What does employee wellness mean to you? Is it about improving employee productivity? Is it about providing programs that will appeal to talent? Or is wellness about doing right by the people who make the company successful? Employee wellness can mean all of these things. And when it comes to how you define your wellness program for your employees, some diversity of approach is welcome.
Your employees no doubt run the gamut of ages and abilities, with a corresponding range of health issues to address, so your wellness program may need to be multifaceted as well. For example, you may decide that you need a mix of programs to help reduce harmful habits (like smoking), along with general prevention and wellbeing advice. Healthy People 2020, a government initiative to improve American health, suggests this breakdown of wellness program components:
- Health-related programs: Opportunities at the workplace or through outside organizations to begin, change, or maintain health behaviors.
- Health-related policies: Written statements designed to protect or promote employee health.
- Health benefits: Part of a compensation package such as health insurance coverage and other services or discounts regarding health.
- Environmental supports: Physical factors at and nearby the workplace that help protect and enhance employee health.
Not all of these components may apply to your organization, but this framework offers a good start. However you decide on your approach to wellness, it’s important to address the diversity of needs in your workforce – and to avoid initiatives aimed solely at people suffering from high-risk conditions like high blood pressure. “Employees who feel targeted may be embarrassed,” reports the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “A truly effective corporate wellness program should include and motivate everyone, rather than pressuring, embarrassing or even bribing high-risk employees to improve their health.”
By avoiding narrow definitions of what “wellness” means, you can also boost participation, since employees are less likely to think, “That program isn’t really about my health.” One way to encourage employees to join in on wellness is to create programs or events with a “buddy system” model, suggests SHRM. A healthy eating challenge or a lunchtime walk offers more companionship when there’s some friendly and fun competition – or at least someone to walk with.
Another way to broaden the definition of “wellness” is to make sure that differently abled employees feel welcomed in your programs. When promoting programs online or in print, use images of people with and without disabilities. Also, use wording like “moving meeting” instead of “walking meeting” to include people using wheelchairs, advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – or, advertise a charity walk/run with language such as “Run/Walk/Roll 5K.”
Stay flexible as you think about the concept of wellness and what that means to your employees. A recent survey from the National Business Group on Health found that financial well-being is a growing subject for employee wellness programs. It certainly makes sense – money matters can be big stressors, so learning practical personal finance techniques can be as calming as an afternoon meditation.