Not many decades ago, the concept of wellness in the workplace – that healthy employees make better workers – was considered to be groundbreaking. Times have changed, and it’s encouraging to note that for most companies, wellness is now a “check-off” program.
The results have been considerable, starting with successful smoking-cessation programs in the 1980s to today’s workplace, where many companies offer employees various opportunities to monitor their health and learn about healthy living while at work.
But let’s face it – staying healthy takes work. And it can be tough to do, especially when work can be so demanding. You have projects and priorities pulling you in different directions. Who has time to focus on their personal well-being? and how do companies make wellness a reality? Six keys to a successful employee wellness program
While not absolute, I believe there are six key elements required to enable a truly successful employee wellness program within a company:
I’m proud to say that LSI doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to wellness initiatives. We have a host of programs, and we’re always looking for ways to improve them.
We’re obviously in good company. In the San Francisco Bay area alone, more than 60 companies large and small recently participated in a program to determine the healthiest employers for that region. LSI finished in the top 10 in the 500-1,999 employee category based on the number of workers we have at our San Jose headquarters. This is the second consecutive year that LSI has made the list.
Our wellness programs run the gamut, including on-site fitness centers and exercise classes, incentive-based initiatives, personal health coaches, a worldwide annual table tennis tournament and participation in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), a virtual walking program aimed at changing the exercise behavior and improving the health of employees around the world.
The GCC promotes taking 10,000 steps a day to lose weight and get in shape. It’s working for us at LSI, with employees racking up nearly 4 billion steps over the past four months. That equates to burning off 651,632 pieces of chocolate cake. No matter how you slice it, that’s a ton of calories!
Numerous studies bear out that the benefits of workplace wellness programs far outweigh the costs of offering them. For instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that productivity losses due to personal and family health issues can cost U.S. businesses $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.
You can find other insightful information in a CDC article titled “Wellness in the Workplace,” which states that “A wellness program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.” Included in the article are several resources on wellness programs and their benefits.
Another article, “Leading by Example: The Value of Worksite Health Promotion to Small and Medium-sized Employers,” outlines actions small- and medium-sized employers can take to provide for healthier employees, and highlights new tax credits and other programs that are available to smaller businesses under the U.S. Affordable Care Act. The article appears on the website for the Partnership for Prevention, a nonpartisan organization of business, nonprofit and government leaders working to make evidence-based disease prevention and health promotion a national priority.
And the U.S. Small Business Administration offers more insights and resources withWorkplace Wellness: Improving Health and Controlling Health Care Spending. This article includes a link to the Affordable Care Act’s final rules related to new incentives for employer wellness programs, as well as information about preventive services covered under the act.
From the looks of it, employees have more opportunities than ever before to get in shape and stay in shape. And their employers benefit, too, from having a healthier, happier workforce. We’ve come a long way in making wellness a permanent part of the workplace.
“We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.”
Will Rogers, American humorist and social commentator
If there was anyone who enjoyed a good laugh, it was Will Rogers. Peaking in popularity around the 1930s, he used an earthy, down-home style to poke fun at politicians, gangsters, government programs and other topical targets. His humor and wit helped carry the U.S. through the Great Depression.
Considering the amount of time we spend at work, we should heed Rogers’ advice and all share a good laugh or two each day. Having a sense of humor can benefit you and your workplace in many ways, according to several documented studies.
From a health perspective, humor can measurably reduce stress and lower blood pressure. From a business perspective, it can encourage teamwork, promote group cohesiveness, enhance leadership and communication, pump up creativity, motivate employees and help achieve objectives. An online search of “humor in the workplace” quickly uncovers several studies in support of humor’s effectiveness.
Nurturing a happier workplace by cracking wise
Research has shown time and again that people who enjoy their work are more productive and creative. By establishing an atmosphere of collegiality and friendly interaction, employees feel more in their “comfort zone.” Isn’t that the kind of atmosphere you want to be part of at work?
Humor in the office, though, should always be used appropriately, keeping in mind cultural differences. Obviously, there should be zero tolerance for humor that is racially, sexually or culturally oriented or directed at individuals.
Knowing when and where humor has its place is also an important consideration. I’ve been in meetings where a humorous remark helped break tension in the room. On the other hand, you don’t want humor to be constant, distracting or disruptive.
Another benefit of humor is that it can serve as a coping mechanism. How many of us have been frustrated by a task or project that just isn’t going the way we want it to? Stepping back and not taking ourselves so seriously might be the approach needed to get things moving in the right direction.
In addition to off-the-cuff humor, there are structured ways to add some levity to the workplace. It could be something as simple as putting up a bulletin board where employees can post appropriate cartoons and funny quotes. Or employees could plan a “funny hat” day or “finger foods only” lunch.
From my personal experience, a daily injection of humor and fun makes the work day go faster.
At LSI, our goal is to bring out the “Wow!” in wellness. And we do it in lots of different ways.From a global fitness competition to an international table tennis tournament to health fairs to personal coaches, we work hard at engaging our employees in activities that are fun, exciting and challenging. Time and again, studies have shown that healthy employees are happier and more productive employees. And our Wellness@Work Program bears that out. It all ties in neatly under the program’s theme: Get Fit, Live Healthy, Love Life.One of our most popular activities engaging nearly 80 percent of the LSI workforce is the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), the world’s largest workplace health and wellness program. This 16-week competition occurs annually in the spring and attracts nearly 1 million participants from around the world.
We’ve participated in the GCC for the past two years, and our employees are really looking forward to being a part of the action again starting in May. That includes our CEO and his executive team, who in the past have had friendly mini-competitions among themselves to see who has the winning edge. Overall in 2012, the LSI teams walked, swam or biked a staggering amount of mileage that would equate to circling the globe 65 times!
Right now, the competition is heating up among hundreds of employees who are taking part in our annual table tennis tourney. Players of all skill levels and from just about every LSI location are picking up their paddles and getting into the swing of things, all in the spirit of good-hearted competition.
On a more personal level, we’ve experienced great success with our one-on-one wellness coaching program. Employees are matched with professionally trained wellness coaches who provide individual consultations and guidance on achieving optimal wellness.
But our wellness initiatives don’t stop there. We have on-site yoga classes, wellness seminars, weight-management offerings, blood pressure checks and on-site annual health fairs. There’s Badminton Night in Singapore, a bowling challenge in Thailand, therapeutic massages in Germany and the U.S., a team fitness challenge in China…and more. And we’re now researching the feasibility of taking our wellness initiatives to the next level and extending some programs – where they make economic and cultural sense ¬– to the families of our employees.
Having read this far, a fair question might be: Aren’t these programs expensive and time-consuming?
Actually, effective wellness programs may pay for themselves by controlling health care costs, increasing employee productivity and lowering absenteeism.
By encouraging employees to embrace a healthier lifestyle, a company can trim its health care costs and then use some or all of that money to fund additional wellness programs. When we began our wellness initiative, we actually had no budget. Instead, we worked with our vendors to leverage programs they already offered. For example, we worked with our health plan vendor to obtain free videos offering exercise tips that employees could do at their desks. We also enabled employees to link to our cafeteria vendor’s websites, where they could find healthy and nutritious recipes. The employee response was so positive, we ramped up our activities little by little.
Overall, investing in wellness can pay a “healthy” dividend in the short- and long-term. Employee wellness programs are not a fad. They’re here to stay and are being woven into the work culture around the world because they offer a solid value proposition – for both a business and its employees.
At LSI, we’re willing to go the distance to help our employees stay on the path to good health. It’s well worth the effort, as reflected in the Arabian proverb: “He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.”