• Camila Santiago

Understanding Work Environment is Vital For a Successful Corporate Wellness Program

The numbers don’t lie. Workplace stress costs a lot. Just in the UK, it’s £42 bn per year. What once was just a luxury a few companies could afford to pay, now has become more than a trend – it’s a necessity. I’m talking about employees mental health and wellbeing.

The Global Wellness Institute argues the world’s 3.2 billion workers are increasingly

unwell, growing old, and suffering from chronic diseases as well as being stressed, anxious and unhappy.

It goes without saying, but unwell and unsatisfied employees may increase turnover rates, absence and ultimately, productivity – and organizations rely on a productive and engaged workforce to remain competitive and achieve their business goals.

Because of that, there’s been a rise in corporate wellness programs, products and services (such as incentive programs, wearable devices, counselling services and much more) in the last decade to serve a wide range of employee wellness needs (e.g., exercise, healthy eating, sleep, obesity, smoking, depression, stress, and so on).

The 5 pillars of Wellbeing

Being healthy and well means more than just being physically in shape or meeting your daily nutrient needs. According to Gallup, there are 5 elements that are essential to most people:

  • Career: It’s the level of satisfaction from your main daily activity, your work.

  • Social: It’s about the relationships you have in life, with family, friends and your partner.

  • Financial: It’s your ability to manage your economic life

  • Physical: It’s about having a physically healthy body

  • Community: It’s the sense of engagement with the area you live

“While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five.”, they say. Doing well in one area or two isn’t enough because it still wears our daily life and general wellbeing.

Employee wellbeing

Most people spend at least 9 hours at their workplace. On a daily basis, we spend more time with our co-workers and commuting to work than at home or with our family and friends. That said, work-life balance should be taken seriously.

In a survey conducted by Mental Health America (MHA), they identified three domains associated with workplace health and employee wellness: workplace environment, workplace stress and employee engagement.

Workplace environment

By their definition, workplace environment is “general workplace conditions or norms that influence how employees perceive their value and contribution to an organization’s mission on a day-to-day basis.” It includes accountability measures, support mechanisms, and systems of reward and recognition.

  • Accountability & support

The majority of the survey respondents said they felt disconnected from their work environment and reported a lack of support across all ranks in their workplace:

  • 66% said they couldn’t rely on their bosses or colleagues for support

  • 72% said they aren’t held accountable and

  • 83% felt that companies had not appropriately dealt with coworkers who did not do their jobs.

  • Reward and recognition

Researches have already shown that organizations that provide positive recognition and rewards have higher levels of employee engagement and performance improvement. However, The Workplace Health Survey found that:

  • Only 22% of respondents believed that employees were paid enough

  • 77% said that skilled employees were not given proper recognition

  • 74% felt hindered by trivial activities, including feeling micromanaged and forced to adopt ineffective processes to complete their work.

Workplace stress

Employees facing stress at work are more susceptible to use substances to alleviate tension:

  • 63% said that their workplace stress causes them to engage in unhealthy behaviours such as drinking or crying

  • 63% felt isolated at the workplace because of a hostile or unhelpful environment

What can we learn from those numbers?

Implementing and working with the best corporate programs available on the market isn’t enough. It stems beyond the program itself. If the company and its executives don’t take the right approach and have the right mindset, whichever wellness program you have implemented will fail. To breed a workplace for success, all parties involved must be willing to take their part in both discipline and commitment.

No matter how many yoga classes, fitness programs, screening assessments the company provides, if there isn’t appropriate engagement and discipline, nothing will work.

It's important to dig deep into employees behaviours, synergy, productivity and engagement. Are they being heard? How's the communication between hierarchies? Are employees being treated equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or race?

This is going to be hard work but HR managers can help you understand current issues as well as collaborate in a corporate culture shift.

A culture of health at workplace

To effectively implement a wellness program, we should take wellness more holistically. In other words, physical wellness is just one part of it. As we learned from the numbers above, the work environment plays a big role in employees’ wellbeing.

The change must occur from the inside out. Some practices and policies require ongoing education and support across the organization. Some examples are:

  • Flexible work schedules: Allowing employees to work whenever and wherever they want can have a big impact on their productivity.

  • Anonymous employee surveys: asking employees to respond to an in-depth and personal survey without having to mention their names will help you to understand what’s hurting their performance. Ask the HR to conduct and analyse the results.

  • Group sharing: because humans are social creates by nature, group gatherings offer participants an opportunity to reflect and share their inner conflicts.

  • Personal therapy: Offering therapy and psychiatry sessions with health professionals can help employees to cope with anxiety, stress and depression.

And the list goes on.

It might seem a bit overwhelming but with the right approach, organization and focus, employees and employers will reap the benefits over time.

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