent, the ability to pursue and practice wellness as part of the work day is not only an employee expectation, but strategically good for business.

The ROI of evolving wellness programs can be seen in many ways, from engagement and loyalty to organizational reputation. Here are the top reasons to re-think your workplace wellness program with a holistic approach:

Well-rounded wellness programs bolster employee engagement, loyalty and trust

Connecting wellness offerings to other aspects of culture drives engagement. While it’s not enough to simply offer wellness initiatives and expect engagement to increase, connecting performance development to both professional and personal goals – wellness being part of these – is a step in the right direction.

A workplace committed to helping employees achieve their goals builds trust and motivation. Findings from a Health Fitness and Connell Group study found that 70% of employees who participated in their organization’s wellness programs reported that their company’s offering is an indicator that their employer cares about them.

Reduce employee burnout

Tony Schwartz, chief executive of The Energy Project, wrote in the New York Times that “we feel better and perform better when four core energy needs are met” – one of those core needs is “sufficient rest, including the opportunity for intermittent renewal during the work day.” Further, a study by Quantum Workplace and Limeade found that 71.1% of employees want their employers to provide stress relief breaks– but just 28.4% of employers do so. Time to rest and recharge is especially important after particularly busy periods, but building a culture that advocates regular balance goes a long way towards long-term engagement.

A culture of health is a differentiator

In the war for talent, culture is a key differentiator for acquiring and retaining high performers. A company is four times more likely to experience a loss in talented workers within a year if employees are not satisfied with its wellness offerings. Building a culture of health, closely tied to company purpose, is a signal that an organization is supportive of overall employee long-term well-being, which is a strong value proposition for candidates.

Employee wellness positively impacts business performance

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that companies with high well-being scores outperformed the 500 largest U.S. companies listed on the S&P 500 index by 235% over a six-year period. The study concluded that high-performing and well-managed companies pursue investment in workforce health and well-being.

According to Harvard Business Review, a study by Willis, Towers, Perrin supports the notion that more employers experience financial returns and competitive advantage through higher employee engagement, productivity and workplace morale – all factors resulting from higher overall well-being.

Employee buy-in is key to successful workplace wellness programs, and there are challenges with the perceived benefits of wellness programs. If they seem cumbersome, limited, deadline-driven, or inconvenient, or they’re merely offered without a broader connection to culture or purpose, employees are less likely to participate.

A top barrier to participation, though, is lack of communication or awareness. In fact, Gallup research found that 85% of U.S. employers with more than 1,000 employees offer a wellness program, but only 60% of employees at thosecompanies are aware that their company offers one.

Success, then, starts with great leadership. This means transparency and support from senior leadership and managers who walk the talk. In an upcoming post, we’ll cover tips for implementing a successful wellness program, including ways to effectively communicate to employees and build a culture of health.

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Managing Editor, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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