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How a wellness program can win over employees

There was a time when a splattering of ageing, under-utilised gym equipment located in a repurposed meeting room was enough for an organisation to tout its commitment to an employee wellness program.

Times have changed, and in the business world today, employee health and wellbeing is a key focus of some of the world’s most successful and innovative organisations. For these companies, employee health and wellbeing isn’t just something they pay lip service to; they invest great time, energy and resources into creating workplaces that embrace wellness and consider it a vital part of business strategy.

In a recent survey of 2400 professionals conducted by leading recruitment firm Robert Walters, one in two professionals would leave their jobs if their wellbeing needs were not met – indicating that effective wellbeing programs have moved well beyond being just ‘nice to have’ for employers looking to retain their talent.

Furthermore, for employees who are looking to move on, policies and perks such as flexible work hours, on-site gyms, healthy eating programs and childcare facilities are important considerations when searching for their next role.

Scientific studies have repeatedly proven that the cost for an organisation of not having a workplace wellness program is far greater than the cost of implementing one. By the time you factor in high turnover rates, employee absenteeism and general employee morale and energy levels, not having a workplace wellness program can be very costly.

So how does an organisation go about implementing a successful wellness program?

Based on the research by Robert Walters, here are three tips for driving a successful wellness program.

Senior leaders must be seen to be the champions of the wellness program

Simply implementing a workplace wellness program – no matter how effective – is not enough to ensure that all employees’ health and wellbeing needs are being fully met. Senior leaders must be seen to be the champions of the program by talking openly about the wellness initiatives and their own experiences with it.

 Training team leaders and senior management throughout the organisation to talk openly about the wellness initiatives and to nurture a culture of transparency and support when dealing with health and wellbeing issues, is an important part of the program’s success.

Team leaders and senior managers must have regular one-on-one contact with team members in a confidential manner, to keep up-to-date on how each individual is feeling and what challenges they may be facing both at work and in their personal lives. This will allow managers to adapt their organisation’s wellness initiatives and working environment to help make their team members feel more supported.

Give employees the chance to help drive the workplace wellness program

This could be achieved by creating an employee group who are very keen on taking charge of the program, as well as by giving all employees the chance to be involved at various stages of the program, from offering suggestions and implementing the initiatives, through to hosting staff discussion groups and feedback forums.

Interestingly, in the Robert Walters survey, when asked which initiatives they would value most in a workplace wellness program, employees ranked the following most highly:

  1. flexible work options (76% of respondents);
  2. ergonomic/flexible work stations (32%);
  3. wide-ranging/generous leave policies (31%);
  4. on-site gym or fitness facilities (31%); and
  5. healthy eating programs (29%).

Employers need to keep abreast and understand the needs of their people, and what better way to do this than have them involved in running it.

Actively promote the workplace wellness program internally to existing employees, and externally to potential candidates.

Many organisations do not adequately communicate their workplace wellness program internally to their employees, which leads to under-utilisation of the program and a reduction in the benefits and productivity that can be derived from improved health and wellbeing levels. Employers should invest in the promotion of their programs to employees, and consider more unusual and impactful methods of communication such as utilising social media channels and regular leadership briefings on the program’s initiatives and up-take levels.

 Further, organisations who promote their workplace wellness program during the recruitment process will differentiate themselves from other employers, and attract a greater share of the top candidates. Employers should include references to their health and wellbeing initiatives in their job advertisements and on their career websites, and openly discuss health and wellbeing during interviews. It is important, however, that the initiatives promoted are consistent with the realities of the workplace wellness program in practice.

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ML Scheerhoorn
ML Scheerhoorn

Having worked in HR for over 15 years I am now studying Nutritional Medicine with the intent of working directly with corporate clients on both the well being of their organisation and teams, but also executives individually. It is good to read that studies are now backing up what my instincts told me; that the line between work and private life would blur and the necessity to factor that into the workplace would drive productivity and engagement.

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