Employee wellness is not a brand-new concept. For years, employers who care about their employees have always wanted to provide a healthy workplace for their people somehow. They have tried implementing fun activities at the premises, offering meal allowances, extra days off, and many more.
However, building a “healthy workplace” doesn’t mean the same throughout the years.
People’s priorities and needs change, and employers need to take note and adjust the benefits they offer accordingly. For starters, a “live to work” culture is still a big no-no. But is it enough? And with remote/hybrid work being on the rise, and Gen Z entering the workforce, what do employers need to do to step up their game?
The concept of employee wellness at the workplace is transforming every day. Shared values, living wages, and accessible mental health support are some of the current wellbeing trends for every workplace. Making a strategic adaptation to this fast evolution can be the key to having happy and healthy employees but also retention and profit.
Wellness at work: It’s not an either…or situation
Employee wellness means caring for your employees’ mental, physical, emotional, and financial health.
It’s crucial to create a culture where your people can reach their fullest potential, grow, and develop both in a professional and individual level. But it’s not just that—a good remuneration package, paid holidays, and extra perks really add to an employee’s wellbeing. This is why it’s necessary to examine in depth where your focus should be to build strong, loyal, and motivated teams that are willing to stick around for long.
It’s hard to reach employee wellness in the workplace if you offer only one or two benefits. In essence, there are three main types of wellness you should focus on–mental, physical, and financial. Each of them impacts the others, and all of them as a whole impact your people’s wellbeing.
For instance, when you exercise, you feel better, as physical activity helps your body release chemicals that leave you happier, more relaxed, and less stressed. Or, when someone struggles with financial issues at home, they might feel disconnected, unmotivated, depressed, stressed, and unwilling to participate in any physical activity. All these can seriously affect their productivity and engagement at work.
The ultimate goal is to make the business case for a holistic approach when it comes to catering to employees’ wellbeing. Company benefits shouldn’t target just one “type” of wellness. In detail:
Ensuring the mental wellbeing of your employees plays an important role in your organization. Why’s that? According to a study conducted by WHO, “Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.”
The same study also suggests that you can prevent risks and protect and promote mental health at work by providing:
- Opportunities to create positive relationships in an inclusive environment
- Structured routines
- Support to employees with mental health conditions
- Wellness training
Physical wellness is also another employee wellbeing type you shouldn’t neglect. The physical health of your people has to do with their energy levels, physical activity, sleep patterns, diet, and exercise routine. All these can be immensely affected by their workload as well as their work environment.
Any employer that wants to have happier, more productive employees, better retention rates, and lower medical costs should provide:
- A healthy eating environment
- Physical wellness activities
- Balanced work schedules
Numbers prove it. According to a TalentLMS, Enrich, and Tapcheck study, “66% of Millennials, 59% of Gen Z, and 47% of Gen X employees have experienced mental health struggles due to money-related issues.” So, money worries should not be neglected in the workplace, too. They make people frustrated, deteriorate their mental health, and as a result, decrease their overall productivity.
Thus, it’s essential that you provide:
- Financial awareness training
- Retirement and investment programs
- Flexible work models
- Meal allowance
What to offer to boost employee wellness
After looking at the main points of establishing employee wellness at work, let’s dig into what you can offer to ensure your employees feel secure, relaxed, empowered and dedicated to work.
1. Relevant types of training
It’s essential to assist your employees into building confidence, be it around their financial situation or mental health. This is why by offering the right types of training, you provide them with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to handle both their money and personal worries.
Through financial awareness training, your employees will discover how money worries are affecting their mental health, how to tackle stress from financial insecurity, and ways to save money by cutting down costs or investing in a personalized retirement plan. Individual advice on financial issues can also can be combined with training to reach the maximum of your employees’ financial wellness.
At the same time, it’s necessary to invest in general employee wellness training. Financial worries and other types of stress are interconnected, so you can’t focus on one area and expect for the best. Through general well-being training, mindfulness training, and mental health awareness training, your employees will feel supported and encouraged to follow a healthier lifestyle and live a more balanced life. As a result, they will be able to stay focused and productive at work and empowered to reach their full potential as individuals and professionals at the same time.
2. Physical activity opportunities
While staying active offers a plethora of benefits to your employees’ physical and mental health, you should reflect on ways to engage them further in physical activity.
Consider financially supporting your employees’ workout sessions by offering discount coupons to gyms in their area or getting bulk subscriptions to online workout apps so they can stay active anytime, anywhere. In times of financial crunch, your employees might view investing in their physical fitness a luxury. So, give them the opportunity to stay active without worrying about the expenses.
