- Employees are suffering from stress, and their work suffers in turn.
- While many employers are implementing health and wellness plans for their staff, there is more to be done
- Simple, inexpensive programs go a long way toward improving the health and wellbeing of your team.
The workplace is a stressful environment for many. With deadlines, repetitive tasks and pressure from executives, it's common for the mind and body to feel overwhelmed. According to research by CareerBuilder, nearly a third of employees said work gives them high or extremely high stress levels, with the most common side effects being fatigue, sleeplessness, aches and pains, anxiety, and weight gain.
What factors influence employee health and wellness?
What is causing the stress? According to research reviewed by SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), workers are stressed out by unrealistic expectations, changes in (or disappearance of) reliable career paths, heavy workloads, and lack of opportunity for advancement.
While over half of workers in low-paid jobs say they are stressed out, the percentage is not much better for employees in higher-paid positions (41%). That's why employee health has become a priority for most companies today. In a survey from staffing firm OfficeTeam, two-thirds of HR managers reported that their organization's health and wellness offerings have increased in the last five years. Yet, according to the report by Happify Health that SHRM cited, only 35% of employees think their employers are doing enough to address workplace causes of stress.
Managers should want their employees to be as mentally and physically fit as possible, and employees will appreciate employer initiatives that work toward this goal. Here's what you need to know to create an efficient health and wellness program for your workers.
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Why you should offer health and wellness programs
When employees feel their best, they perform their best, encouraging their co-workers to follow suit. However, poor health can also affect productivity and engagement across the board. It's not uncommon for one culprit to spread a bug to the rest of the team or poison the environment with their lethargy.
By providing your employees with healthy options and initiatives, you help prevent sickness, fatigue and mental burnout while expressing your care for each individual. These incentives can also act as team-building practices, leading to a more positive company culture.
The OfficeTeam survey found that 89% of employees believe their organization supports their wellness goals. You must ensure your employees feel the same about your business.
"With so many companies raising the bar on health and wellness offerings, organizations that aren't keeping up may be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruitment and retention," said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam.
Ways to support employee health and wellness
As long as you are encouraging healthy habits, and your team recognizes your efforts, you won't need an elaborate, costly program.
"The scope of health and wellness programs offered at workplaces can vary depending on company size, available budget and the corporate culture," said Britton. "There's a wide spectrum of ways to address worker health and wellness, and employers need to determine what best suits the needs of their staff."
According to the OfficeTeam survey, workers struggle most with poor eating habits in the office. In fact, 44% said they eat healthier when they work from home. To that end, managers should offer more nutritious options, like fresh fruit and water, in addition to the occasional treat.
If you want your employees to practice work-life balance, you need to set an example. Promote regular breaks and time off, and evaluate your plan by asking for employee feedback and assessing your competitors' programs, Britton said.
Examples of health and wellness activities
According to Glassdoor, these are the top 10 wellness activities to promote in your organization.
- Encourage connections between employees. People who are happy at work have strong relationships with other people at work. Support those relationships. Many of the other activities can work in conjunction to promote those healthy relationships and reinforce the connections.
- Encourage preparedness. Planning ahead for possible scenarios reduces stress reactions. Employees who don't know what to expect worry more; those with solid contingency plans are more confident in their ability to respond to problems.
- Encourage rest. Some companies have created napping rooms in their offices for employees who need a break. Allowing telecommuting on a part-time basis is another option to encourage employees to make the most of their time away from work.
- Encourage meditation. Consider subsidizing a meditation app for employees or offering time during the day for meditation breaks. Headspace is a great app for beginners and offers a buddy system for encouragement.
- Encourage exercise. Many companies offer group challenges to motivate their employees, or provide free or discounted equipment such as Fitbits to promote exercise tracking.
- Encourage giving back. Not only do employees feel better about companies that promote good works, but working together on a volunteer project will contribute to the success of the team in the office as well. Recruiter Tom Ruff explained in an article on Monster.com how his team benefited from getting to know each other while volunteering, resulting in greater collaboration.
- Encourage breaks. Employees should not hesitate to take their breaks, and many are legally required to take them. They will return to their work with a clear head and fresh approach.
- Allow pets if possible. Many companies are discovering that allowing pets in the workplace reduces stress and promotes happy, loyal workers. [Read related article: Pros and Cons of Office Pets]
- Raise awareness. Make sure employees are well aware of their wellness options so they are more likely to take advantage of them.
- Boost morale. Celebrate personal and company victories. Use any excuse for a moment of recognition or fun.