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Why businesses can no longer afford to ignore employee wellbeing

Building a culture of employee wellness has often been something companies believe they shouldn't be responsible for. The old assumption that an individual’s health and wellness is a personal issue, and not something a business should be involved in, is changing. There is a growing expectation from employees to have healthier, more positive work environments. An 8-year Canadian study [1] found that high-pressure companies have nearly 50% greater healthcare expenses. When you consider 550 million US workdays [2] are lost each year due to stress on the job, there is a growing potential for employer liability.

Failing to attract and retain great employees is an additional disadvantage if caused by an unhealthy work environment. Years of rapid growth in the health and wellness industry is raising the awareness and expectations of employees. If replacing a single employee costs approximately 20% of that employee’s salary, [3] why aren’t more employers taking a proactive measure to keep their high performers?

We have found that most companies are unsure of where to begin in developing a wellness program and they don’t see the potential return on investment (ROI). If you care about your employees and believe the wellness culture of your company needs developed, re-invigorated, or polished here are a few suggestions to consider:

Benchmark, track and report progress

Over 90% of the 600 employees we surveyed believe their personal workplace wellness impacts their ability to be creative, healthy, and happy, yet less than 30% feel their health and wellness are being prioritized within the context of their daily work environment. There are many ways to define employee wellness, so it is important to create a collective definition. Once defined, integrate it into your company values. Create an assessment to measure, track, report, and communicate progress. Establish priorities based on feedback in the following areas:

  1. Optimal health – exercise, nutrition, hydration, sleep, endurance

  2. Trust and integrity – authenticity,transparency, vulnerability, truth telling

  3. Playfulness and joy – humor, laughter, smiling, appreciation, happiness

  4. Mindful stress reduction – mindfulness, relaxation, emotional intelligence

Focus a plan on the highest ROI items:

Once employee wellness is defined, you can prioritize which programs to focus on. True employee wellness goes beyond offering incentives and opportunities for healthy eating and exercise. The cutting edge company will consider wellness from all angles to support the mind-body-emotion health of it’s employees. For most organizations, we have found that workplace stress has the largest health related impact. Research [4] shows that 60% to 90% of doctor visits are stress-related, yet less than 3% of employees are being treated for stress. One often overlooked cause of workplace stress is poor communication and co-worker conflict. Most of our clients begin with building programs that create healthier human interaction and enhanced collaboration, teaching concepts like emotional intelligence, authentic communication, and developing a culture of appreciation.

Consider introducing these practices [5] as part of a team building and employee engagement strategy. Organizing content so it can be introduced during wellness retreats and workshops outside of the typical work environment yield high results and create connected, productive teams.

Prioritize Your People

Introducing or enhancing a culture of wellness for your company may seem like a large feat, but remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be authentic about where you are as a leader, have fun with your approach, and don’t try to change too much at once. Implement positive reinforcement, and engage those around you by sharing your own experience of behavior change. Consider hiring corporate wellness specialists for consulting and support around program building. One easy way to get started is to bring in engaging wellness practitioners to your annual corporate meetings to enhance the experience, teach wellness skills, and generate excitement. When employees feel truly supported to be their best selves, they are more productive, innovative and loyal.


[1] BMC Public Health2011

[2] American Psychology Association

[3] Center for American Progress

[4] American Institute of Stress

[5] Hendricks Institute, 4 Pillars of Integrity

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