At the same time, however, you should highlight the benefits of regular physical activity. You can achieve that by investing in training sessions that share knowledge and insights into staying fit. Or, schedule web conferences with experts who will enlighten your people into the perks of physical activity. Maybe organize 1-1, personalized fitness coaching sessions if there’s increased interest and demand after group meetings.
But in order to achieve that, it’s necessary that you also offer a balanced work-life schedule, or flexibility in working hours. Many employees complain they don’t have enough spare time to schedule workout sessions before or after work. Or they are too busy, burnt out, and completely unwilling to engage in physical activity after they have finished their tasks. In fact, lack of time was reported by 80% of the participants as a barrier to PA in a study conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
3. Daily expenses
How we eat affects both our physical and mental health. And now that times are rather stressful, people shouldn’t neglect that. But how is this possible when inflation has driven up prices in grocery stores and restaurants by 11.2% in 2022? Or when everyone is always on-the-go and has little to zero time to meal prep?
Due to the inflation, people spend less money on food services in order to lower their expenses. But by avoiding going to restaurants and bars can have detrimental effects in their mental health, too. Socializing with peers, family, and friends can help them decompress and cope with their monotonous routines.
Think about offering meal allowance to your workforce as a means to encourage them to spend more time in restaurants and bars. And at the same time, give them the opportunity to purchase healthy and nutritional goods that support their fitness and mental health.
Parallel to that, it’s essential to consider the hidden costs of remote/hybrid work environments. Before remote work became a trend, employees would go to the office and have unlimited access to bandwidth and tools necessary to conduct their tasks without having to buy anything. Now, people have to create their own designated workspace at home by upgrading their equipment, bandwidth, etc. Not everyone can afford to purchase the latest PC or ergonomic chair to work properly.
So, you can offer your employees free work equipment (i.e. laptops, headsets, printers) and/or discount coupons to allow them to build their own work stations without breaking the bank.
A flexible work schedule has more to offer than you think. Many organizations feel reluctant to offer flexibility at work, but data proves the exact opposite.
Employees can be productive no matter when or where they work. And save time and money. According to a study by Gartner, “43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity, and 30% of respondents said that less or no time commuting enabled them to be more productive”.
In times of financial crisis and mental health issues, offering flexibility can alter the way your employees feel about their work. You leave room for them to take things at their own pace without compromising of effectiveness, but also cut down on transportation costs and balance their finances.
Taking a look at the wellness benefits in the workplace
What’s in it for you, then? Putting time and effort into implementing employee wellness programs and initiatives at work doesn’t only mean having happy employees. There’s more into it than just having fun-to-be-around people at work. Let’s make an overview of the best benefits employee wellness has to offer to your organization and how to reap them to the fullest.
- Increased productivity: Investing in employee wellbeing can fuel your people to follow a better lifestyle and leave you with a more engaged, productive workforce that is most likely to stick around for longer.
- Boosted employee morale: Offering employee wellness programs will add up to your people’s morale, make them more enthusiastic and loyal, which translates into maintaining high retention rates for the future.
- Easier new hire recruitment: Potential employees available in the modern pool seem to care about wellness opportunities, life-work balance, proper training and development and not just a remuneration number.
- Higher retention rates: Today, a large number of employees don’t just care about the usual compensation and job advancement carrots. While wellness plays a vital role in employee retention, it’s worth investing in offering your people what they need to remain loyal and productive.
- Minimized health risks: By implementing employee wellness programs, your employees are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors (eating well, exercising, taking time off, shutting down after work, etc.), lower health risks, and you get to reduce health care costs and low productivity rates.
- Stronger employee relationships: Employees that get the opportunity to experience activities unrelated to work, like being in a sports team, going to the gym together, having lunch breaks together, or occasional after-work drinks, are much more likely to form stronger bonds and, as a result, work better together.
- Inclusive work culture and environment: By making sure you boost employee wellbeing at work, you help foster an inclusive workplace where mental conditions are not an issue. They are supported. As a result, it’s much easier to both attract and retain employees who will have equal opportunities to use their expertise and professional capabilities.
Focus on the good
It’s necessary that employees have a solid strategy in place concerning their employees’ physical, mental, and financial health. And reevaluate this strategy regularly as needed.
Employee wellness in not just a one-off benefit. It isn’t also something happens organically (especially during turbulent times). This is why you should try to be aware of what your employees want, what they’re struggling with, and make sure you offer them solutions that will change the way they work (and live) to the better.
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