Workplace wellness programs are becoming a hot topic in the corporate world for many different reasons. One main reason is that companies are starting to understand the benefits of caring for their employee’s needs. With society catching on, the corporate standards for these programs are becoming more competitive and employee satisfaction is a rising interest. Why? – both the company and the employees will benefit. It is a true win-win situation. Some benefits include:
- Lower healthcare costs
- Decrease employee absenteeism
- Happier and more engaged employees
- Higher sense of purpose and appreciation
- Influx in productivity
Breaking it Down
What is Wellness? Wellness is an intentional goal of reaching a state of being in good health. More detailed definitions relate to the technique of balance by describing it as a multidimensional state of positive health created by the quality of life and sense of well-being .
What does all of this mean though, and how do we achieve this within a workplace? It all begins with health and knowing how to describe it.
The term “healthy” is loosely and cautiously used in the world of research for one main reason – the way we view health is changing . The dictionary definition of Health is being in a state that is simply free of disease and illness. Even though that is a wonderful state to be in, it has been discovered that there are other dimensions to explain this state of being. Hence, the terms well-being and wellness are introduced to societal normality.
Dimensions of Health
Workplace wellness programs are strategically designed to fit an organization’s wellness needs by filling in the gaps that tend to a multidimensional understanding of well-being. These dimensions pertain to:
Healthcare plans generally are designed to supply the physical health needs. These plans cover doctor visits, physical activity demands, healthy snacks at the office, etc.
Emotional priorities would entail high emotional intelligence. Awareness of mental health and appreciation within a workspace is the basis of emotional health.
Intellectual health is based on the idea that minds need to be exercised too. Continuous learning and mental stimulation embody the intellectual category.
The need for interpersonal relationships within day-to-day experiences is considered the social health aspect.
Self-fulfillment and purpose are the occupational health, which is an important dimension. Having consistent growth and a manageable work/life balance play into occupational wellness.
Environmental health is a significant role in how someone feels coming into work daily. Employers must support a safe and positive office environment.
Finally, spiritual health in a workplace is unique for each company but is generally related to openness and encouraging creativity. They can tie this mentality to their company’s shared values or purpose.
Four Leadership Principles
According to the book Corporate Wellness Programs: Linking employee and Organizational Health there are four principles for rolling out a successful wellness program.
The first principle clarifies and focuses on the definition of health . This phase is meeting the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and occupational dimensions of health that are displayed above. This principle is the foundation of a wellness plan. It is applicable by maintaining a focus on physical and mental health, encouragement of interpersonal relationships, financial support, and prompting positive experiences .
One could expect to see activities such as bringing in yoga or spin classes, meditation sessions, access to financial advisors, offering growth opportunities, hosting social clubs and happy hours. This is the phase that will include the full benefits package with a concrete healthcare plan.
The second principle is supporting employee engagement by utilizing health behavior tactics . Aligning company objectives and purpose is the focal point of this phase. Successful integration of this principle relies heavily on leadership support by exemplifying strong “health and business success” .
Here is where the last two dimensions of health are brought about: environmental and spiritual. Leadership sets the stage for employee behavior. The values and purpose must be strongly encouraged and displayed by executives to influence the rest of the company. If positive actions are encouraged, the office will be viewed as a safe and positive space. This concept relates to consistency from executives in all areas as well participating in activities such as physically engaging events, social clubs, etc.
Education is a vital area of integrating a wellness plan. The third principle focuses on preventative health education . Just like many teachings, understanding the Why is how real implementation happens. Health research has shifted its focus from problem solving to problem prevention. Organizations can provide employees with information that will expand employee literacy in areas such as various health conditions, stress management, diversity skills, workplace safety…  etc. Having easy access to these resources will build employee awareness.
The fourth and final principle is incentivizing and awarding healthy employee behaviors . Financial incentives seem to be a popular choice, but other options include additional benefits such as extra vacation/PTO time, company recognition, and experience awards. Awarding employees for accomplishing goals that don’t necessarily pertain to company performance will boost a sense of trust and appreciation. This is a new era of the corporate world that has an evolving agenda designed to benefit both employees and employers.
-  Brüssow H. (2013). What is health?. Microbial biotechnology, 6(4), 341–348. https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-7915.12063
-  Burke, R. J., & Richardsen, A. M. (2015). Corporate Wellness Programs: Linking employee and Organizational Health. Edward Elgar.
-  Corbin, C. (2001). Toward a Uniform Definition of Wellness: A Commentary. President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest; Series 3 n15 Dec 2001. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED470691