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Workplace Wellness: It’s Not Just About the Benefits

These days, I’m seeing more and more companies out there with fabulous benefits – Cadillac versions of amazing benefits. That’s great, but unfortunately, many of them are not taking into consideration all the other aspects of workplace wellness. Or, they put fantastic benefit plans in place, but they don’t communicate them properly and as a result, employees don’t have a real sense of wellness. Luckily, there are several things you can do to ensure your organization promotes healthy, happy and productive employees.

The Workplace Wellness Audit

Every single company, regardless of size, should go through a workplace wellness audit. An audit involves evaluating the needs of both employees and the workplace, identifying where the gaps are and discovering what can be done to address them. Keep in mind, just because employees agree that they want the most comprehensive dental plan, does not mean you need to run out and get it. But knowing where the gaps are and thinking about ideas for how to address them in a creative, cost effective way is well worth the effort.

A Comprehensive Wellness “Look” Into Your Company

An effective wellness audit looks at everything from the time employees were originally hired to the time they leave the organization. This includes, among other things:

  • How many hours are employees working each week?
  • Does the company have employees who are working ten-hour shifts on their feet?
  • Are flexible work hours available or not?
  • What about ergonomics?
  • Do workplace conditions fit with job demands?

There are businesses out there who are implementing treadmills as desks in an effort to improve the health and physical fitness of their employees. While that may seem a bit extreme, making changes to show that you are aware of the health of your employees is a smart strategy. Even simple changes can be very beneficial. Updating the chairs in an office, for instance, can help people improve their posture and also ease back pain.

Physical as Well as Emotional Health

An effective wellness audit identifies both the physical AND emotional aspects of health and wellness. Is there a plan in place to deal with employee stress? Does the company encourage discussions about elder care and daycare? These things are geared towards promoting good mental health above and beyond legislative requirements. Social groups like company softball teams help to encourage a happy, healthy and engaged workplace. Remember, people spend a tremendous amount of time at work; companies who make the effort to offer employees opportunities to reach out and make social connections are more productive at the end of the day.

Create Mechanisms For Communication

If employees are experiencing elevated stress or have other health issues, is there an organizational culture that allows people to speak up? Implementing policies or cultural change can address the gaps, resulting in more effective communication. In addition, ergonomic assessments can help identify where changes can be made that will yield the most positive effects. All organizations should also consider an Employee Assistance Plan, or EAP. For the cost of a small monthly premium, you can ensure each and every employee has a confidential third party contact for discussing many things that can trigger stress or work performance issues including mental, physical or emotional issues.

An example of what an EAP can do is help employees who are dealing with grief from divorce or the death of a loved one. These services provide someone qualified to talk to in a confidential manner, taking the burden off the employer to get them the help they need. By not addressing these issues, companies run the risk of employees becoming less engaged, over stressed and ultimately, non-productive.

Implementing Other Aspects of Wellness: Using Your Human Capacity

The onus for workplace wellness does not begin and end with management. Employees themselves can promote better health. For instance, “healthy lunch Fridays” or “walking lunches” are great examples of employee-generated ideas that inspire others to make healthy lifestyle choices. As an organization, letting engaged people get together and take the lead makes it easier for you to step in and assist where needed, while giving the flexibility to employees to take initiative without feeling pressure.

More and more companies should be proactively looking for ways to promote a healthier work environment. With engaged employees and a myriad of ideas, ensuring a happy, healthy workforce doesn’t need to be costly or time consuming. An internal health and wellness task force can do wonders for promoting innovative, productive ideas leading to improved health and physical fitness. After all, a healthy workforce begins and ends with a concerted effort to ensure everyone is as healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally – as possible.

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