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Workplace Wellness: How to Create a Healthy Work Environment

2022-06-30
Workplace Wellness: How to Create a Healthy Work Environment

It is no secret that a healthy workplace leads to healthier employees. However, creating and maintaining a positive work environment can be easier said than done. This article will outline some tips for creating and sustaining a healthy work environment.

What Is Workplace Wellness?

Workplace wellness is a set of wellbeing promotion activities, such as health fairs, educational programs on topics such as nutrition and exercise, and policies that support healthy behaviors.

The goal of wellness programs is always the same: to improve the physical and mental health outcomes of employees.

Importance of Wellness in the Workplace

Wellness programs are critical to the success of any business. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and employees who feel good tend to be more engaged and more likely to stick around. Here are some wellness benefits organizations should consider:

  • Better physical health. Engaging in on-site fitness facilities can improve employee health. The Centers for Disease Control state that increased physical activity can help a person lose weight and reduce the risk of illness including heart attack or stroke. It also helps strengthen bones as well as muscles.
  • Improved mental health and morale. A well-tailored wellness program at work can result in better employee mental health as physically fit employees have a significantly lower risk of mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Wellness activities can also help to reduce feelings of isolation. Studies show that employee morale is the most improved (54%) metric from an employee wellness program.
  • Reduced absence. When employees feel supported in their efforts to stay healthy, they are more likely to make healthy choices that prevent them from getting sick in the first place. A study revealed that 56% of workers had fewer sick days because of a wellness program at work.
  • Better financial health. When employees are feeling their best, they are more engaged with their work. This, in turn, can even lead to financial wellness and benefits like raises and promotions. Research also shows that 61% of workers would join a workplace employee wellness program to help lower their health insurance costs.
  • Higher job satisfaction. Wellness programs help employees to feel supported by their employer which is important in feeling motivated and engaged at work. Additionally, employee wellness programs often provide opportunities for social interaction and networking which creates a more positive work environment and higher job satisfaction. 89% of employees report being likely to recommend their workplace as "excellent" due to the wellness programs they promote.
  • Higher productivity. When employees are healthy, they are more likely to be able to work at their full capacity, be engaged with their work, and be motivated to do their best. Active participation in employee wellness programs can also help reduce presenteeism, which can hurt productivity.

Wellness Challenges in the Workplace

As more and more companies move towards a wellness-based model, employee wellness challenges are becoming popular. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness incentives, active participation in a health and wellness challenge can be effective in achieving physical fitness among employees. Here are some challenges organizations could consider implementing:

  • Sleep challenge. For a week, employees could be encouraged to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. This could be measured using a sleep tracking app. Those who succeed could be entered into a raffle for prizes like gift cards and extra vacation days. For those who do choose to take on the challenge, it's a chance to recharge their batteries and reset their sleep habits.
  • Water challenge. The challenge is simple: employees are given a set period, usually two weeks, to drink a certain amount of water each day. Those who meet the challenge are often rewarded with a prize. It encourages employees to stay hydrated, which can improve focus and cognitive function.
  • Cycle to work. This type of challenge encourages employees to cycle to work instead of driving or taking public transport. Cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that is easy on the joints, and it can help to improve cardio fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility. In addition, cycling to work can help to reduce stress levels and improve mental wellbeing.
  • Taking the stairs. Although it may seem like a small change, taking the stairs instead of the elevator can make a big difference in terms of fitness. Not only does stair-climbing provide a great workout but it also helps to improve cardiovascular health and increase muscle strength.
  • 5-a-day challenge. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day can have a big impact on overall health, as it can help to improve energy levels, mental clarity, and digestion. In addition, the World Health Organization suggests that 5-a-day can also help to promote weight loss, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Wellness Initiatives for the Workplace

More and more companies are starting to implement employee wellness programs in the workplace. There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that a well-crafted workplace wellness program can lead to happier and healthier employees. Here are some wellness initiatives employers could consider:

  • On-site fitness facilities. In addition to promoting physical activity, on-site fitness centers also provide a convenient way for employees to exercise during their lunch break or before/after work. With the help of on-site fitness professionals, these facilities can offer a variety of exercise classes and programs that are tailored to the employees' needs.
  • Health and fitness apps. These apps can help employees to track their physical activity, set goals, and stay motivated. They can also provide health coaching sessions and guide how to exercise safely and effectively. In addition, some apps offer challenges and rewards that can encourage employees to be more active.
  • Healthy eating. Organizations can provide educational materials that explain the importance of good nutrition and how it can improve overall health. They can also offer cooking classes to encourage employees to learn about healthy eating habits and provide healthy food options in the cafeteria or kitchen.
  • Health screenings. By offering screenings for conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, employers can identify potential health risks. Screenings can also help to catch potential problems early when they are more easily treated.
  • Smoking cessation programs. Employers can implement this employee wellness program by providing educational materials and support groups, and giving incentives for employees who successfully quit smoking. Some employers also offer free or discounted nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or gum, to help employees quit.
  • Ergonomic improvements. Employers can provide adjustable chairs, keyboards, and computer monitors. They can also create workstations that allow employees to sit or stand as they work. In addition, they can offer training on how to properly use ergonomic equipment and how to identify potential ergonomic hazards.
  • Stress management programs. These programs can take many different forms, but often include elements such as relaxation techniques, stress education, and counseling services. Some companies also offer on-site amenities such as yoga classes or massage therapy. Employee Assistance Programs are another great way to support employees and their families who are experiencing personal or work-related problems.

