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Workplace Wellness Isn't Just a Perk, It's a Core Business Strategy

Benjamin Prinzing

Founder and President of Kadalyst

On average, only 20 percent of organizations in the United States participate in wellness programs for their employees. If your company is part of the 80 percent, you might want to rethink your strategy.

A recent study by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) found that organizations that invested in "comprehensive wellness programs" are not only better at retaining staff and attracting new hires, they also outpace the financial returns of the S&P 500. According to their six year study, companies that had prioritized "employee wellness" saw a 235 percent return on investment versus a 159 percent for the S&P 500.

Even if you aren't ready to introduce a comprehensive wellness plan, there are small steps you can take to start on your journey towards making wellness a core business practice—improving both employee health and your bottom line.

1) Focus on Health as a Culture Shift, Not a Program

A program by definition is "a plan of action to accomplish a specified end." Employee wellness is a journey that's constantly changing with no due date or expiration. This requires a shift in company thinking—putting employee health first. Because culture is a bi-product of the collection of behaviors within your population, you have to work backwards to achieve it. The outcome is a more productive, loyal, healthy and happy workforce.

2) Positively Manipulate Your Work Environment

The goal is to identify opportunities where you can "tweak" your environment to foster healthier behaviors. Think of the reception desk candy dish. If it's there, people grab for a piece or two with every other passing. The moment it's not there or replaced by fresh fruit, habits change. People will still grab a snack, but the healthy choice is now the easy choice. The same goes for smoking. Smoke-free workplace policies have proven to be twice as likely to help their employees quit smoking, according to this study by the American Heart Association.

3) Treat Your Employees Like Customers

HR teams often focus on policy and compliance. When it comes to employee wellness, you need more than the standard email notice to grab attention and build excitement. It needs to be personalized.

Think of your employees as your internal customers and market to them accordingly. Working directly with your client's internal marketing departments can be a big help when branding and creating materials to deliver a message successfully. Pull together a focus group or wellness committee to define who you are as a workforce in terms of demographics, job functions and interests. Ask questions such as, "Who are our employees?", "What do they want?", "What would draw their attention?" and "What's in it for them?"

4) Develop a Communication Plan

Pay attention to how your organization communicates as a whole to your employees already. If a new policy, mandate or update was needed to get out quickly to everyone, use that same methodology and keep it consistent.

Also, think of using different mediums, such as infographics or explainer videos. There's at least one person in your organization that would love the opportunity to take this on if your marketing department is unavailable. Check out this explainer video using It took less than 8-hours to storyboard, create and complete final edits:

5) Get Buy-In From the C-Suite On Down

The path of least resistance for implementing a meaningful employee wellness program is absolutely having buy-in from the C-Suite, and then executing a top-down rollout. Let's be honest: It's easier said than done and, in most cases, you may find yourself having to work from the bottom-up. But that doesn't mean it can't be done. It just takes time.

Start with one department, division or location at a time. Tell your staff to give credit to the C-Suite and they'll find a swarm of "Thank you's" in no time. Then, you'll have your top-down influence. Good luck!

Header photo: Twenty20

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