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How to Develop a Wellness-Oriented Corporate Culture

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The mental and physical health of employees has reached an unprecedented low point. 

Collectively, American companies invest billions of dollars each year in addressing employee health issues linked to sedentary lifestyles, obesity, smoking, poor nutrition, stress, diabetes, and other modifiable risk factors. 

While the concept of wellness is not new, we have a more comprehensive and sophisticated view of it today. Wellness now encompasses not only fitness and nutrition but also overall social, financial, and mental health. 

Recognizing the vital role of a wellness-oriented corporate culture, forward-thinking companies increasingly embrace its importance in today’s business landscape. A company culture that prioritizes employee health and well-being over the traditional focus on productivity and profits enables enhanced performance, engagement, and job satisfaction.   

This article delves into the key elements and actionable steps involved in developing a culture of wellness in the workplace. It provides practical strategies and best practices for organizations to cultivate a thriving and holistic work environment. 

Understanding a Culture of Wellness at Work

A culture of wellness in the workplace is more than a corporate trend or a way to stay competitive. It is a genuine commitment to the overall well-being of employees because employers understand that healthy employees are more productive, engaged, and loyal. 

While your company may pride itself on being a good employer, it’s crucial to recognize how work design can unintentionally harm employees’ health and well-being. The reality is that working conditions and the demands of the work environment often serve as significant sources of stress for many Americans.  

For example, a worker juggling three roles, a manager overwhelmed with direct reports, or a burned-out, underpaid employee may not be able to improve their well-being simply by exercising or using a stress-management app. 

For this reason, organizations must reassess outdated beliefs that inadvertently impact employee well-being in the workplace. Considering that employees spend a significant portion of their waking hours in the workplace, the culture there profoundly affects their happiness.   

In the pursuit of wellness, it falls upon companies not only to recognize potential risk factors but also to inspire and assist their employees in attaining their wellness objectives. 

Benefits of a Wellness-Oriented Corporate Culture

Globally, four out of five HR leaders prioritize mental health and well-being in their organizations. This is no surprise, as businesses increasingly embrace innovative approaches to support employee health and shape a positive employee experience. 

For instance, Google is renowned for its comprehensive wellness programs, including on-site gyms, free healthy meals, and meditation classes. Netflix is known for its relaxed and supportive work environment, while LinkedIn focuses on mental health by providing counseling services and mindfulness workshops.  

In fact, around 90% of organizations worldwide offer some form of employee wellness benefit. 

But why is wellness at work important? And what are the benefits of wellness programs at work? 

Companies can reap numerous benefits by prioritizing employee well-being and implementing wellness programs.    

Increased Employee Satisfaction & Engagement

Organizations that foster a wellness-oriented culture tend to have higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement. Even if not all employees engage in corporate wellness programs, they still send a valuable message: that the company values its people and provides resources to support their well-being. 

An American Psychological Association study found that employees with access to health and wellness offerings are more likely to report feeling healthy and satisfied with their jobs. 

When employees feel their well-being is valued, they experience greater job satisfaction, leading to increased loyalty and commitment to the company. 

Improved Productivity & Performance

Research consistently demonstrates that employees who prioritize their well-being are more productive and perform better. Employee wellness statistics show that employees who feel well and engaged are 13% more productive than those who do not.  

Moreover, research conducted by Gallup highlights that employees who are already engaged in their work exhibit even greater performance outcomes when physical wellness programming is incorporated into the workplace culture. 

By investing in wellness initiatives, such as fitness programs, mental health support, and work-life balance initiatives, organizations can enhance employee focus, creativity, and overall performance.  

Enhanced Talent Attraction & Retention

Attracting and retaining top talent is crucial in today’s competitive job market. A wellness-oriented corporate culture is a powerful tool for building a talented workforce.  

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, companies with wellness-oriented cultures have 30% lower absenteeism rates and 20% lower turnover rates than companies without such cultures.  

This is because prospective employees are more likely to be drawn to companies that prioritize employee well-being, as it reflects a positive work environment. Existing employees are also more likely to stay with an organization that demonstrates a genuine commitment to their health and well-being. 

Reduced Healthcare Costs

Companies can play a crucial role in lowering healthcare costs by promoting wellness and preventive care. Research indicates that individuals who exercise regularly, practice stress management techniques, and maintain a healthy lifestyle are less prone to developing chronic conditions.  

Implementing employee well-being campaigns can significantly contribute to reducing healthcare utilization, decreasing absenteeism caused by illness, and ultimately curbing medical expenses for the organization. For instance, one study found that workplace interventions can effectively lead to improvements in diet, further supporting the positive impact of wellness initiatives. 

Key Elements of a Wellness-Oriented Corporate Culture 

The question of who is responsible for wellness at work is a complex one. Traditionally, the human resources (HR) department has been seen as the owner of this responsibility.  

However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition that wellness is not just an individual issue, but also a systemic one. This means that it requires the engagement and commitment of all levels of an organization, from the C-suite to the frontline employee. 

