How Can HR Management Take Wellness Programs to the Next Level?

Many chronic illnesses are preventable, but fending them off is commonly easier said than done. Why? The typical member of the workforce's lifestyle isn't exactly conducive to healthfulness. On the contrary, work is often:

  • Stressful: This has a negative effect on blood pressure and can lead to cardiovascular problems. Feeling overwhelmed or burned out also impacts productivity and overall quality of life.

  • Stationary: For people with desk jobs, it can be hard to find the time to get up and move around, which can lead to joint stiffness, weight gain and other issues.

  • Draining: Most professionals would agree that nine-to-five workdays are a thing of the past, and long hours at the office can put a damper on even the most motivated employee's goals of working out and eating right.

To combat this state of affairs, many companies are putting together wellness programs with the intention of improving their workforce's physical and mental health, as well as bolstering engagement, retention and loyalty. Despite their best efforts, though, employee participation levels could be higher.

A disconnect between value and involvement

Employees recognize that wellness is valuable - but the vast majority are not taking full advantage of the programs their employers are providing. Why aren't they more involved in their companies' programs? Here are just a few reasons:

  • Employees are simply too busy with work-related tasks to put anything more on their already full plates.

  • The programs being offered fail to pique workers' interests because they don't suit their lifestyles.

  • Members of staff are in the dark when it comes to being aware of the full array of options available to them.

  • The workforce has an incomplete grasp on the concept of "corporate wellness," with some individuals admitting they have little to no understanding of what the term means.

Armed with this information, the human resources management team can take steps to tailor programs toward the preferences of employees, improve efforts to communicate the options available and make sure workers understand the motivation behind the initiatives in the first place. Of course, in order to offer options that are in sync with employees' lifestyles and target their biggest pain points, HR management needs to have a solid idea of what these are.

What are employees' wellness priorities?

Different aspects of wellness are important to different people, but some general trends did emerge as a result of the GuideSpark study.

  1. Stress management (identified by 86 percent of survey participants) The fact that stress management is employees' No. 1 priority is hardly surprising in an age of 24/7 connectivity and "flexible" hours that sometimes translate to working around the clock.

  2. Physical fitness (85 percent) Narrowly pipped to the post by stress management, physical fitness came a close second in terms of workers' top wellness concerns. Long hours and sedentary office lifestyles take a toll on a person's physical condition, and many employees understand this.

  3. Financial wellness (82 percent) Although corporate wellness programs are traditionally associated with physical and mental health, finances are another big issue for workers. However, this aspect often gets overlooked by such initiatives.

  4. Weight management (80 percent) Every year, "Lose weight" is one of the most common New Year's resolutions, so it makes sense that eight in 10 workers aspire to do just that.

  5. Nutrition (77 percent) Although it can be tied to physical fitness and weight management, nutrition is a category in its own right. Many workers are eager for assistance when it comes to figuring out how they can eat healthily within the constraints of their busy lives.

  6. Sleep management (67 percent) Like stress, sleep issues are a pitfall of 24/7 connectivity and flex hours. Two-thirds of respondents to the GuideSpark research said they would appreciate a sleep management component to their companies' wellness programs, which suggests many employees in this day and age struggle with setting aside the appropriate time to sleep and/or being able to "switch off" and get some rest.

  7. Tobacco and alcohol cessation (61 percent) Smoke breaks interfere with productivity almost as much as feeling a little worse for wear after drinking too much the night before. Employees want help kicking their vices, and companies that want to boost wellness initiative engagement should consider incorporating a tobacco and alcohol cessation component.

Don’t get discouraged if workers' health and wellness program participation aren’t currently meeting expectations- plugging into their wellness concerns and making sure they understand what the initiatives are all about could help turn things around.