Employee health and wellness is, yet again, topping the Q1 priority list for employers. In fact, a recent Employee Benefit News study revealed “improving employee health and well-being” was ranked the number one goal for employer benefits programs, with retaining top talent and improving employee satisfaction following closely behind.
Yet many executives often misunderstand what employee wellness means and what improving it looks like.
To start, it’s important to get our definition straight. While some leaders equate the term 'wellness’ with things like yoga, it’s actually a lot simpler: Real wellness is the practice of supporting workers’ mental and physical health in impactful ways without inconveniencing them. Some examples: offering comprehensive, flexible healthcare benefits to full time employees, 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, and unlimited telework options so workers can feel more productive and balanced.
Elevating wellness offerings and, in turn, employee health can improve employee outlook, productivity and outcomes — and boost job retention: According to a 2022 Flexjobs survey, multiple factors associated with employees quitting include a lack of or poor benefits (cited by 31% of respondents), no remote work options (43%) and burnout (42%).
With that in mind, here are four ways employers can improve workplace health:
1. Incorporate more ‘wellness’ components into the workplace. Small additions, such as healthy eating initiatives or fitness/walking programs, can lead to big results. Consider what your workplace can initiate based on employee preferences and how you can offer ongoing opportunities for engagement versus one-time events, which can lower the barrier to participation and create healthy habits over time.
2. Allow flexible scheduling, when possible. Post-pandemic, most workers prefer some degree of flexibility around their work arrangements. One company that’s taking this to heart is PwC: The company recently unveiled a reimagined employee experience called My+, which allows workers to choose to be fully virtual, hybrid or in-person for any reason whatsoever (no questions asked). The takeaway: Leading companies know that employees are productive when they can work in the setting of their choosing, whether full time or part time. For many workers, the daily commute is no longer worth the stress and hassle.
3. Focus on creating a wellness-minded culture. Incidentally, the number one reason people quit their job was a toxic work culture (62%), according to the Flexjobs survey. What makes a culture toxic? An environment that’s rife with toxic behaviors: managers who manipulate or yell at employees, colleagues who gossip and a pervasive sense of negativity and obvious low morale. A wellness-minded culture is one that’s inclusive, transparent and centered on employee wellbeing. Expectations are clear, work-life balance is encouraged and opportunities for growth are abundant.
4. Make benefits more convenient, engaging and accessible. Employees are busier than ever, and the younger and healthier they are, the more likely they’ll skip preventive care. This has dire consequences, down the road. Reperio’s at-home health screening kit meets individuals where they’re at, by offering preventive screening tools they can use in the comfort of their own homes, to measure cholesterol, blood-glucose, weight and other personal health levels. An accompanying digital health app can help individuals make sense of their test results, set goals, and figure out next steps, saving hours of stress and grief.
When employers and health plans demonstrate a vested interest in an individual’s wellbeing and health, satisfaction and engagement rises. Businesses with highly engaged business units saw 41% reduction in absenteeism, per one 2019 Gallup study.
Promoting a culture of wellness doesn’t have to be difficult. By making simple improvements to corporate culture, hybrid work policies and preventive-care benefits, organizations can demonstrate that they value their workforce’s health and prioritize work-life balance and employee satisfaction.
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