New research from the National Business Group on Health reinforces what we’ve been observing for quite some time—that a growing number of employers are broadening their definition of wellness to include dimensions of well-being beyond physical health. Employers are increasingly looking at employee health from a whole-person view, recognizing its physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions.

Recognizing that the definition of employee health has expanded, we must look at all dimensions when we consider the health of an employee. For example, people might be facing a challenge in a part of their life that is preventing them from regularly exercising or eating well.

At HealthFitness, we adapt the way we work with each participant and client community, which leads to sustainable healthy actions for more of our clients’ employee populations. We refer to this as Well-doingsm for more people.

We don’t limit ourselves to the physical dimensions of health. When we develop a health management program, we do it so we can engage individuals where they want support—whether it’s social, emotional, environmental and/or the financial dimensions. And we recognize that while the dimensions of well-being are critical, a key component is the delivery—how you empower employees to pay attention and ultimately take action.

Demonstrating the engagement value

The Consumer Health Mindset Report also notes the emphasis employees place on the engagement value. This is when an employee feels respected and appreciated by their employer. The employees think to themselves—and hopefully say to their colleagues—“this place gets me.”

Yet, when it comes to engaging employees in their health—actually “getting” them—employers still need help and must recognize the obstacles in engaging employees. The reality is that exercise is hard and we need to acknowledge this upfront. You can design a great wellness program—foster what we refer to as a culture of health—but at the end of the day the employees will be the ones who need to lace up their sneakers and take that first step.

When we partner with our clients, we ask them to consider the following questions about their employees: What drives them? What are their risk factors?

Then we start digging deeper, looking at specific risk factors and how this varies within the employee population. Having this information enables us to develop a wellness program with the aim of keeping employees healthy.

Tips for increasing employee education and communication

The best thing you as an employer can do to maintain a healthy workforce is to increase education and communication efforts with your employees about your wellness program. For example:

  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Time and resources are limited. Focus on where you can make an impact.
  • Be flexible; be willing to adjust an approach if it isn’t generating the results you want.
  • Remember that lasting change takes time and requires people, tools and processes working in concert.
  • Take a strategic approach—begin with the end in mind.

It’s ultimately very rewarding to think that our work can have a positive impact on employees—not just on their physical health, but their emotional health and how they interact with their co-workers, family and friends.

We can essentially help change how employees go about their lives. But we first need to gain a sense of where the employees want to go, so we can show them the most effective way to get there.

A version of this post was first published on the HealthFitness blog.

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