The trouble is that most corporate wellness programs don’t actually work. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no real improvement in workers’ health metrics after 18 months of participation.
Is your wellness program really achieving what you intended? There are better ways to instill … [+]
Without a culture of wellness at work, programs that simply encourage exercise or healthy eating aren’t effective. To build wellness into your company culture:
1. Set your space up right.
Your work environment has a lot to do with your workplace culture. If it’s chaotic, with messy desks and people constantly dropping in, your workers will feel scattered, too.
Chances are, you can’t change offices or ask customers not to drop in. Make the most of the space you have: Set up a meditation space. Experts recommend a blanket, a pillow, a cushion, a knee pad, two blocks, a strap, an altar, and soft lighting.
Set up work areas with wellness in mind as well. Standing desks have been shown to lower obesity rates, reduce back pain, and improve energy levels. If your budget allows, add noise-canceling headphones and ergonomic chairs to the shopping list.
2. Talk about what happens after work.
Workers blow off steam in different ways. Some of those are healthier than others: Drinking a couple of beers and lounging on the couch may feel good in the moment, but alcohol overuse and sedentary behavior come back to bite.
At an all-staff meeting, take the initiative. Talk about how you wind down after work. Describe the healthy techniques you use, and explain that you want to reduce or eliminate your unhealthier choices.
Suggest alternatives to workers who may not know about them. Yoga, supplements like CBD gummies, and herbal teas can relieve stress in healthy ways rather than kick it down the road.
3. Put peer groups together.
Work is hard in the best of circumstances. When you don’t feel connected to the people around you, it can feel impossible. In fact, some researchers have compared a weak social circle’s toll on health to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day.
Use peer groups to remind minority team members, in particular, that they’re not alone. Although some employees may get social support outside of work, don’t assume all of them do.
Set up groups so everyone fits into at least one of them. If you have a women’s support group, create one for men’s issues as well. Give people of color, LGBT, married people, single people, young people, and older workers each a space to discuss issues specific to their situations.
4. Reward people for unplugging.
Overworking can lead to everything from Type 2 diabetes to musculoskeletal dysfunctions and mental health issues. The trouble is that many workers don’t unplug, even when they’re supposed to be off the clock.
While on vacation, more than half of workers check in at least once a week. Encourage people to unplug by keeping workplace devices at work. When they go on vacation and don’t call or check email, award them an extra day or two of PTO.
5. Make a mental health policy.
When employees are physically ill, you probably encourage them to take sick leave. But if they’re anxious or depressed, they’re probably still expected to come to work.
Make it clear that you want workers to take care of their minds, too. Develop a mental health policy, and distribute a copy to every team member.
What should that policy cover? Not just benefits like time off for therapy appointments: It should also include accommodations for workers who experience ongoing symptoms, professional resources that sufferers can contact, and a strict confidentiality clause for discussions with company leaders.
Wellness is one of those invisible but essential ingredients for a high-performing company. When workers are at their physical, mental, and spiritual best, every email they send and account they service shows it. If they’re not, that shows, too.
Companies may be able to sweep an “unwell” workforce under the rug for a while, but eventually, seams burst. Stress makes mistakes likely and illness inevitable. The antidote is wellness, and the only way to make it work on a companywide scale is through culture.