How to Create a Healthy Work Environment That Your Employees Will Embrace
According to a 2014 RAND Corporation report, half of all employers with at least 50 employees offered wellness programs, and nearly half of all employers without a program said they intend to introduce one. Among employers with 1,000 or more employees, 85 percent offer some version of a wellness program. Yet, only about one-quarter of employees are participating. Just like other workplace trends and initiatives, it seems like everyone is “doing wellness” these days but are rarely going about it in a strategic way.
Rachel Druckenmiller, MS is the Director of Wellbeing at SIG, an innovative benefits consulting firm in Baltimore.
In 2015, she was named the No. 1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. by WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) and was a 2016 SmartCEO Brava Award Winner. Rachel has helped guide SIG and their clients to win top workplace and healthy company awards and speaks regularly at
Rachel has helped guide SIG and their clients to win top workplace and healthy company awards and speaks regularly at association, HR, and leadership conferences on the topic of wellbeing in the workplace.
Having been a wellness industry veteran and thought leader for over a decade, I’ve seen what works and a lot of what doesn’t work and am dedicated to and passionate about doing more of what works. Focusing on penalizing employees for not participating in our programs or having out of range health metrics is not the answer. Neither is implementing programs like “The Biggest Loser,” which have been shown repeatedly to do more harm than good. We can’t “get” people to change. We can only create the conditions that support them to make changes for themselves. The workplace is the perfect place to do that.
The reality is, with nearly 70 percent of the workforce reportedly disengaged at work, the time is right to do what is right – to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our employees as a business strategy.
The findings from the 2015 Quantum Workplace Wellbeing Survey make a strong business case for taking care of our people. When employees believe their employer cares about their health and wellbeing, they are 38 percent more likely to be engaged, 10 times less likely to be hostile, 17 percent more likely to still be working there in a year, 28 percent more like to recommend their organization and 18 percent more likely to go the extra mile.
Another way of saying that is, a focus on wellbeing has the potential to boost engagement, morale, retention, recruitment and performance. Since we’re talking about wellbeing, it’s important to define what that is before delving into how to address it at work. I align with the model of wellbeing created by Gallup, which focused on the integration among the five essential elements of who we are and what matters to us – career, social, financial, physical and community.
According to Gallup, while 66 percent of people report doing well in at least one of these areas, only 7 percent of people are strong across all five. What’s more, employees who are thriving in all five areas are more likely to be adaptable, 41 percent less likely to miss work as a result of poor health and 81 percent less likely to seek out a new employer in the next year. The business case for wellbeing is strong. Now, let’s look at how to bring it to the workplace.
1. To start, get clear on your “why.” Why 1do you want to promote wellbeing at work? Unfortunately, we do not have compelling data to support that wellness programs will lower health care costs or generate a measurable financial ROI, despite what many wellness vendors might tell you. Start by considering some of the reasons above. That’s the new business case – the value on investment – for wellness.
2. Consider how everything is connected 2and start with what’s right. Put each of these words in one column and jot down what you are currently doing in each of these areas to support employees at your organization: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community/Give Back. You might already have a supportive culture that supports employee wellbeing without having a formal “wellness” program. That’s OK. Look at the areas that are lacking, and bring a representative team of employees together and ask them, “What can we do to better support you in these areas?” You don’t have to know all the answers. Leverage the wisdom and creativity of your people to take the next step.
3. Start with career wellbeing, since employees with high career wellbeing are twice as likely to be thriving in all other areas. Career wellbeing is about liking what you do each day, and is often rooted in giving employees autonomy, mastery/growth opportunities and a sense of purpose. We align with the consulting firms Cedarcroft Advisors and entreQuest to support us in these areas. Bring in leadership and communication training. Assess your training and development offerings, on-boarding, mentoring and appraisal processes. Check out www.TrulyHumanLeadership.com, and read the books “Wellbeing” by Tom Rath and Jim Harter and “Everybody Matters” by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia to learn more about this topic.
4. Support employees’ financial wellbeing. The average American pays out one-fourth of their take home pay in debt payments, and 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Bring in educational sessions from your 401(k) partner and banker, offer access to a financial planner to meet one-on-one with your employees or see what is available through your EAP. Sign up your company for a financial education program like Smart Dollar.
5. Focus on giving back to your 5community and aligning with causes that matter to your people. Is it children, education, the military, homelessness, hunger or the environment? Volunteering can have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing, reducing the risk of depression and boosting happiness and connectedness.
6. Make it fun. At our company, we 6focus on making being well fun and social instead of clinical and judgmental. We have onsite healthy cooking classes that I teach, interactive workshops, fitness/yoga/Zumba classes, scavenger hunts, make your own frozen yogurt (made from fruit!) bars in the summer, potlucks, team fitness challenges and company-branded FitBits, health coaching, an oatmeal bar and a Vitamix blender for smoothies. We focus on offering our team resources, tools and an environment that supports their wellbeing.
As the workforce continues to grow and change, it’s important that we start thinking differently and give our employees opportunities to grow, connect and contribute to retain and recruit top talent. I95