It is often said there are five key elements that should be considered in making of a healthy working environment for your employees. These five elements usually focus on key areas such as work-life balance, health and safety, employee growth and development, employee recognition and employee Involvement. Simple, right? As a Primal Health Coach, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits creating clear and focused plans has on the health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace and the positive knock on effect this has to the company’s productivity as a whole. So why and how do so many companies get it so wrong?
With nearly one in five employees reporting in a recent study that their organisation is not doing anything to improve employee health and well-being. The scale of the challenge is frightening! Low participation, financial restraints and limited coverage are concerns I regularly hear from employers on why they have not implemented a wellness programme. But with so many firms now proudly having their culture embossed in giant lettering on their walls, it is time for them to put their vision into practice and step up and over some of those perceived barriers they have, to delivering a successful wellness programme.
Walk the Talk
In my experience, the drive to improve employee wellbeing must come from the top. If a focus on employee wellbeing is not part of the company direction and strategy, then the implementation of any programme will run into difficulties and face a lack of responsibility or ownership by key personnel who would normally be the driving force behind any successful programme.
Business leaders should be the ones setting the pace on healthy living, in reality, they struggle to walk the talk and put that vision into practice. CEOs often have the unhealthiest approach to a work life balance and that feeds down to staff at all levels and affects their moral. So, feedback, interest and support does have to come from all corners of the business to help raise awareness of wellness issues and help accommodate any programme or initiatives to ensure their success. Involve everyone!
Even with strong backing and support from senior management, the next biggest problem I see is with wellness programmes that struggle with low levels of participation or interest. This often makes them not seem worthwhile to continue with or the first in line to be cut when savings are looking to be made. The problem here is often a poorly planned generic programme which does not address the needs of the employees and the employers equally.
I’ve seen many plans which have included incentives that the majority of workers would find no value in. Do you think everyone loves coffee, Lycra and cycling as much as you do? Do you expect employees to be happy to give up their lunch hour? Bad programme design manifests itself in many ways, from attracting the wrong people, those who are already gym bunnies, through to providing irrelevant or mundane content, ‘eat your five-a-day…’ and box ticking exercises, yawn!
The solution? There is no one size fits all when it comes to wellness, and that is a good thing! The best approach is to create a culture of health, get leadership support for your programme, and solicit employees’ input to customise the programme according to your employees’ needs so, in a sense, they own the programme and have their needs catered to. This could include allowing flexi-time for exercise, providing on-site kitchen and eating areas, installing bike racks, offering healthy food options in staff canteen, holding walking meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation.
Financial / Budget
Financial and budgetary constraints are always going to be a major consideration of any business when looking to implement a corporate wellness programme. Many companies I meet say they don’t have the time, money or resources, and that is true for many companies who won’t invest proactively, and that is a mistake!
I would say to them, how can you afford not to? How many days did your company lose due to sickness or other preventable health related issues? Is productivity down? Staff retention low? Retraining costs high? Investing in worksite wellness programmes not only aims to improve organisational productivity and presenteesim, but also offers a variety of benefits associated with cost savings and resource availability.
Some factors affecting people’s psychological health are external, outside the organisation’s control such as family concerns and financial worries. However, most employees listed factors such as unmanageable workloads, stress, inability to switch off and having to work out of work hours as having the biggest negative effect on their wellbeing.
Where a culture of presenteeism exists, job insecurity forces people to turn up sick, work extra hours and be overly fatigued, reducing morale, quality of work and productivity.
Where these issues present themselves, you must look at and identify the reasons your staff are working long hours: the problems, root causes and concerns about working hours through, for example, staff surveys or staff working groups. You then need to take this honest feedback and build a culture of support and a healthy work life balance for your staff, building in a wellness plan that has staff involvement and ownership at its core. Giving people the help and support they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
By putting your employee’s needs first the right health and wellbeing strategy has the power to help lower absence rates, increase productivity and improve employee engagement. Being aware of the complexity of people’s lives and treating people as individuals is the first step to achieving wellness and also highlights your company culture out there as a competitive employer of choice for prospective candidates.
Half of organisations have used some form of external support in tackling these issues, our cooperative wellness programmes assess the unique requirements of your company and the individuals who work there. To improve your current wellness programme or start a new one, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.