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Home >> Journal >> Corporate >> 6 Cornerstones Of Wholesome Corporate Wellness Programs

6 Cornerstones Of Wholesome Corporate Wellness Programs

Tuesday 23rd February

Market Intelligence firm Beroe Inc reveals that 56% of Australian companies offer corporate wellness programs. That’s a welcome change. However, we would also like to speak about the importance of seamless integration of the wellness program. Something that depends largely on the wellness partner that you engage. Else, it will most likely be a missed opportunity. It can even lead to poor participation rates.

Firstly, wellness as a concept is overwhelming to a large part of the population. Pureprofile reveals that only 42% of Australians ‘believe’ that they are fit. Another 37% believe that they are not fit. 5% consider themselves extremely unfit.

Further, some companies are guilty of following a bandwagon approach. Somewhere down the line, they discover that their workforce is not ready for sweeping reforms. Ideally, they should partner with a wellness provider that can help design a wholesome wellness program. One that takes into account the strengths and limitations of the workforce. Listed below are the six cornerstones of wholesome corporate wellness programs.

#1 – Wholesome corporate wellness programs begin with the leadership

Leaders must participate in corporate wellness programs

In some cases, employees may be reluctant to participate in wellness programs. That’s because they are unsure of how the leadership will perceive it.  Harvard Business Review conducted a study on full-time employees. The results illuminate the typical employee thought process. 53% of employees believe that cultural barriers limit their participation in workplace wellness programs.

How about eliminating any barrier, cultural or otherwise? Inform the employees that looking after one’s health is a priority that’s valued in the organization. It’s not looked down at all. Strategic communication can largely change the outlook toward wellness programs.

But the message should be simple, loud, and clear. ‘This is how the new wellness initiative works. Here’s how you can participate. This is what’s in it for you.’ Reduce it to simplistic concepts. Yoga can help alleviate back pain. Have spondylosis? We now encourage mid-work stretching breaks. Address the pain points of the employee.

Executives and managers must take the first step by participating in the program themselves. Once again, communicate this to the employees in as many words.

The next step is to lead by example. Executives and managers must take the first step by participating in the program themselves. Once again, communicate this to the employees in as many words.

Here are some examples of possible ways to involve leadership in wellness initiatives.

  • Swap the mundane board room meeting for a walk and talk on the premises.
  • Leaders can take mindfulness breaks themselves.  Business leaders taking timed breaks from their cramped schedules sends out a very positive message.
  • Eventually, employees will feel more comfortable stepping out of their cubicles. This should increase participation in most corporate wellness programs.

#2 – Corporate wellness programs must be accessible

Fitness and exercise as concepts tend to be overwhelming to a lot of people. That’s because they feel intimidated. Picture walking into a large group fitness class where 75% of the participants are extremely fit. They know how to use the equipment. They can get into that fancy yoga pose that you cannot even dream of achieving. An employee who’s not physically fit might give up a few minutes into such a group class. It might make them jittery.

We firmly believe that corporate wellness programs must be accessible to the entire workforce. No matter what their physical conditioning. Employers can make this easier though. Partner with corporate wellness programs that offer personalized attention. For some employees, the onus might be reducing workplace stressors. Even a small mindfulness break can do wonders for their attention span. For others, it might be increasing movement to alleviate physical pain. Yoga is an excellent fitness activity that offers a plethora of benefits. The ideal workplace program is one that caters to both these types of employees.

Happy Melon offers flexible corporate wellness programs. Employees can adapt to our programs at their own leisure. There are three key fundamentals that we focus on. It’s meditation, mindfulness and movement. A combination of these three, addresses the primary challenges associated with overall wellbeing. Meditation helps reduce stress. Mindfulness can reduce depression. Yoga offers both physical and mental health benefits. It may not sound as fancy as throwing fitness trackers on your workforce. But it’s very effective.

#3 – Do not enforce it

We understand that it’s the nature of the business to look for immediate tangible returns on their wellness investments. To this end, companies tend to go overboard with their efforts to boost participation. But that might be making a mistake. Lacklustre participation is counterproductive for investments in wellness. But trying to enforce participation can backfire too. It might alienate the workforce even more. Also, it makes it feel that the employer’s focus is limited to numbers.

