Why Employee Wellness Matters

Why Employee Wellness Matters

September 9, 2017

Employee health and wellness is often an issue overlooked by most businesses in countries such as Bangladesh. The link between workplace motivation and employee health is not well talked about by local executives and hence businesses lack policies to account for the issue overall. But corporate jobs can often have more adverse impacts on employee health than previously thought. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • 59% of employees do not get adequate exercise
  • 50% or more have high cholesterol
  • 27% have cardiovascular disease
  • 26% are overweight by 20 percent or more
  • 24% have high blood pressure

A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. 70 to 90 percent of all global health care spending is caused by preventable, modifiable health risks such as the ones bulleted above. Unhealthy lifestyle choices often lead to chronic diseases, costing businesses globally more than a trillion dollars in lost productivity alone. All of these indicate that promoting healthier behaviors can really pay off and depict why this is such a concerning topic in today’s business world.

The real problem however lies in corporate wellness being treated as a band-aid, and businesses definitely will not be able to find it in a fitness app. Engagement, motivation, support and strategy are the keys to developing and implementing a successful wellness program. If employees are not involved in the solution, it is difficult to succeed. Preventable wellness is about a complete change in lifestyle and behavior– however, change takes time and commitment.

Businesses considering wellness programs at workplaces to ensure employee health and motivation need to consider the following five things while designing a wellness program for their companies.

A higher level of awareness is essential to success. Employees are becoming more and more health conscious. But due to higher stress, longer work days and constant multitasking, it is more difficult to find the time to act on wellness goals. Creating an on-site wellness program, such as an in-house gym is important because the majority of an employee’s time is spent at the workplace.

Many chronic diseases are preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases account for 75 percent of total healthcare costs. They are also the most preventable types of diseases. Such illnesses include heart disease, stroke, cancer, and obesity. The only way to prevent disease is with actionable steps to halt its progression. When old habits are years in the making, you cannot expect a change to happen overnight. However, when a person is able to commit mentally, emotionally, socially and on a conscience level, progress is possible. An employee wellness program needs to address this through consistent education and layers of accountability.

Be creative. Corporate wellness should not be boring. Creating unique and dynamic programs that consistently evolve over time ensure the best possibility of long term success. Human beings need to be challenged and stimulated in different ways and different means to create change. Challenge your program to stay on the latest trends; it will help to appoint a wellness lead that takes direct responsibility over the operations.

Employ health benefit policies. Healthcare costs are rising year after year and businesses in Bangladesh scarcely account for any employee healthcare benefits. Employers, especially those at small companies, can simply not afford to take on this burden. As a result, the entire cost is passed on to their employees. But healthier employees can actually help their own bottom line. Some employers need to reconsider policies – start contributing to healthcare costs of employees and introduce such benefits through their wellness programs.

Corporate wellness is a complex, long-term play. The success of corporate wellness is driven by the unique strategy behind it. It involves a framework that outlines short and long-term goals for the employee and the employer. Corporate wellness needs support, leadership, commitment from both the parties. A successful program takes time and constantly evolves so it can be integrated into the fabric of the company’s culture. Corporate wellness is not just one solution. It is the culmination of many solutions that work together under one strategy. It involves layers of physical activity, education, communication, incentives, and a long term commitment.

“If you have happy, healthy employees, that has an impact on staff motivation, engagement and retention,” says Dianne Hol, Human Resource Director of eminent healthcare company Roche. Moreover, such initiatives add great value to a business’s brand attracting the best employees, as the youth today are more conscious over health than ever. Businesses with such wellness programs experience lesser employee turnover. “Poor health leads to long-term absence and a high staff turnover. Investment in staff wellbeing is not a luxury but a crucial investment – especially in tough economic times, when firms want to minimize the effects of pressure while maximizing staff productivity,” says Sue Gould, Head of HR at Weightmans, a UK based law firm.

In addition to physical health, growing concern over mental health is also a major issue at work places. More than two fifths of employers have seen increase in workers reporting conditions such as depression or anxiety, according to Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development research. Employee stress levels need to be high on the wellness agenda and programs must work actively to reduce stress.

When we actually think about what needs to take place, it seems fairly straightforward. However, the challenge lies in the execution. Behavior modification takes time and is different from person to person. It is possible, when reinforced consistently with different programs, multiple touch points, strong leadership, and an unwavering commitment.

But a workplace culture sets the tone for its employees. A supportive work environment, where managers reinforce a sound wellness strategy, can keep employees motivated and engaged. Wellness and incentive programs can be used to drive and reinforce healthy behaviors, bringing benefits to the employer, the employee, and to the community. Both the employers and the employees need to think differently about wellness and what it means to them. If the end goal is healthier employees, then both parties need to be involved to share this common vision in order to reap its benefits.

Written by

Taposh Ghosh

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