Happy, healthy employees are engaged employees. One of the biggest challenges faced by HR professionals is to create that particular balance of workplace elements that will help employees maintain or enhance their physical and mental well-being. Today’s conventional workplace wisdom praises wellness programs and Employee Assistance Programs (also known as EAPs) as a good tool for achieving this balance. Offering wellness options is thought to improve health, happiness (and therefore productivity), and even cut healthcare expenditures.
What Kind of Employee Wellness Programs are There?
Ranging in intent, style, and scale of implementation, most employee wellness programs cover three basic functions: the elimination of negative habits such as smoking or substance use issues, the maintenance of good habits, and the creation of new, healthier habits, such as improvements in diet or fitness.
A number of innovative, health-based wellness programs have been implemented at many influential organizations. For example, Google offers massage credits, fitness classes, and intramural sports. Tech company Mobify encourages employee wellness by hosting weekly circuit training, lunchtime yoga, and meditation. Fitbit makes use of their own technology to gamify fitness and creates competitions that encourage employees to achieve health-related goals. In each case, the company has found a unique and engaging way to encourage their employees towards adopting a healthier lifestyle.
In addition to fitness aspects, wellness programs often address other necessary health management services, such as mental health programs and counselling, preventive health screenings, stress-management workshops, and nutritional education. Companies like Zappos, Facebook, and Asana even provide nap rooms, to allow employees to rest and recharge on the job.
Benefits of a Wellness Program
Studies have shown that having a wellness program can improve morale, decrease absenteeism, improve productivity, and provide benefits to employee health. For example, in a group of nine companies using a specific wellness program, participants saw a 76% reduction in hypertension, a 49% reduction in risk of diabetes and a 9% reduction in obesity, which is no small feat, considering the long-term costs and effects associated with these conditions.
Implementing Employee Wellness Programs
One of the key factors in making a wellness plan effective is ease of implementation. If adding the healthy habit into the employee's life is effortless, then it’s much more likely to be integrated. This works particularly well in the context of nutrition. For example, Google’s cafeteria is strategically designed to encourage healthier choices, with a prominent salad bar, colour-coded meals, smaller plates, and water placed at eye level. These structural elements, while they require a little more forethought, make it almost effortless for employees to choose healthier options. And this has resulted in measurable benefits, such as a 47% increase in water intake.
Regardless of the benefits, there’s no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to employee wellness programs. To ensure that all staff are engaged and experiencing benefits, sometimes a different approach is needed.
Out of the Box Options for Employee Wellness
Some companies have seen good results from more unorthodox wellness initiatives. A change of scenery or aspect of “newness,” whether small or large, can have an impact on well-being, happiness and productivity. This could be as simple as adding some art to the walls of your workplace, or as elaborate as re-arranging the whole floor plan. Even adding a few days of remote work can create an invigorating feeling of novelty. According to a study conducted by Regus, more than half of workers worldwide experience an improvement in the way they feel about their workplace after making adjustments to it, so don’t hesitate to bring a little change to your office.
Another imaginative office perk, which is being implemented by companies like Google and Farmers Insurance, is dog therapy. Introducing dogs to the workplace is a great way to press “paws” when it comes to stress. Other variations on the theme of animal interaction in the office include bunny yoga and cat therapy, and both seem to have plenty of fans.
Putting a Plan Together
Adding unconventional elements to an employee wellness program can go a long way towards creating a positive and productive work culture. If you’re looking for assistance with creating an employee wellness program for your company, the experts at TPD are happy to help. Feel free to get in touch with us here, or call us at 1.888.685.3530.