Creating a wellness-oriented corporate culture entails incorporating several key elements, including: 

  • Leadership buy-in: The most crucial step in creating a wellness-oriented corporate culture is for leadership to be committed to it. Leaders must set an example by modeling healthy behaviors, communicating the importance of wellness, and providing resources and support for employees.  
  • Establishing wellness programs and initiatives: Wellness programs and initiatives can help employees adopt healthy habits and positively change their lives.  
  • Promoting work-life harmony: A wellness-oriented culture understands that employees have lives outside of work and prioritizes strategies to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This involves ensuring adequate staffing to manage workloads effectively and addressing issues such as excessive time spent on meaningless tasks like unproductive meetings.  
  • Commitment to flexibility: This means being flexible with work hours, supporting remote work, or providing telecommuting opportunities. However, while employees desire flexibility, it can inadvertently lead to a perpetual feeling of being constantly engaged in work. According to one survey, being “always on” but also lacking autonomy in decision-making regarding their work were the most detrimental factors affecting their well-being.  
  • Promoting a positive work environment: A positive work environment is characterized by employees who feel a strong sense of belonging, respect, and inclusion. Such an environment has the potential to alleviate stress and improve employee morale.  
  • Fostering employee participation and feedback: Creating a wellness-oriented corporate culture is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The specific elements that will be most effective will vary depending on the organization’s culture and the needs of its employees. Hence, involving employees and getting their feedback in the development and implementation of wellness programs and initiatives becomes crucial.  

Strategies for Developing a Wellness-Oriented Corporate Culture

In order to support well-being in the evolving landscape of work, leaders and companies must embrace progressive thinking and implement creative solutions. Developing a culture of wellness requires a strategic and holistic approach that nurtures a healthy environment and fosters beneficial habits, both personally and professionally. 

There are many ways that businesses can promote a wellness-oriented corporate culture in the workplace. Here are a few practical steps: 

1. Start with the Culture

When it comes to wellness programs, many companies make the mistake of adopting a fragmented approach to wellness programs by focusing on individual initiatives, such as offering on-site yoga classes or providing employees with gym memberships. However, these programs are often disconnected from the larger corporate culture, and, as a result, they are not as effective as they could be. 

As this article suggests, a genuinely successful wellness program must be rooted in the company culture. This means that the organization’s values must be aligned with the wellness program’s goals. For example, if a company values creativity and innovation, then its wellness program should focus on activities that promote those qualities.

2. Create a Wellness Policy

A workplace wellness policy is a written document that outlines the company’s commitment to wellness and sets forth specific goals and initiatives. The policy should be clear, concise, and easy to understand.   

When developing the policy, it is essential to get input from employees. Once the policy is in place, promoting it throughout the organization is just as important. This can be done through employee communications, training, and other methods. 

3. Offer a Variety of Wellness Programs

Employee expectations for wellness programs are constantly changing. They are no longer satisfied with the traditional offerings of on-site fitness facilities and employee assistance programs. They want novel methods, new approaches, and unique responses. 

To meet these changing expectations, businesses must offer various wellness programs that appeal to a wide range of employees. Some examples of innovative wellness companies’ offerings include: 

4. Educate & raise Awareness about Wellness

Many employees may not know where to start when it comes to their own wellness. By providing educational resources and raising awareness about wellness, companies can help employees make informed choices about their health. This could include things like providing information about healthy eating, exercise, and stress management. It could also involve hosting wellness seminars and workshops. 

5. Make it Easy for Employees to Participate

Wellness programs should be convenient and easy for employees to participate in. This means offering programs during work hours, providing transportation to and from events, and making resources available in a variety of formats. 

A recent survey found that more than two-thirds (68%) of workers did not use the full value of their organizations’ well-being resources because accessing programs was either too time-consuming, confusing, or cumbersome. 

6. Measure the Results

It is vital to measure the results of wellness programs to see what is working and what needs improvement. Businesses can measure wellness program results by tracking employee health metrics, absenteeism rates, and productivity levels.  

In addition to these traditional metrics, businesses can also use more innovative metrics to measure the results of their wellness programs in a meaningful way. For example, organizations should focus on measuring both the return on investment (ROI) and the value generated (VOI). 

7. Celebrate Successes

When employees achieve their wellness goals, it’s important to celebrate and reward their successes. This could be done through monetary incentives, such as gift cards or discounts on health club memberships.   

It could also be done through non-monetary incentives, such as recognition at company meetings or the opportunity to participate in special wellness events. 

Wellness Companies

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As we conclude, it is crucial to reiterate the significance of a wellness-oriented corporate culture. Well-being is not only essential for employee happiness and fulfillment but also has a direct impact on business outcomes.  

Recognizing the interconnectedness of everyone in the workplace is vital when introducing wellness programs and initiatives. 

In conclusion, by nurturing a culture that prioritizes well-being, organizations can create an environment where employees thrive, resulting in mutual success for both individuals and the company.

Written by Ivana Radevska | Senior Content Manager at Shortlister
Written by Ivana Radevska | Senior Content Manager at Shortlister