Creating a healthier work is far from a new concept. Its roots in Western corporate culture reaching back as far as Boeing’s trendsetting non-smoking-workplace policy of the 80s, and the early-1970s mania for executive gyms and mandated annual physical fitness tests for upper management employees. This new mindset, pioneering in its time, was well summed up by Boeing’s then-president Malcolm Stamper, declaring that it is a company’s responsibility “to provide the cleanest, safest and most healthful environment possible for its employees.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Government in 1976 established the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which set benchmarks for improving worker and citizen health with its Citizen 2000 and Citizen 2020 initiatives, establishing the potential for a culture of workplace wellness that is already with us in many places, but unevenly distributed (even today, these are still first-world issues). And it will take more than an ergonomic chair and an open-plan workspace to have a significant impact on worker wellness, though these are a perfectly good start.
But workplace wellness is finally growing up, and it is beginning to look more fresh, inviting and, from the point of view of all concerned, worthwhile. This is why workplace wellness is such an important trend to watch.
While the idea of yoga classes at the office, lunch and learn education classes, or subsidized gym memberships is becoming more commonplace, with it comes the recognition that these “cosmetic” attempts haven’t really moved the needle on worker’s wellness.In this new phase, we are moving into a “culture of wellness” and, at more advanced companies, a “culture of purpose.“ And efforts to create a culture of wellness and align workers with their purpose are beginning to show the results everyone is seeking: healthier and happier workers, lower healthcare costs, higher productivity, less absenteeism and less turnover.
As Dr. Ken Pelletier, a long time pioneer in workplace wellness, sums up this shift by saying, “We are moving from a goal of increased ROI (return on investment) to one of pursuing ROV (return on value).”This shift is having a major impact on everyone who is in the workforce as on well as those who work in the field of spa and wellness. And these developments are creating more options for workers and new opportunities for wellness practitioners and educators, as well as establishments that deliver wellness services.
The major challenge is creating a culture of wellness within the worksite — coupled with recognition by senior management that integration and an organic sense of holistic wellness are an essential part of a successful and productive work environment. A widely held sense that healthier employees might have a positive impact upon productivity and company success has taken a long time to metastasize into an all-encompassing set of policies and programs that fuse company welfare to employee wellness. Often, wellness campaigns have centered upon annual checkups or smoking cessation programs for employees in isolation, without making them part of a thoroughgoing emphasis on worker health, satisfaction and productivity. This to some extent has removed workplace wellness from the company culture, as well as making it seem mildly coercive, on a par with compulsory factory-floor calisthenics, with the result that, at best, their effectiveness is blunted and limited, or at worst, they are seen cynically as intrusive corporate overreach.
Today, we are increasingly seeing activities promoting wellness that once took place in the domestic, off-duty sphere, gym visits, walks, yoga, meditation, spa treatments, even gripe sessions and venting spaces, are being integrated into the workplace environment. Meanwhile the resources of the company can be used to lessen other kinds of stress: companies can aid money-worried employees with intelligent financial counseling, thus unburdening their minds at work and increasing their productivity. Company health benefit programs can be sculpted to the needs of individuals and their families, and even benefits like pet health insurance can ease the mind of an animal-loving employee. A more flexible approach to paid time off, maternity (and increasingly, paternity) leave, and on-site childcare facilities can pay off in greater employee contentment, leading to increased productivity.However, you can’t make beautiful music if all your notes are in the wrong order, and the need now is for the discrete and diverse policies already in existence to be unified into a single field-theory of worker wellness, codified and systematized where possible, or shaped to the needs of the individual employee, according to his or her particular needs. Either way, workers don’t necessarily have to join a specific program if wellness is seamlessly stitched into the everyday work environment.
The Current Approach doesn’t Working
Medical leave request form on a desk. Expensive workplace wellness initiatives that have underperformed need reconfiguring as part of a wholesale, rather than piecemeal, approach to worker wellness. Many programs developed by human resources departments are “siloed” in isolation from one another, limited in their reach and thus limited in their effectiveness, and more reactive than proactive. (Think weight loss programs rather than healthy food served onsite.) And these programs have yet to make a significant dent in employee engagement. A survey of U.S. employees conducted by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) and Everyday Health reveals that 87 percent of employees feel disengaged at work. And while more than one half have access to a wellness program, only three out of 10 actually use it, and only one in 10 think it actually improves their health. Currently, the average Fortune 500 company spends an eye-watering 80 percent of its after-tax profits on employee medical costs — and “unwellness” at work costs the U.S. alone $2.2 trillion each year.
Global Recognition of the Importance of Wellness
The Gallup-Sharecare Wellbeing Index measured individuals’ perceptions of their own wellbeing based on five elements: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. The results were then categorized as striving, struggling or suffering for each element. Not surprisingly, the Americas reported the highest levels of wellbeing in three or more categories and Sub-Saharan North Africa and the Middle East/North Africa the lowest, both regions where economic growth has failed to keep up with population growth. One sobering statistic: only 17 percent of the world’s population is thriving in three or more categories.
Source: Employee Wellness
Originally published at http://www.akwa.be/blog-prive-sauna-akwa/employee-wellness/.