Corporate wellness programs may conjure images of yoga in the breakroom or onsite fitness centers, but the reality is that wellbeing-related services are one of the world's fastest-growing, most resilient markets. Even major public health agencies, such as the World Health Organization, are making wellbeing a centerpiece of their health initiatives.
In other words, wellbeing isn’t some corporate fad; it’s about improving people’s health and their quality of life. And more and more employers are realizing that investing in their employees’ health and wellbeing is just smart business.
Employer wellbeing programs differ from traditional wellness programs, which have primarily focused on improving the physical dimensions of health to reduce employee healthcare costs. Wellbeing is much broader and more holistic — it includes the physical dimension of health, but also social, emotional, financial and career wellbeing.
Employers recognize that employees who suffer from issues such as mental health, financial stress or social isolation are less likely to be engaged, productive members of the organization, so they’re leveraging wellbeing as part of a broader people and performance management strategy.
Here’s how you can focus on increasing employee wellbeing to improve business results for your company.
Adopt an Integrated Approach to Wellbeing
By working with a holistic wellbeing framework (Figure 1), employers can take an integrated approach that infuses wellbeing into every area of the organization. Rather than siloing wellbeing initiatives into a “wellness program,” this approach enables the employer to address wellbeing issues in an organization-wide way.
The process starts with identifying the individual employee behaviors that may be adversely impacting business results. For example, a company may be facing reduced productivity or higher safety incidents in a key area due to employees being physically unfit. Using the wellbeing framework, they could:
- Identify the individual behaviors that were adversely impacting results (lack of exercise)
- Determine how the work environment or culture was contributing to the problem (lack of leadership support for employees to leave their work stations)
- Introduce the tools and resources employees needed to change individual behaviors (introduce movement breaks twice daily)
The wellbeing framework can apply to all dimensions of wellbeing in a similar way; the secret to success is offering both individual resources and organizational context to support and sustain the desired behavior change. This approach lets you integrate wellbeing into training, finance, operations and every other part of the organizational culture and environment.
Wellbeing is not just an HR initiative — it’s an organizational imperative.
Leadership support, from frontline managers to the CEO, will be critical to achieving the kind of transformative impact on employee performance that you’re seeking. To optimize leadership support, make sure that the business results most important to them are integrated into your approach.
Approach Wellbeing as an Investment
Traditional wellness programs have been approached using a cost-benefit analysis, where the costs of the program ideally are offset by lower employee healthcare costs. But approaching wellbeing as an investment represents a paradigm shift for employers.
However, research proves that this shift benefits companies enormously. Data from Gallup shows that employees with high levels of wellbeing are more resilient. They take 41% fewer unhealthy days, are twice as likely to adapt well to change and are 38% more likely to fully bounce back from illness.1
And there’s a positive impact on their engagement as well. Employees who are thriving in their wellbeing are more than twice as likely as those who are struggling to be engaged in their jobs, leading to less absenteeism, reduced turnover (up to 81% lower), improved productivity and higher profitability.1
The economic benefits of improving employee wellbeing result from fostering a healthier, thriving workforce. When wellbeing is viewed as an investment in a better-performing workforce, employers can recognize that the benefits go well beyond healthcare costs.
Identify Wellbeing Solutions Strategically
To successfully drive improved employee performance, you need to take a strategic approach. Here are five steps to help get your organization started in designing a comprehensive and holistic wellbeing program for your employees.
1. Start with data. Perform data analytics to identify problem areas and opportunities for improvement. This will help you determine where to focus your resources for the greatest impact on the desired business results.
2. Focus on the long term. Develop a three- to five-year strategy that focuses on both individual and organizational wellbeing, including an annual tactical plan to keep the program fresh.
3. Find partners. Identify potential vendors to support wellbeing objectives. However, don’t just jump into a vendor solution. Take the time to find the right vendor whose approach matches your needs and can bring your long-term strategy to life.
4. Set goals. Establish benchmarks to show the impact of the initiative for both the short- and long-term.
5. Measure the impact. Annually review the wellbeing strategy and tactical plan to evaluate results, adapt your direction and improvement targets, and ensure alignment with workforce and organizational objectives.
Taking a strategic approach will help map out the path to employee wellbeing that creates the greatest potential for your organization to improve the health, engagement and performance of your workforce.
1Gallup, “State of The American Workplace Employee Engagement Insights for US Business Leaders,” 2014.