What Are Companies Doing for Employee Wellness?

With the rising cost of health care and the increase in chronic conditions, more and more companies are offering programs to help their employees stay healthy. Here we list some of the most successful companies that have implemented comprehensive wellness programs.

Google

Google is known for its innovative work environment, and its commitment to employee wellness is no exception. The company offers a wide range of wellness programs, from on-site fitness facilities and health coaching to reimbursement for gym memberships and online health tools. In addition, Google provides employees with access to mental health resources, including counselors and support groups.

Microsoft

Microsoft offers a variety of employee wellness initiatives that include on-site clinics, health fairs, and discounts on health club memberships. Microsoft also offers programs to help employees quit smoking and to lose weight. In addition, Microsoft offers a monthly e-newsletter that covers topics such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

SAS

From on-site fitness classes to health screenings, SAS provides employee wellness initiatives they need to stay healthy and happy. They also offer discounts on fitness gear, so that employees can keep up with their workout routine even when they're away from the office. SAS also employs certified health coaches on-site.

Accenture

Accenture offers several programs specifically designed to help employees manage stress, improve sleep quality, and boost energy levels. In addition, their Employee Assistance Program provides confidential counseling and support for those dealing with personal or work-related challenges.

Nike

In addition to on-site fitness facilities, health assessments, and wellness coaching, Nike provides employees with access to an online health and wellness portal. This portal includes resources on topics such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Nike also sponsors employee participation in walking, running, and cycling events.

How Do You Measure Workplace Wellness?

Workplace wellness is a measure of how effective an organization is at promoting the health of its employees. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring the effectiveness of a corporate wellness program, there are a few key metrics that can be used.

Biometrics

This helps to identify employee health risks and trends so that corrective action can be taken. By taking measurements of things like weight, body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol, it is possible to get a clear picture of the wellness of the workforce as a whole. However, collecting such sensitive personal data comes with security risks for employees and should only be done on a voluntary, transparent basis.

Satisfaction levels

One of the most effective ways to measure employee engagement and satisfaction is to conduct regular surveys. Surveys can be administered electronically or in person, and they should ask employees about their overall satisfaction levels, as well as their satisfaction with specific aspects of their job. Such surveys can be given anonymously to maximise the authenticity of responses and make employees feel safe in expressing their opinions.

Absenteeism rates

Organizations with high levels of workplace wellness typically have lower absenteeism rates, as employees are more likely to be healthy and present for work. There are several ways to measure absenteeism rates within a company. One method is to track the number of days that employees are absent from work. This can be done through attendance records or time sheets.

Productivity levels

Healthy employees tend to be more productive than those who are not. There are several ways to measure productivity levels. Perhaps the most common approach is to simply consider the amount of output per worker per hour. Another popular method is to look at the value added per worker per hour. This takes into account not only the quantity of work but also the quality, ensuring that only high-value activities are counted. For instance, a sales rep selling a product that he/she took time to study, therefore providing high-value service.

Retention rates

Retention rate is a measure of the percentage of individuals who remain within an organization over a specific period. The most common method to calculate it is to divide the number of employees at the end of a period by the number of employees at the beginning of that period. This figure can then be multiplied by 100 to obtain the retention rate as a percentage.

Workplace Wellness vs Wellbeing

Wellness and wellbeing are often used interchangeably, which is understandable, given that they're both applied to the state of feeling content.

However, wellness at work mainly refers to the state of being physically healthy, whereas workplace wellbeing extends into other aspects, including mental, financial, and social wellness, positive emotions, sense of purpose, and engagement of employees.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Wellness Programs in the Workplace?

Wellness programs are initiatives taken by employers to support the health and wellbeing of their employees.

These programs can take many different forms, but common elements include offering health insurance benefits, hosting on-site health screenings and flu shots, organizing wellness challenges and contests, and providing access to gym facilities or discounts at local fitness clubs.

Some employers also offer comprehensive wellness programs that provided education and support on topics such as nutrition, stress management, and chronic disease prevention.

How Much Do Companies Spend on Employee Wellness?

A study that surveyed 166 mid-sized to giant organizations, found that a total wellbeing program budget averaged $6 million in 2021, which was 22% higher than the previous year.

The study also showed that last year, 92% of employers increased support for mental health by introducing stress, sleep management and resiliency programs at work.

What Does Wellness in the Workplace Look Like?

There are many factors to consider when creating a wellness program for the workplace.

To start, it is important to come up with a definition of wellness that is suitable for your company's culture. Once you have established what wellness means for your organization, you can begin to develop criteria for participation in the program.

Some companies require employees to complete a health assessment, while others allow employees to self-select wellness activities.

It is also important to consider how you will measure the success of your employee wellness programs. Will you track employee participation rates? Or will you focus on health outcomes such as reduced absenteeism or improved productivity?

Wellness in the workplace looks different for every organization, but it should be designed to meet the company's and its employees' specific needs. It should be inclusive, accessible, and affordable.

What Is a Wellness Action Plan in the Workplace?

A wellness action plan is a written document that outlines how an individual or organization plans to improve their overall health and well-being.

The plan typically includes specific goals and actionable steps that can be taken to promote wellness in the workplace.