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Global Wellness Day

Why companies need to invest in workplace wellness

It’s no secret that the modern workforce is plagued by high levels of stress and burnout. The pandemic has largely deteriorated the problem, leading to extra work pressure on employees. Today, on the tenth annual Global Wellness Day (GWD) celebration, it is more urgent than ever to consider why and how companies should invest in workplace wellness.

A number of studies suggest that workplace stress and burnout have increased dramatically during the pandemic. A recent survey by Project Include showed that companies have actually increased work pressure on their employees since Covid-19, while research conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence has found that 2020 was the most stressful year people have ever experienced in their working lives.

Long working hours, Zoom fatigue, the inability to turn off work at night and constant notifications on mobile devices have become a way of life, leading to high levels of stress with detrimental long-term effects on our health. To combat this and to preserve employee mental health, employers need to understand how company policies can affect the choices that employees make regarding their health, and how these choices can affect the companies.

What is workplace wellness?

Even though workplace wellness has been around for nearly 40 years, there is still a great deal of confusion about what wellness really is, and what the best ways are to achieve it.

Workplace wellness refers to a work environment conducive to the health and well-being of all employees and others within it. 

Τhe Centers for Disease Control (CDC) define workplace wellness programs as “a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite that includes programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees.”

Of course, there is also the idea that employees themselves can create and cultivate workplace wellness. This can be facilitated by focusing on healthier eating habits, promoting more movement throughout their workday, and developing wellness habits such as mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.

Why are health and wellness important in the workplace?

An average employee spends more than 40 hours of their week working. Which means that the workplace is almost like a second home for most of us. So, it makes sense that the work environment should be a place where we can feel comfortable, valued, and taken care of.

Research has shown that there are many reasons why workplace wellness pays back.

  • Workplace wellness programs reduce health care costs

Corporate wellness programs can help employees adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of having a wellness program, given that healthy behaviors lead to lower health risks, and lower health risks lead to less chronic diseases. With less chronic diseases employees have fewer healthcare costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), well-implemented workplace health programs can lead to 25% savings each on absenteeism, health care costs, and workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.

  • Workplace wellness programs increase productivity

Healthy employees are happier and more productive. Productivity is a factor affected when employees are not well, physically and mentally. Poor employee productivity can be related to many factors: lack of sleep, headaches, mental health problems or even financial problems. A survey by the Employee Benefit News magazine said that 31% of respondents rated mental illness as the number one reason for loss of productivity.

  • Workplace wellness programs reduce absenteeism

Lack and loss of productivity due to health reasons can also lead to employee absenteeism. According to a CDC study, absenteeism costs small employers between $16 and $81 per employee annually, and large employers between $17 and $286. 

  • Workplace wellness programs improve relationships

Another study has examined the effect of workplace wellness to reduce instances of bullying at work. The findings revealed that employees saw wellness as a “formidable component of the health and success of employees” and that they perceived “workplace bullying as a serious threat to physical and mental wellness.”

  • Workplace wellness programs attract the best employees

‍Employers with a good wellness program usually have a good corporate and workplace culture which greatly improves their ability to attract and retain the best employees.

Wellness is a corporate responsibility

According to the Global Wellness Institute’s 2020 Wellness at Work trends, care for the protection, safety and wellness of employees will become a priority for workplaces in the future.

Physical, mental and emotional wellness will be put at the forefront, for example, by building health with ventilation, sanitation, cleaning, light, etc., and other wellness strategies. Where wellness has been something “nice to have,” it will become more of “must to have.” 

“It will be a corporate responsibility that employees are as healthy as they can be, with a well-functioning immune system, education and expertise in personal wellness and wellbeing, a greater possibility of remote working, and significant shifts in perspective that see employees treated reverently as whole human beings.”

How can companies promote workplace wellness?

Companies need to proactively identify the challenges and design support systems that address the specific forms of stress and anxiety their employees face. With the rise of remote work and the erosion of work-life boundaries, employees need to disconnect. So, focusing on the organizational culture is essential to promote self-care values and healthy work-life boundaries. 

Leaders can proactively address these issues in a number of ways. Some successful initiatives that have been already implemented by large companies include on-site fitness centers and yoga classes, discounted memberships to gyms and health clubs, smoking cessation programs, better transit work options, paramedical services, as well as lunch and healthy snacks.

What is most important is that all the short-term “feel good” activities, like snacks and wellness adventures, should be supplemented with well-structured wellness programs that support employees in a substantial way, if companies aim to “build” a truly caring workplace culture.

Providing stress-management resources and education, opening up conversations about mental health, and implementing structured wellness programming are some of the ways that employers can embed wellness into their corporate culture.

Takeaway: Ηealthy employees are productive employees. This is why employers and leaders need to ensure that wellness programs are all-encompassing. They need to recognize that the more they invest in their employees, the more they get back.


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