A sedentary and uninspired work life can be hazardous to an employee’s health. How can this issue be remedied so employees are more productive and empowered to live healthy lifestyles? Implementing and promoting health and wellness isn’t only an investment in employees, but it benefits employers as well.
Managers with knowledge of successful wellness initiatives will be in high demand as the world’s employment environments continue to change, especially in light of events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a background in applied psychology, for instance, can help business leaders bring remarkable value in transforming workplace standards around health and wellness.
What Is Employee Health and Wellness?
An employee’s health and wellness is the state of their physical and mental health, inside and outside of the workplace. It takes into consideration any medical and behavioral conditions or habits, as well as energy, mood and motivation levels. If an employee’s health or wellness suffers, it affects not only their own performance but can also harm their team, organization, and personal lives. Because of that, supporting employees through a lens of workplace wellness is invaluable.
A healthy employee tends to have steady levels of energy, proactive behaviors, higher productivity and focus, and a positive disposition that improves comfort levels in the workplace. However, because it’s not always obvious who is and isn’t healthy, employers should make efforts to engage with their workers and understand how to best improve their workplace experience.
How to Promote Wellness in the Workplace
The first step to meaningful wellness practices is to be aware that wellness is a moving goalpost and means different things to different people. As such, it’s important to employ a variety of tactics to ensure everyone is encouraged and supported in improving their health and overall well-being.
Evaluate Employee Health Risks
According to a 2020 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), many employers that offer health benefits also provide workplace wellness programs. These employers screen their employees through health risk assessment questionnaires or physical exams to discover issues. According to the KFF survey, in 2020 68% of large firms and 50% of small firms with health benefits offered workers a health risk assessment, biometric screening or both. With this information, companies can create personalized preventative wellness plans that are much more effective than generalized education and information.
Plans typically include primary preventative care for employees who have risk factors that may lead to chronic diseases. Also included is secondary preventative care, used to improve disease control among employees who manifest chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma or diabetes. Preventative care offered by employers has been shown to reduce the use of reactionary assistance (e.g., emergency room visits, surgery, etc.), and therefore reduces the health costs of each employee.
Provide Healthy Snacks
Another strategy to foster workplace wellness is to remove the temptation to eat poorly. If there are sodas and candy in the vending machine or doughnuts for breakfast, employees are forced to bring in their own healthy food or succumb to an unhealthy diet. Employers can discuss the benefits of healthy eating with employees as well as create a survey to identify their favorite healthy options.
Replacing soda with water and candy with granola bars, for example, helps promote a healthy work environment by reducing available junk food options. Open communication with employees about the change to healthy food substitutes helps ease the transition while creating a workplace environment that promotes wellness and health.
Offer Paid Fitness Memberships
Rewards, incentives and benefits — such as gym, spa or yoga memberships — are great techniques to increase motivation as well as health and wellness in the workplace. Amenities such as an on-site gym give employees the opportunity to exercise more frequently and together, creating a stronger team environment. Offering group classes that help educate workers on the benefits of exercise and diet before or after work gives them an incentive to be at work and enjoy it more.
Companies such as Google offer on-site gyms while others, like Microsoft, provide funding for their employees to attend full-service gyms. Physical wellness correlates with productivity, and offering benefits such as fitness memberships is an excellent way to improve employee retention.
Provide Access to Advice Lines
In association with team wellness development, more personal options are beneficial as well. Employees can benefit from access to 24/7 nurse advice lines to answer their personal health questions. Nurse advice lines and other resources, including Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that are designed to provide mental health and stress support, are convenient ways for employees to privately communicate via phone or internet with a health professional.
By providing these and other resources, an employer can offer a wellness in the workplace program that provides both general and personalized options for employees.
Evaluate Office Ergonomics
Implementing ergonomic solutions helps fit the job to the worker. This is accomplished by designing the physical environment in a way that optimizes ease of use, safety and overall wellness. Identifying the best chairs, desks, lighting, colors and other workspace elements substantially benefits employees as it appeals to their safety and comfort.
Benefits of Health and Wellness at Work
With these extra investments in an employee’s wellness, employers may wonder “what’s in it for the company?” If organizations invest in healthy work environments, they can reap the benefits of health and wellness through improved performance and consistency.
- Less absenteeism: Studies have shown that employee fitness and a healthy work environment can result in workers missing fewer days.
- Savings on health insurance: While it shouldn’t be an employer’s primary reason to utilize a workplace wellness program, most companies see a decrease in health costs and payouts for employee claims.
- Higher employee satisfaction: Employee reviews and surveys consistently show that wellness programs increase satisfaction in the workplace. This includes better teamwork, communication and job performance.
- Greater job retention: Recruiting new employees is time consuming and expensive, ergo retaining the same employees is beneficial to companies. If organizations treat their employees well by offering benefits and a comprehensive wellness program, workers will have more incentive to stay.
- Improved productivity: Sponsoring employee health directly correlates with increased productivity. Workers tend to work harder if they are healthy and enjoy the work environment that surrounds them.
Remote Employee Wellness
As employment trends lean toward the increased use of remote work, it’s important to consider how wellness programs impact stay-at-home workers differently. Without the social structure of regular physical interaction with other associates, some precautions may need to be taken.
Some ideas employers can use to support remote employee wellness include reimbursing workers for fitness activities such as online exercise or meditation programs; encouraging employees to separate their work lives from their private lives; scheduling regular check-ins with leaders to discuss any issues; and creating a space where remote employees can chat and share their thoughts.
Learn More About Wellness in the Workplace
Implementing and maintaining a successful workplace wellness program can provide significant benefits for both employers and employees. It is not simply about providing the program, however, but also about understanding employee behaviors and motivations, and supporting and encouraging employees. Adapting wellness programs to changing business dynamics — such as the increase in remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic — is also key.
The understanding of human behavior is an essential component in the success of virtually every business and organization. It is also basic to the study of psychology.
The USC online Master of Science in Applied Psychology is designed to prepare professionals to excel in the fields of consumer and organizational psychology through the development of skills such as research analysis, multicultural communication, problem solving and strategic thinking. Learn more about the program today and how it can lead to rewarding career choices.