When an organization genuinely supports and promotes the well-being of its workers, the rewards go well beyond health-related cost savings. Establishing a culture of wellness helps create a healthier, more engaged workforce, and that gives an organization a distinct competitive edge.
How big an edge? A recent study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that across all areas of employee health and well-being, there's a significant difference between those workplaces that have created a culture of wellness, and those that have not. Work-related stress, for example, is less likely to take a toll on employee health in workplaces with a wellness culture (56 percent vs 68 percent).
Even more significantly, this research revealed some 67 percent of employees found participation in wellness programs increased their engagement with their employer’s mission and goals. That’s good news for the seven in 10 companies that have been broadly successful in establishing a culture of wellness.
Weaving wellness into the fabric of your workplace means making your efforts an organization-wide priority. I've seen firsthand at Humana how this can foster greater trust in the organization and create sense of connection.
We set a bold goal to help make the communities we serve 20 percent healthier by 2020, and we report on it regularly. This goal has inspired and engaged our associates, and has resulted in measurable health improvement for many of our medical members.
So how can a company create a culture that supports wellness? Executives need to be vocal in their support and lead by example. This can mean articulating wellness as a company value, including health goals as a business priority, and visibly participating in group wellness activities. My colleague, Kristine Mullen, vice president, wellness leadership, puts it this way, “Follow-the-Leader is not just a kids’ game, it’s a strategy for making wellness work!”
Company policies should support work-life balance. For example, allowing employees to unplug and disconnect from their jobs when they go home by implementing policies that limit after-hours email or contact with the office during vacation. Minimizing office intrusions on personal time enables employees to recharge and relax.
Equally as important, a company’s practices should support health and wellness. Do Monday morning staff meetings offer coffee and donuts, or fruit and yogurt? Do workers compete in a monthly step challenge, or for the parking spot closest to the front door? Practices that are consistent with a company’s wellness goals go a long way toward establishing a healthy culture.
When employers create an environment that prioritizes workers' well-being, employees feel supported. Healthier, happier workers offer a competitive advantage—employee engagement is a predictor of company performance. Not only does wellness culture increase employee engagement with a company's goals, but employees are more likely to see their own wellness as being linked with professional success. As a result, a company with a wellness culture will develop a workforce that's more engaged and more focused, andit will have employees who see the corporate culture as beneficial to their career as well as their wellness.
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“The Wellness Effect: The impact of Workplace Programs,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015.
“Humana 2020 Progress Report,” Humana, 2015.
“Wellness Is a Culture, not a Set of Programs,” Humana, 2015.