Why Workplace Wellness Matters

One of the top workplace challenges is the cost of healthcare, and a lack of wellness initiatives in the workplace is having a direct impact on companies’ bottom lines.

Regardless of the industry you work in, it’s likely you’re feeling the impact of stress and the pace of change. We are stress-rich and time-poor, and this is having a detrimental effect both on our lifestyle choices and our sense of wellbeing.

Many of us wish we had more time and energy at work. Many of us struggle to eat or exercise well while we’re on the go. Probably most of us don’t get all the sleep we need to feel well rested and perform at our peak. Many of us aren’t happy and engaged, nor do we love what we do anymore.

And if that sounds like you – or your employees – then Houston, you have a problem. 

But there is good news – it is possible to create exceptional, high performing workplaces where we can all thrive, contributing to a shared sense of purpose and profit!


Lack of wellness programmes in the workplace – understanding the impact 

Workforces around the world are stressed, sick and tired, and companies – and economies – can no longer afford for this to continue. There’s a rising epidemic of lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and mental health issues. And this last condition is the most worrying. The single biggest cause of long-term sick leave, is mental ill-health.

This outcome affects all employers because it reduces the quantity and quality of human capital:

  • We are struggling to manage the impact of stress.
  • We aren’t getting enough sleep.
  • We aren’t eating well.
  • We aren’t moving enough.
  • We aren’t performing at our best.

The costs of chronic disease include not only direct healthcare expenses and absenteeism, but also the indirect costs due to ‘presenteeism’ – when a person at work is unable to perform at their full capacity due to illness, stress, or other issues.

Some studies suggest that presenteeism alone carries almost twice the business cost as actual absence from work.


Building an agile and an engaged workplace

Agile workplaces, in particular the focus of optimising work place design and work flow, get us to think about working differently. Many of us spend more than half our waking hours at work, so the workplace is an ideal and critical environment to help develop healthy habits – such as moving more, and working smart instead of hard. Along with mental health issues, musculoskeletal disorders are major causes of sickness absence and worklessness, thanks to our sedentary lifestyles. Sitting really is the new smoking.

Building a culture of engagement and wellbeing rather than burnout lies at the heart of any successful talent management strategy. Research continuously shows that workplaces with positive corporate cultures and high levels of wellbeing and engagement outperform their peers – which is why employee wellbeing and engagement levels are now being looked at by investors as leading indicators of performance and market value.

This makes it imperative that businesses adopt a culture of wellness as the default, not the exception, especially if they want to attract and retain good people.


Workplace wellness solutions – making it happen

Wellbeing should be a shared responsibility. It is not about employers ‘fixing’ their employees’ health problems, but rather making employee health and wellness advocacy an integral part of work life. Workplace wellbeing initiatives are always more successful when embedded in the work culture, and not just a siloed HR programme or benefit. And it should be CEO and leadership driven – that’s an essential ingredient for success.

Workplace wellbeing should be proactive and preventive, not reactive. Early intervention is essential – the old adage of prevention being better than cure still holds.

You also can’t change what you can’t measure … just as the workspace and engagement should be measured, so too should wellbeing, not only to assess needs and desires but for effectiveness. Measuring and reporting are vital, for employees especially, so that they are motivated by their progress, bearing in mind that rewards and recognition are one of the most effective ways to motivate employees.


What great workplace wellness programme looks like

At exceptional workplaces, wellness is more than just an isolated programme.

  1. The physical work environment is considered.
  2. There’s a values-driven culture that has leadership advocacy and support.
  3. There’s a holistic wellness programme with rewards and incentives that takes a holistic, evidence-based and practical approach, in a blended learning journey that is personalised and supportive.

It’s not just about fruit bowls and posters, or a massage therapist that comes in once a week. Great workplace wellness is integrated into the company’s DNA – and the results show in increased energy, agility and productivity, and happy, fully engaged employees.


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