Five Ways to Foster a Wellness Culture

I’m going to say it loud and proud: I love workplace wellness programs. And I will shout it from the rooftops until every company in every industry finally understands how invaluable they are to overall corporate success. Here’s the thing—a happy, healthy employee is good for profits. In fact, the American Heart Association found that for every $1 invested in workplace wellness, companies could expect to receive up to $3 in return. That’s fantastic ROI.

I also love technology, but it’s true that technology has disrupted our work lives and our family time. And while that slow-creeping crossover has had (some would say) an adverse effect on “family time,” as most of us remain tethered to our mobile devices, it has had a different, more positive impact on work. Today, people can virtually work from anywhere, at any time. Companies offer more flex time and work from home options, and employees see previously grueling travel schedules reduced due in part, to things like online video collaboration.

But, that constant connectivity and flexibility comes at a price.

Why Wellness Programs are the Future of Work

When Staples Business Advantage conducted their second annual Workplace Index, what they found was telling. Instead of technology reducing workloads, employees are today working too much. In fact, of their U.S. respondents, most reported working longer hours to try and catch up on work they couldn’t tackle during an eight-hour day. And that workload is taking a toll.

  • Sixty-four percent of respondents say their workplace has contributed to stress.
  • Nearly half report feeling overworked is motivating them to look for another job.
  • Thirteen percent have even taken a workplace stress-related leave of absence.
  • And yet, 66 percent of employees still consider the office as the most productive place to get work done.

Clearly, the onus lies with employers to ensure the workplace is a healthy one. “This study shows that there is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to focus on and design employee experiences where employees truly want to show up,” said Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work. Morgan, who worked in conjunction with Staples Business Advantage on the report, stated, “Offering employees health and wellness programs, well-designed office environments and up-to-date modern technologies are all a part of that employee experience. This is crucial to be able to attract and retain top talent.”

He is absolutely correct. Consider this: While a full 62 percent of respondents said the availability of a wellness program is a selling point when looking for a new job, 58 percent reported their workplace doesn’t offer one. Let’s get started today on changing those statistics, and creating corporate environments where healthy workers become top priorities. Here’s how.

Five Ways to Foster a Wellness Culture

The employees surveyed in Staples Business Advantage’s Workplace Index 2016 made it clear they want more from their employers. Here are five ways to help foster a wellness culture, and actively maintain a health-focused culture.

  1. Create well-designed, inspiring workplaces. Even with remote work and flex time on the rise, as mentioned above, 66 percent of employees still rate the office as the most productive place to get work done. But sadly, many workers describe their workspaces as being less than inspiring. According to the survey, “The majority of survey respondents describe their office as standard, plain and dull…Forty-three percent would like to see more attention paid to workplace design, with respondents also citing a desire for natural light, private spaces, standing desks, lounge areas, and ergonomic/flexible furniture for multiple uses.” While this sounds like a lot of change, you don’t have to break the bank to keep employees happy and healthy. Standing desks can be jerry-rigged, or shared among multiple team members, and you can use an underused boardroom for increased collaboration part of the time, for private or small group projects.
  1. Make breaks mandatory. Did you know that 53 percent of employees eat lunch at their desk every single day? I know I’ve been guilty of it more than once. Not surprisingly, the Workplace Index revealed that more than three-quarters of employees say they feel more productive after a break. So why don’t they take them? Guilt. As Kerry Anne Carter, vice president, Staples Business Advantage, said, “Taking a break in the always-on modern workplace can seem like a pipe dream, but it shouldn’t be.” More than half of those surveyed want breaks actively encouraged, and even something as innocuous as having a well-stocked break room offering healthy snacks can significantly increase employee productivity.
  1. Focus on personal and professional development. Having the right tools available is a major step toward a healthier workplace. As well as having the most up to date technology and software solutions on hand, providing a way for employees to continually better themselves at work will help improve retention rates. Create an easily accessed “professional development” Intranet where employees can do research and take courses. Implement a companywide year-long personal growth program, and have managers work with staff to reach their goals. And work with staff each year to reward them in some way for their hard work, whether through small promotions or pay raises or by awarding them an extra week of much-needed vacation time.
  1. If you haven’t already, adopt flexible work hours and paid time off. Stress kills, and there’s nothing more stressful than juggling life and work commitments, especially when there are children in the mix. Allowing flex time and remote work options, and ensuring people have the right technology that enables them to work, gives people control of their lives and goes a long way toward fostering employee loyalty. Also, as a bonus, studies have shown that people are 13 percent more productive when they work from home. Plus, when they inevitably come down with an illness like the flu, they won’t feel pressured to bring those germs into the office, possibly infecting colleagues. According to Chris Correnti, vice president of Staples Facility Solutions, “The flu is responsible for an estimated 70 million missed workdays and billions of dollars in lost office productivity each year.”
  1. Make daily fitness part of your employee policies. While having an onsite gym or offering fitness subsidies might sound like options only the largest of companies can afford, even the smallest businesses can incorporate fitness into the workplace. Walking increases creative thinking, and by now we all know that sitting all day is awful for your health. Instead, get employees moving by holding “walking meetings.” If you absolutely have to have those laptops out, get out of the old boardroom routine by walking to a nearby coffee shop for your gathering. Or, invest in fitness wearables and inspire teams to challenge each other in monthly or quarterly exercise contests. Make it easy for employees to bike to work by providing safe areas to lock up their gear, and, if possible, to shower at work.

Building a health-focused work culture doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and the rewards far outweigh the costs. Make sure that managers and other business leaders walk the walk as well (no pun intended), and inspire employees to follow their lead into a healthier, happier, more productive workplace. You and your employees will be glad you did.

This post is sponsored by Staples Business Advantage.

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