We spend most of our waking hours at our jobs so we must enjoy walking into our workplace. An unhappy and disengaged workforce leaves a tangible dent in corporate revenues. So it only makes sense that over 68% of employers prioritize corporate wellness as a business objective. Wondering how to join the ranks of such companies? Let’s dive in!
What is Corporate Wellness?
Corporate wellness (or workplace wellness) is an umbrella term for all the initiatives and programs an employer runs to support the physical and mental well-being of their staff with the ultimate goal of improving people’s health outcomes.
Some workplace wellness programs are backed by policies, formalized procedures, and regular facilities upgrades. For example, Google provides onsite healthcare services at their main campus, including free access to physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, and general physicians.
Other employers promote wellness in the workplace via ad-hoc initiatives, prompting employers to make healthier daily choices. For example, spend less time sitting at their desk, take timely breaks, or enjoy a proper meal outside of their desks.
In either case, such initiatives are targeted at reducing stress, employee absenteeism, disengagement, and dissatisfaction with their work.
Examples of Workplace Wellness Initiatives
A recent research report found that 80% of companies of US-based companies with 50+ employers provide at least one workplace benefit.
Here are the popular types of corporate wellness initiatives they are investing in:
- On-site fitness facilities/classes or paid off-site gym membership (allowances)
- Employee assistance programs
- Commuter benefits
- Catered healthy lunches and/or office snacks
- Home office/personal equipment allowance
- Counseling or mentorship services
- Walk-and-talk outdoors meetings
- On-site professional and leisure classes
- Nanny services or on-site daycare
- Tobacco cessation programs
The logical follow-up question is: but do such workplace wellbeing initiatives actually work?
A body of research says yes. Corporate wellness programs are linked to improvements in employed productivity, engagement, and communication, as well as a reduction in reported stress levels and a lower number of sick days, taken by employers.
But there’s a caveat: not every wellness program will drive these results.
6 Budget-Friendly Wellnesses Tips for the Workplace
Google, Pinterest, Airbnb, GE, Microsoft, Dow Chemicals — a lot of these companies have stellar corporate wellness programs, backed by significant budgets.
Still, it’s not only the unicorn startups or enterprises that can do workplace wellness right. A host of smaller companies are also seeing great returns on their less lavish initiatives.
The key here is to design your wellness program around the right facets and actually look into its successful adoption. Below are some tips for that.
1. Start with Mindful Workplace Practices
Sometimes our work can be pretty stressful, even for those lucky enough to work in a low-stress environment, just occasionally things may not go according to plan resulting in stress levels going through the roof. You need to educate your staff on how to cope with such stressors. Or better yet — show how to prevent them.
Some simple workplace-wide mindfulness practices to consider:
- Discourage after-hours emails or calls
- Explain that there’s no pressure in being ‘on-call’
- Prompt managers to schedule fewer meetings
- Prompt people to get outdoors for walking meetings or lunch
- Introduce digital detox coffee breaks — a time of day when everyone gets a free coffee if they switch off their phone while enjoying the cuppa.
- Set up quiet spaces where anyone can come to meditate or just have a personal moment.
- Start a corporate newsletter, sharing one quick mindfulness tip or reminder per day.
Encourage people to try out and incorporate all those different techniques into their workday, so that they could deal better with stress in the workplace.
2. Determine the Right Incentives
We as humans thrive in our habits. Breaking some of them could be hard. For example, if you start an on-site yoga class (the most voted initiative on your employee survey), at first you might see just too few participants. Why? Because a lot of people will find excuses for not participating.
So whatever positive change you’d like to introduce, it should be backed by the right incentive. As research suggests, employee participation rates for a new workplace initiative can be improved when there’s a strong external incentive (reward) for participation. Once they build that new habit, most will stay for the sheer satisfaction of doing it.
For example, you can ‘bribe’ employees into joining a wellness initiative by:
- Giving our virtual tokens to spend on some perks
- Running a ‘wellness’ hall of fame board
- Providing extra wellness allowances to proactive participants
- Dolling tokens for ‘referring’ another college to the program
3. Identify and Resolve Workplace Conflicts
You can boost your workplace wellbeing by actually making an effort to understand and bond with your colleagues. That’s easier said than done.
As an HR manager, you cannot just prompt everyone to ‘make friends’. What you could do though, is help address and resolve some of the underlying workplace conflicts, before they spiral into open confrontations, or worse — passive-aggressive sentiments between staff.
In particular, you can:
- Create a safe mechanism for reporting workplace issues: such as misconduct, toxic behaviors, and inappropriate actions.
- Encourage managers to have “open door meetings” — specific days when an employee can come to discuss a personal or workplace issue.
- Intervene when a workplace conflict affects morale and organizational success.
- Provide regular training to managers, aimed at improving their soft skills.
Also, if you have the capacity, provide confidential counseling to employees who are struggling to “fit in”. Try to understand why they are withdrawing from people at work and refuse to participate in the office culture.
For example, there might be someone that they clash with their personality. If this person is someone who has authority over them, encourage them to resolve the matter privately first.
Quite often the person will have no idea that they have this effect on you and will take steps to modify their behavior towards you in the future.
4. Brighten Up The Atmosphere, Literary
Workplace lighting can have a significant impact on employees’ mood and attitude at work. Most offices have windows that let in natural light, but some may have heavy drapes or blinds that block out a significant proportion of natural light and prevent it from filtering into the office environment.
Exposure to natural light helps to improve workers’ energy levels and moods, so the more natural light you can let into your office the better! If you cannot raise natural light levels through your windows for whatever reason, then consider having the indoor lighting changed. Look at blue-enriched bulbs that have been proven to help reduce fatigue and eye strain, while at the same time boosting brain activity for better thought processing and problem-solving.
The office décor can also affect your mood and motivation at work. Warmer tones and hues are said to create a calm atmosphere, so consider using natural earthy tones in areas where staff rest and take a break, such as staff rooms and kitchens. Using warm and calming tones allows staff to chill and refresh their minds during their breaks. Then they can return to work regenerated and refreshed for their next work session.
5. Encourage Better Communications
In a lot of company infrastructures, there has always been a feeling of ‘them and us’. Workers in the office or on the shop floor didn’t feel comfortable talking to or mixing with management. This can be a great shame in most cases because if a leader is inaccessible, how can they have an idea about what’s happening in the office and on the shop floor?
A good workplace wellbeing practice is to remove the disconnect between management and their regular workers. Respect should transcend all employment lines, which is why encouraging good communications between all employees can go a long way to improving the office environment.
Improved communications can involve all workers sharing the same staff room or kitchen, regardless of their seniority. Having an open-door policy where any employee is free to talk directly to the boss should also be encouraged.
Most companies have regular staff appraisals and meetings with their line managers or supervisors. A system where each employee is recognized and is given feedback about how their work contributes to the greater business as a whole can create a more inclusive environment. This can create a positive atmosphere where each employee feels truly valued and appreciated at work.
6. Start or Expand Your Employee Assistance Program
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a formal initiative aimed at helping employees resolve personal or work-related issues, affecting their performance, health, and/or mental well-being.
Typically, such programs will include a mix of counseling, health, and legal services that employees can leverage to resolve their problems.
Make sure that all employees are aware of the services at their disposal. And, if possible, try to deliver some of these virtually.
Smart business owners understand that creating a good working environment where staff can interact and support each other is healthy and results in greater overall productivity. Corporate wellness initiatives — ad hoc at first, and systemized later on — are an essential step towards building such an environment!