That’s not the message that you want to send out. Instead, employers must take a progressive approach to wellness. One that allows employees time to develop their own perspective on it. We would like to highlight the importance of communication again.

encourage employee communication

How about a weekly webinar on positive experiences? That’s a great first step. It encourages existing participants to share their experiences. Slowly, increase the frequency of these webinars. Open multiple channels of communication. Involve the marketing team to create a message that they want to hear.

What’s that message, you might wonder? Every employee needs to hear this. ‘The wellness program is there to help them become a healthier person. Period.’ It’s not limited to biomedical improvements such as blood pressure or the waistline. Inform them that you care about their social, emotional, physical and financial health.

Encourage them to participate because their families depend on them. Just like their customers do. Here’s a great example of this method in action. It has produced excellent results for USAA. Results are a great motivator. It can often help businesses overcome the primary barriers that they face. These are lack of interest, social anxiety and distrusting the employer’s intentions. If there was ever a time to toot your own horn, this is it.

#4 – It should be paired with a healthy workspace

Often there are cultural practices that contradict wellness initiatives. For instance, workspaces for millennials feature modern infrastructure. A gaming area and a swanky lounge might be great additions. But a vending machine that dispenses soda is clearly not.

A study was conducted by the University of California on the effect of sugary beverages on their workforce. When they banned sugary beverages, 70% of the workforce lost weight. The average inch loss on the waistline was 0.8”. That’s not all. There were positive changes to their cholesterol levels too.

The soda vending machine appears to be a necessary evil at times. But it represents a much larger problem. Companies must foster a healthy work culture. Encourage healthy eating habits. Swap soda for mineral water. Replace snacks loaded with trans-fats with healthier options. Encourage employees to take mid-work breaks.

Have one or two on-site exercise sessions. Host a team breakfast and serve the healthiest breakfast of the week. You can also host a healthy potluck once a month. Employees are less likely to make poor health decisions when the work culture focusses on good health.

#5 – Corporate wellness programs must focus on mental health

Here’s a very interesting study involving 42 Australian employers. The idea behind it is to create a set of best practices for workplace wellness. Not surprisingly, it reveals that employers continue to focus on physical health. Employees on the other hand veer towards mental health and happiness. In other words, a work culture that supports the psychosocial needs of employees helps produce better outcomes.

Corporate wellness programs must focus on mental health

Corporate wellness programs must focus on mental health

Work to create corporate wellness programs that place equal emphasis on physical and mental health. 91% of Australian employees believe that mental health is of predominant importance. But only 52% actually believe that their workplace is mentally healthy. That leaves a large void, with a huge scope for improvement.

A mentally healthy workplace helps improve productivity.  It allows employees to cope with workplace stressors. Further, it boosts engagement. It can also help employers retain talent. Most young millennials today consider mental health support at work a critical factor in their decision-making process. Rather than looking at ROI, look at VOI (Value on investments)

#6 – Use surveys to gauge the effectiveness

Harvard Business Review suggests that employee surveys might be the best tool to gauge the effectiveness of wellness programs. It does two very important things. It allows the employee to offer direct feedback. This makes them feel heard and valued. Secondly, it shows you whether the wellness initiative is hitting the mark or not.

Surveys are extremely easy to create. Businesses can do email surveys, or pass printed copies during meetings. Is the corporate wellness program easy to adapt to? Do they find it overwhelming? What are the challenges that employees are facing? Has it helped employees become healthier? Does it reduce workplace stress? Surveys can deliver so much actionable data.

Integrating new corporate wellness programs are not easy. It always takes time, ongoing feedback from your employees, and careful planning from your wellness partner.

Closing thoughts

Well-rounded corporate wellness programs, such as the ones offered by Happy Melon help cultivate a healthier and happier work environment. We focus on helping employees create a healthier workplace lifestyle. Be it taking timed breaks, walking a few steps, taking a few deep breaths, or hopping on the ground into a yoga pose, our programs are flexible.