4 Ways To Make Workplace Wellness A Culture Win

Here’s an idea for cutting edge talent management: workplace wellness programs. Implemented well, they’re mutual ROI meets wearable tech meets a deep level of employee engagement that reflects beautifully on employer brand. Not only can they enhance performance, but they show a genuine concern for employees’ well-being. And they’re part of one of my most basic adages: a happy employee is good for profits.

The American Heart Association found that for every $1 invested in workplace wellness, companies can receive up to $3 in return. But, like everything, there are right ways and wrong ways to implement workplace wellness programs. It depends on the company’s goal in adoption: how involved do you want to be? What’s the budget? What are the incentives and rewards?

Short-term benefits aim for mental clarity, higher productivity, morale and loyalty boosts, and all that. The larger goal of reducing healthcare costs and preventing injuries requires you build a wellness program that’s good for the long term.

But think about the culture of the workplace: if your employees are scattered all over the globe in different time zones, you’re either going to have to satellite physical fitness spaces in, create digital ones, or both. If you’re centralized, have some fun and create an amazing wellness and fitness center that gives employees bragging rights. And depending on the scope of the program, it can seem benevolent or big brother— is it opt-in or mandatory? Do employees get rewarded for participating?

Also essential: bring it up to date and make it tech-friendly. Here are 4 ways:

1) Provide wearable tech: It’s inexpensive, it’s personal. Wearables are booming. Some 13 million wearable devices will be integrated into corporate wellness plans over the next five years, according to ABI Research. The tech offers encouragement without seeming required, and apparently, 44 percent of US workers are already wearing it at work. Activity trackers can be linked to social wellness apps; customizable versions can create company-wide programs with events, competitions and rewards. Employees can monitor their own personal progress and make it social. Chances are, they will. There are versions with elaborate data tracking, from blood pressure to heart rate and beyond. Others include eating habits as well — offering recognition for making healthy choices. When it’s small and personal it doesn’t seem invasive. And face it: we all love gear.

2) Create occasions: If routine is the enemy of innovation, break it up by observing the myriad healthy holidays: get your employees on their feet on National Walking Day (the first Wednesday in April, when employees can participate by walking for at least half an hour). Create a “Fitness Friday” with allowable hours for gym, yoga, walking or running during the workday. Because we’re way past casual Fridays now, it’s much more fun to make them actually mean something. Also, adding a fitness component to an already busy workweek without allotting for allowable time will make it feel like an extracurricular drag. You may see a whole lot more participation outside work anyway, but don’t expect it.

3) Offer tangible incentives: Did I mention rewards? Incentivizing participation is key to driving and sustaining employee engagement. There are countless ways to do it, but ones that hit the wallet are certainly the sweetest, including discounts on health premiums, flextime or home days, gift cards (but watch that gold watch syndrome), healthy retreats — a great way to build in creative collaboration and team brainstorming between massages and yoga. Leaderboards, team goals, coaching consults —  you can build deeper engagement by polling employees on what they want in terms of recognition, and make it adaptable as opposed to one size fits all.

4) Measure its effectiveness: After a mid-sized bank in Illinois instituted a wellness program as part of its benefits package, it achieved 95% participation. There’s a point system, a whole range of activities and programs to choose from, and a close tie-in to healthcare and lifestyle changes. It’s expecting an ROI at the end of three years that will show measurable reductions in healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, and higher morale / productivity — saving between $1.50 and $3.50 for every dollar spent. It’s measuring the results annually in quantifiable terms, starting with baseline screenings for each participant, and measuring everything from health to productivity to insurance usage.

There are countless fitness apps that can be brought into a workplace wellness program; and it’s a great way to measure performance as well. The point is to make it part of your intentional employee brand. Also nice: having people that are shiny, happy, healthy representatives of your company. They tend to smile more. No matter how much we work on improving recruitment and engagement, there’s something about a company that lets you walk outside and kick a ball around during a meeting that just can’t be beat.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Photo Credit: urban.shake Flickr via Compfight cc

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