‘Corporate Wellness’ has become big business in recent years – health and productivity being inextricably linked – but there is a changing emphasis away from the purely physical wellbeing of employees to also include their mental and financial health, as well as a greater appreciation of the strategic impact of wellness programmes on corporate brand and culture. Mairéad Regan from Clarendon Executive looks at how corporate or workplace wellness initiatives have evolved over time, why they are so important and how your organisation can ensure its programmes are fit for purpose.
The saying goes that “Health is Wealth” - this is of course not lost on businesses but as employee wellbeing rises higher up the corporate agenda, there has been a gradual shift in terms of both employees and employers increasing awareness of health as a contributor, not just to productivity and efficiency, but also to the overall culture of an organisation.
The Evolution Of Corporate Wellness
Although corporate wellness has been around since the late 19th Century, when its focus was on providing safe working conditions, modern-day corporate wellness really started to come to the fore in the late 80s/90s when attention turned to sick pay, private medical insurance and, if you were lucky, free gym membership. Nowadays, fortunately, it encompasses so much more.
Where ‘wellness’ was once synonymous with physical health, like body weight, activity levels and healthy biometrics, today it extends to mental, emotional and financial wellbeing, as stressors in these areas often have long-term links to physical health and poor productivity.
The focus of this link has facilitated the development of proactive and preventative strategies. Tackling stressors of ill health head-on and holistically – encompassing activities such as mindfulness, meditation, and coaching - can prevent conditions from worsening or even turning chronic. It also empowers employees to build resilience in their everyday lives, knowing personal issues often influence workplace productivity.
Impact On Company Culture And Employer Brand
Whilst ideas around wellness have changed and will continue to change over time, the business objectives behind the implementation of corporate wellness initiatives have, until now, remained largely the same: increased productivity and profit; decreased absenteeism; better engagement and staff retention; talent attraction and improved morale.
Organisations are now beginning to recognise that taking a genuine interest in the wellbeing of your employees can translate into a powerful competitive advantage.
The work environment is a key differentiator for discerning employees and with a workforce that are more health-conscious than ever, people are attracted to companies that are mindful of the need for a better work-life balance. With gyms in the office, flexible working, swimming pool memberships, yoga and mindfulness classes and a good health insurance policy, some corporates like Microsoft, Facebook, Accenture and Google are using these to lure talent.
Not only does wellness help businesses attract and retain a team of happier, healthier staff members for longer, it also improves brand reputation too. While depleted and stretched people risk delivering low-quality work and poor client experiences, healthy teams commit to going above and beyond for their company and can even improve recruitment campaigns with employee advocacy.
Achieving An Effective Employee Wellness Programme
Investing in a workplace wellness programme might seem like something that’s reserved for bigger, multi-national companies, or forward-thinking tech brands like Google. However, the truth is that corporate wellness strategies provide wide-reaching benefits for any organisation, no matter how small.
The acid test of a great place to work is when employees can enthusiastically recommend it to their friends and family members. That’s a clear sign that the organisation has its employees’ wellness at heart.
Some tips on how to achieve an effective wellness strategy might include:
1. Creating trust - for wellness to flourish in an organisation, the first step is to create a climate of trust. Trust implies that people treat each other with mutual respect, behave with integrity and that fair process is a given.
2. Thinking strategically - some employers seem to have multiple wellbeing practices but have not yet applied them to an overall programme or strategy, meaning they are somewhat aimless. It is important to set goals for the benefit of both the company and the individual with an outcomes-based wellness programme with strong and visible leadership at its helm, not just a series of ad hoc events and activities.
3. Forming a Wellness Committee to develop, monitor and update the wellness offering with representation from interested and involved stakeholders across the company including HR, Finance, Marketing and IT.
4. Communicating clearly the purpose of the programme, what is available and how it can be accessed. Keep it simple and welcoming. Minimise potential barriers including complicated application processes in order to maximise participation.
5. Seeking regular feedback – listen to staff and be open to new ideas and suggestions, from volunteering days to providing access to healthier snacks, workplace flu clinics, standing desks, mental health and stress management workshops and so on.
Wellness Needs Considered In The Round
Every company’s culture, vision, goals and demographics are different. Therefore, the definition of wellness and business needs will vary substantially. Uncovering and understanding what wellness means for each organisation is the first step to creating a relevant and tailored programme to best support your employees.
For a progressive employer, employee wellness will form a key component of a robust business strategy. As a standalone agenda, wellness programmes devoid of other essential ingredients, such as trust and a coaching culture, risk turning into yet another management fad.
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