Holistic Wellness for Employees

Holistic Wellness: The Modern Track to Employee Well-Being

When you think about promoting a healthy work environment, what comes to mind first? Most likely it's nutrition and physical well-being, and for a good reason. Almost 50 percent of Americans live with at least one chronic illness, according to the CDC. And with health care costs reaching new heights, many employers are reevaluating their benefit offerings to share the cost burden with employees.

Wellness programs have taken root at companies across the nation to combat health care cost growth – 70 percent of U.S. employers currently offer a general wellness program.1 We can all agree that healthy workplace cultures can encourage healthy lifestyles among employees. But with traditional wellness programs focusing only on employees' physical well-being, many companies might be missing an opportunity.

Holistic wellness initiatives – ones that consider all of the potential stressors that affect employees day to day – are becoming the modern approach to employee wellness. Your workforce is more diverse than ever before, so fostering good health means extending beyond the physical to financial and emotional health as well. In fact, two-thirds of employers are planning to expand their wellness offerings to address financial and emotional well-being as well as physical health.2 That could mean including a broader range of benefts including college loan aid, in-office financial wellness coaching, or stress management seminars and resiliency training.

And the benefits can be substantial. Positive impacts such as increased productivity and performance, decreased absenteeism, and decreased health care expense in the long term are all part of the ROI from total well-being programs. But that's not all. These positive effects translate into a higher perceived value of the workplace by employees. More than 80 percent of employees feel positively about their work culture thanks to wellness programs, according to Virgin Pulse.3 In terms of hard dollars, one study has shown that employers who engage employees in wellness programs offered through consumer-driven health plans cut their total medical costs by an average of $7,900 per employee over a five-year period.4

There are plenty of specific examples, too. Beehive PR approached their wellness initiative with a strategy to tackle multiple aspects of wellness. They introduced meditation and yoga classes, weekly produce deliveries, a cardio room and tri-annual team retreats, as well as a complete redesign of the company’s office. The results of all of their efforts showed overwhelmingly in the data. Since implementing their wellness initiative, Beehive has seen a 30 percent decrease in sick days, a more than 40 percent increase in revenue, and employee engagement levels that are consistently above 90 percent. Another company, Welch Allyn, took a strategic approach to wellness and benefits that resulted in a savings of $1.5 million.

So, how do you make wellness programs work? It comes down to consistency and personalization. According to U.S. Corporate Wellness' Brad Cooper, considered one of the fittest CEOs in the world, the reason wellness programs so often fail to produce the results employers want is because employers fail to make wellness matter to employees. When growing your wellness program, consider some of the following:

  • Personalize your program. Take a deeper look at your workforce and tailor your offering to fit its needs.
  • Get employees' input! Ask them what they would like to see in a wellness program.
  • Reward good behavior. Provide tangible incentives that will encourage employees to join and maintain healthy choices.
  • Encourage participation. Create events like financial wellness seminars or offer planned lunchtime walk breaks for employees.
  • Be consistent! Offer services on a monthly basis, such as yoga classes or bootcamp classes, or on a weekly basis with things like produce deliveries.

Whatever you decide works best for your workforce, make sure to communicate the offerings clearly and continue to promote them throughout the year. A strong wellness plan and an engaged, healthy population can only happen if employees know the options available to them.

For more on how to effectively communicate your benefit and wellness offerings, check out the 2016 white paper, Communication Strategies for a Successful Open Enrollment. Get your free copy now!

1 2015 Employee Benefits Survey, Society for Human Resource Management
2 Corporate Health & Well-being Survey, Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health
3 The Business of Healthy Employees 2015: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities, Virgin Pulse
4 Unum: Benefits Buyers Study 2015