More employers are interested in workplace wellness for their businesses. But what exactly is workplace wellness, and how can it benefit your organization?
WELLNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
The idea of the workplace as a space promoting wellness has evolved over the last couple of decades. Industrial workplaces had focused largely on worker safety, but with the knowledge economy shift to sedentary desk jobs, it became more apparent to employers—and employees—that businesses could and should take an interest in ensuring that their employees were not only safe, but healthy.
HEALTHY EMPLOYEES ARE GOOD FOR BUSINESS
In a world where traditional health benefits come with hefty premiums and ever-increasing costs, the idea of preventative programs for employee health have huge appeal. Rather than waiting for an employee to develop a chronic health problem like diabetes, cardiac disease, or even just a bad back, employers take an active role in promoting healthy living. That translates into fewer claims for chronic conditions, following the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Healthy employees also take fewer sick days and are more productive when they’re at work, which creates additional benefits for employers. In short, happy, healthy employees contribute to a better workplace environment, which lowers costs for businesses—and helps employees live their best lives.
WHAT IS WORKPLACE WELLNESS?
So what exactly does “workplace wellness” consist of? Essentially, it’s any program that’s designed to promote healthy, active behaviours in the workplace. This can include offering gym memberships as part of an employee benefit plan, scheduling seminars to educate employees about healthy choices, creating a lunch-hour workout program, or any number of other programs designed to promote healthy choices. Some firms might choose to offer healthy meals in the workplace cafeteria. Others might implement a “contest” in which employees compete with each other to log the most steps on their Fitbit or pedometer. Still others might follow the example of some firms in Turkey, who allow employees to arrive to work an hour late—provided they hit they gym first.
WHERE DO YOU START?
Beginning a workplace wellness program or even adding to an existing program can seem overwhelming. There are many options, and employees may, at first, be resistant to wellness programs. Any firm can implement a wellness program, however, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.
Be sure to start small. For example, you might begin by offering seminars on healthy living, or switch up the cafeteria menu to offer more healthful alternatives. You could also talk to the local gym about offering your employees discounted memberships or contact a local fitness trainer to run lunch-hour workout sessions. All of these are small motions toward a wider wellness program—and great first steps for any employer to take.
MIND THE BOTTOM LINE
Some organizations will resist wellness programs at first in part because they believe the costs will be too high. After all, your firm might already be paying high health benefit premiums—so why add to your cost burden?
There’s good news: wellness programs don’t need to be expensive. First, there may be a government program in place to help you cover the costs of any program you implement; you may be able to write off the cost of seminars or gym memberships as a business expense. Second, employers with active wellness programs will actually be given a break on their health benefit premiums by their insurance programs. Finally, consider the costs of not implementing a wellness program: sick employees with high rates of absenteeism, low productivity, and high-cost health claims. Can you afford not to have a wellness program?
Felicia is the manager of human capital solutions at AugmentHR. With over six years of recruitment experience coupled with multi-faceted HR roles, Felicia is an expert in matching people with the right role and environment. She has worked in many different industries, including investment banking, HR consulting firms, medical, and commercial. Understanding people is one of her strengths, and she has recruited at every level, from directors, project managers, and engineers to operators and general labourers. Her ability to network and develop relationships has been a key tool to her success. With approximately two years of experience managing people and creating a positive work environment, Felicia’s diverse skill set makes her a well-rounded individual. Her business education and background help her identify different business needs and human capital solutions.