Workplace Wellness–Can It Help Us Be Healthier?
Some pundits say workplace wellness programs aren’t helping employees get healthier. Others complain that classes and incentives created by HR departments to encourage workers to quit smoking or lose weight are cynical attempts to improve the bottom line. Here is a look at the facts and myths around workplace wellness and a preview of wellness innovations that go far beyond gym memberships.
What is Workplace Wellness?
Healthcare.gov defines workplace wellness as, “A program intended to improve and promote health and fitness that’s usually offered through the work place.” The definition includes programs to stop smoking, manage diabetes or lose weight, along with preventative health screenings.
Ok, getting healthier at work sounds terrific. So why do some say these efforts aren’t working? In fact, articles in the Chicago Tribune and New York Times go deep into the weeds of research, citing flaws in methodology and lack of participation to prove that premise.
A Culture of Wellness
We invite these publications to take another look at Spafinder’s “Workplace Wellness Grows Up” in its 2016 Trends Report. In our humble opinion, Spafinder was ahead of the trend when we predicted companies would move into a culture of wellness. Ideally, it means healthy meals served onsite rather than weight loss programs. These approaches are beginning to show results: healthier and happier workers, lower healthcare costs, and higher productivity, less absenteeism and less turnover.
According to Spafinder’s Trend Report, wellness campaigns typically focus on items like annual checkups or smoking cessation programs. Usually, these activities are isolated and not part of the company culture. As a result, workers see the programs as compulsory and intrusive and not participate.
Today, enlightened companies are leading a new trend, especially those that need to compete for talented workers. For example, Google, Facebook and Twitter feed employees up to three healthy meals a day. Now, smaller companies are getting on board.
Companies like Hilton Worldwide and Netflix offer perks like extended parental leave. In addition, forward-thinking companies address problems associated with too much work and too little time off. These drivers lead to stressed employees, less productivity and more sick days.
Employers are also paying more attention to the “sick-building syndrome.” The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health cites poor indoor air quality that can cause symptoms and illnesses. Companies are responding by creating workplaces built with healthier materials and adding elements like roof gardens and increased ventilation.
Beyond the Yoga Class
Welcome gym visits, healthy food options, walks and yoga. Even meditation, spa treatments, flexible work hours and PTO are all being integrated into the workplace environment.
Companies even aid money-stressed employees with intelligent financial counseling. Animal-loving employees can take advantage of benefits like pet health insurance. These are just some of the many new options we’re seeing in wellness-minded workplaces.
We think workplace wellness is growing up. Companies and employees who make wellness part of the company culture reap the benefits.