Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Are you pursuing new job opportunities — hoping to take the next step in your career? How do you determine if a potential employer is a wise choice? What criteria really count?

If wellness programs aren’t on your “must have” list, you may want to reconsider. The evidence is mounting. Companies committed to workforce wellness — particularly those committed to total quality of life at work and at home — are likely to be your best bet.

Unfortunately, not all companies make that kind of commitment. It’s no doubt one reason why employee engagement is so poor. Of course, engagement is influenced by multiple factors, but in general today’s workforce isn’t feeling the love. In fact, Gallup research revealed last year that 70% of U.S. employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged — and it’s costing companies over $300 billion a year.

The Workforce Wellness Difference

If you’re looking for a new gig, it makes sense to bypass organizations whose employees just aren’t dialed in to the work they’re doing, or the company’s mission, or its culture. But how do you find a great place to work?

There are some amazing companies out there that demonstrate their commitment to employees by investing directly in their health and happiness. We see them every day.

Leaders at these companies recognize that employees who are engaged in life inside and outside of their work environment are likely to be more productive and loyal over time. These types of companies support their workforce with comprehensive wellness options, like healthy food choices in the cafeteria, free group exercise classes in corporate gym facilities, paid time off to volunteer in the community, and even cold, hard cash incentives to reward healthy behavior.

Why Total Wellness Matters

By improving your health in multiple ways — physical, mental, social and financial — you’ll improve your total quality of life and maximize your potential in your job. Smart companies know this, and smart job seekers do, too. According to our own research, 87% of employees believe robust workplace wellness programs are paramount when choosing a place to work.

In recent years, with technology advances like the Internet, smartphones, teleconferencing and a variety of devices that help us work productively no matter where we’re located, the lines are blurring between work and home life. Employers recognize this, and increasingly are helping employees improve their total quality of life — not only by offering stellar benefits and workplace wellness programs, but also by extending those benefits to family and friends. This way, employees can rely on their natural support network to influence and reinforce their healthy habits.

Including family members is a no-brainer for employers, since spouses and dependents help boost wellness program participation. It should be a no-brainer for you, too. When exercising and dieting with a friend or family member, you have a 57% greater chance of losing weight than by going it alone, according to the Framingham Heart Study. Plus, getting healthy is more fun when you don’t fly solo. With innovative wellness programs that include your family and friends, you can challenge one another to simple, healthy competitions. For example, you can win bragging rights by tracking who climbs the most stairs at work, or who eats the most fruits and vegetables each week.

Employee Health Is More Than Fun and Games

But all of that fun also has serious impact. If your employer offers wellness programs you enjoy, and you take advantage of those programs, you’re more likely to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyle changes for the long-term. What’s more, the link between companies that provide robust workplace wellness programs and sustained employee engagement is strong. Our research shows that, at these organizations, 80% of employees feel their employer cares about their well-being.

So, in the long run, what can you expect? The payback of choosing a company that cares includes: fewer sick days, fewer workplace safety incidents, and an increased sense that your contributions at work have a greater overall impact, according to multiple sources. You’ll also feel a stronger connection with your employer, as you’re encouraged to stay active and healthy, and you see a similar commitment to those you love.

Bottom line: Healthier, happier employees are more engaged employees. And engaged employees perform more effectively at work. This can opening avenues to upward mobility and promotions that you might never have realized otherwise.

Factor these elements into your job search today, and I am confident that, in the future, you’ll find greater benefits both at work and in every other facet of life.

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce discussed employee engagement with the TalentCulture community this week at #TChat Events. See full highlights and resource links in the Recap: “Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It.“)

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