The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health – Part 3: Creating a Culture of Wellness
June 21, 2013 / Employee Engagement
June 2013 marks the 5th annual National Employee Wellness Month (NEWM), an annual initiative that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles.
To mark the occasion and help shine a spotlight on the importance of a healthy workforce, Virgin HealthMiles released findings from a survey (free download available here) of nearly 10,000 employees across 1,300 businesses, providing insight into workplace health priorities.
In this post we look at how establishing a support system in the workplace can create an effective culture of wellness.
Offering wellness benefits helps to create a healthy workplace, but it also begins to impact the organization’s overall culture. According to 57.5 percent of the employees surveyed, their participation has had a positive influence on their colleagues.
“Wellness programs can help spread the health across an organization — they’re motivationally contagious,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles. “More than half of survey respondents say they’re influenced by their colleagues, so you can see the ripple effect this has on engagement and productivity within the workplace. The positive experience of one employee can create a host of other positive experiences across a business. If a company shows it’s making efforts to create a healthy culture that supports employees’ health and helps improve their total quality of life, it’s a true win-win.”
The impact on others is not limited to the workplace, either. Employees who participate report a positive influence on family, friends and children. Many employers are taking advantage of the influence of participation by making health and wellness available to those outside of the workplace with an offering of health and wellness benefits to other family members of employees.
Peers have a significant role in motivation, which would suggest that improving peer communication would provide continued benefits. About 56 percent of employees report being supported by peers on their journey toward health and wellness.
Organizations are diverse in their offering of health and wellness programs as well, providing a large variety of programs for employees to choose from. However, there are some gaps between programs employers typically offer and programs of greatest interest to employees.
The most commonly offered incentive programs are physical activity programs (57.6 percent), and these programs are also quite popular with employees, with 78.1 percent saying they have in interest in participating in them at work. On the other hand, fewer employees are interested in smoking cessation programs (12.7 percent), which are offered by 50.3 percent of employers.
The popularity of activity programs compared to the lack of interest in smoking cessation is expected, as a smaller portion of the workforce are smokers and so the benefits are limited for employees, whereas employers receive significant gains when employees quit smoking. However, everyone can benefit from improved physical health, making this a much more popular choice with employees.
Weight management programs, health risk assessments and health club memberships are well-liked by employees, and many employers are offering them. It is also interesting to note that only 33.2 percent of employers are offering healthy on-site food choices. Employee interest in having access to healthy on-site food choices is far ahead of what is available. On-site food and snack offerings may be an area for consideration when expanding or modifying health and wellness offerings.
About 31percent of employers are offering on-site fitness centers, allowing easy access to healthy choices for employees. Providing easy access may also help to increase participation by employees. One employee commented, “[a]ccess to fitness equipment is also very critical for me since it allows me to work out during my breaks rather than have to squeeze it into a morning or evening.” More employers should consider the return on investment of providing on-site centers or fitness equipment.
Employees appear very motivated to improve their own wellness. This provides a number of advantages to employers. With the rising cost of health care coverage and the impact on business when employees are stressed, unengaged or absent, an employee population that feels, and is, truly healthier keeps companies on track and stable. Employees, who clearly feel cared about and engaged in programs being offered, say they are participating to improve their overall health more than anything else. About 78 percent of employees say overall health is the leading reason for participation in health and wellness programs.
“I love the health program,” commented another employee, “and [it] has been more fun participating than I thought it would be when I first signed up.”
Employees do feel healthier overall as a result of participation on health and wellness programs. Eighty-one percent said that they feel better as a result of participation. Even better, 61.9 percent say they feel more productive. It’s hard to argue when employees are able to feel the impact and turn that sense of well-being into more productive output.
Developing a culture of wellness involves creating a culture shift that includes everyone who impacts an employee’s overall health and happiness. This also demonstrates how organizations understand the important influence that social interaction, specifically family and home life, has in keeping employees motivated with wellness plans.
Are you currently implement an employee wellness program? If so, we would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on how it has helped your organization achieve its wellness goals in the comments below.