Workplace wellness is classified as any health promotion or organizational policy that supports healthy behavior in the workplace. With most companies now having some initiative in place, workplace wellness has branched out to include the home too. As companies compete for talent new and innovative wellness program ideas are starting to spring up.
[hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] With the implementation of employee health programs it’s often easy to forget that health is a lifelong commitment for most employees. Simply rolling out bunting and launching a nutrition fair won’t move the dial in most instances for the individual. [gap height="20"] In many cases this approach is often counterproductive despite the company’s honorable intentions. This simple introduces a cycle of; start, fail, repeat for the employee. Worryingly, this may also demotivate employees who then become disenchanted and unmotivated. Whilst these initiatives are well intentioned, for true change to occur we need to create healthy habits that can be easily incorporate into the employee’s normal routine. We also need time. [gap height="20"] For the typical worker with busy deadlines, family commitments, financial worries and a BMI over 25 the commitment to participate in such a program is huge. What we don’t want to do is stack the odds against them. Statistically for every time you fail it becomes twice as hard to succeed the next time. This is an important factor when considering low engagement levels in employee health programs. [gap height="20"] Start Small, Really Small If the goal is to change employee’s health then make the changes so small and in tune with their current lives that they won’t even notice they have adopted a new healthy behavior. A small change that is sustainable is worth more than a big change that isn't sustained. Dieting for example is notoriously fraught with failure, typically the yo yo dieter is the exact result of unsustainable habit change. Eating cabbage soup isn't going to be something you do every day for the rest of your life. [gap height="20"] Let’s take the example of an employee who decides their goal is to not skip breakfast, not a huge change and not something that’s insurmountable. After a week of having breakfast they feel better about themselves and this reinforces a "can do" attitude. Not only have they been successful but it hasn't felt like that much effort. [gap height="20"] This simple act also has unintended positive consequences. Later that morning the desire to snack isn't there and the morning muffin is skipped. From research we know that this habit too will more likely than not be adopted without ever being noticed. It’s these kind of small and sustainable steps that can really affect an employee’s health. [gap height="20"] What will [...]
[hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] Workplace wellness programs have become a $6 billion industry. This shift is partially a cultural one being driven by legislation which possibly incentivizes the wrong behavior. The reason I say wrong behavior is the carrot and stick analogy, they help reduce companies' healthcare costs, while saving their employees money. But do they improve employee’s health? [gap height="30"] A new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 71 percent of employers thought that workplace wellness programs are either "very" or "somewhat" effective at lowering the costs associated with employee health benefits. [gap height="30"] However under our new legislative framework the Affordable Care Act, companies can also impose penalties. Employees can be charged more for smoking or being overweight. This is one of the reasons that wellness programs may not be aligned with the employee’s health goals. Professor Nancy Koehn of the Harvard Business School concludes that these programs don't work for this exact reason. She states "What's really happening in many instances is that costs are getting shifted to employees, whether it's because they don't meet certain goals or they don't conform in certain ways,". [gap height="30"] Penalizing an employee has the negative effect of forcing habit change, whilst this may work in the short term it is not a successful long term strategy as bad behaviors tend to return. The duration of this approach to wellness is still in its infancy and cannot be accurately assessed or measured yet. [gap height="30"] We also need to realize that not all programs are made equal and the discrepancies between small and large scale programs, large and small populations have huge implications too. Having a rounded and holistic approach to wellness that addresses the needs of individuals across a wide spectrum such as financial, emotional, physical and mental wellness demonstrates a more successful attempt at understanding the problem. [gap height="30"] Many workplace wellness programs are badly designed, given little time to develop. They should idealistically be given at least 5 years of consistent measurement and should be backed by a team that can accurately evaluate, support and perform a cost analysis over the duration. Far too little resources are often given to a wellness initiative and the results often under deliver. [gap height="30"] Ron Goetzel, one of the authors of the Journal Of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, visited companies with workplace wellness programs that can be truly regarded [...]
[hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] Gallup recently reported in their “State of the Global Workplace” employee engagement study, that only 13% of employee’s worldwide feel engaged at work. The study was conducted in 142 countries and revealed that only one in eight workers (this equates to 180 million employees in those countries surveyed) are psychologically committed to their work, meaning they actively contribute to the company’s growth. Shockingly 24% reported being “actively disengaged” which would indicate they are unhappy, negative and not content with their current circumstances. [gap height="30"] An unhappy worker can seriously undermine the efforts of a company and can result in a spreading discontent within the workplace environment. Organisations often look to their human resources departments for solutions. This can generally lead to fear on behalf of the employee and enforced procedures on behalf of the employer. [gap height="30"] Interestingly the Gallup survey noted that we all need to participate in creating a more engaged workforce to “achieving sustainable growth for our companies, communities, and countries - and for putting the global economy back on track to a more prosperous and peaceful future.” This means our reliance on a human resources department to create employee engagement is potentially out of sync with a modern economy. [gap height="30"] “Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.” [gap height="30"] This isn't the kind of company culture you want to foster or adopt for strategic growth. So why are employees so hard to keep engaged? The root of the issue is how we as individuals perceive success. Monetary goals often are short term and do not sustain long term engagement. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains that our real motivation doesn't stem from money but from a sense of constant progression. As humans we need to feel driven, appreciated and respected. It’s these powerful feelings that control how we feel at work. [gap height="30"] If your company goals are not aligned with your employees goals you will start to feel the effects of lower employee engagement. It is often easy to forget to put oil in the car, that once a year service generally keeps things ticking. However when oiled properly and working well a car is at its optimum. [...]