How to Initiate a Wellness-First Company Culture

By Tracy Julien

In business, a wellness-first company culture is meant to keep employees healthy, happy, and satisfied. It’s a way for employers to ensure that their employees adopt healthy lifestyles with the aim that others will follow suit. If executed well, a wellness-first culture can improve employee performance, productivity, and morale.

But it requires tact to initiate and sustain a wellness-first company culture. Not every employee is as willing to participate, and these challenges must be overcome in order for employers to initiate and sustain a wellness-first culture.

Care Should Be Shown and Not Just Implied

Statistics show that only 13% of employees are engaged worldwide. One of the reasons for this disconnect is because employees do not think that their employer cares enough. For a wellness-first culture to flourish, it first needs willing participants. However, this isn’t possible if these employees are already disengaged with the company’s culture. Employers who are looking to set up an initiative should start with the following operational procedures:

  • Set up a committee to help facilitate and encourage workplace well-being.
  • Introduce programs that stress the importance of following a healthy lifestyle. These could include:
    • Talks from experts, either in person or through a video. Check out this great resource that includes the best TED talks on health and fitness.
    • Smoking cessation programs, benefiting the individual and others around them.
    • Paramedical services, such as massages.
    • Employee assistance, such as therapists that can aid in reducing stress or anxiety outside of the workplace.
    • Additional healthy lifestyle activities, such as free yoga classes at the office or supplementing a gym membership.

Once you’ve set up this initiative, it is important to align your workplace policies and practices with it. This can be done by ensuring that all department heads have a solid understanding of the benefits and goals of the program. It’s vital that this initiative does not operate in a silo, as it should be ingrained in all aspects of company culture.

Open Up a Dialogue and Talk about Wellness Issues

One of the first things a well-being committee should do after setting up these programs is to work towards creating a culture that allows for open dialogue and meaningful discussion. This goes beyond the programmed events, as employees should be providing feedback and talking to one another, aiding in moving the initiative forward.

An open dialogue doesn’t only bring wellness issues to light; it also gives employees and management the chance to exchange ideas and eventually come up with solutions that are mutually beneficial for everyone. In fact, that is exactly what makes any wellness culture a success. A great resource on this topic is from Fortune, located here.

Hire Employees Who Care About Their Well-Being

Another way to encourage an environment of well-being is to hire employees who are already personally invested in their well-being. The goal is to hire employees who are actively engaged within the company’s culture from the start. Dedication and optimism are contagious, and this atmosphere will spread to other areas of the company. In time, other employees start following their example.

How can businesses find such people? Asking questions about well-being as part of the initial interview process can help employers find people who are more likely to fit into this culture and encourage colleagues to do the same. Use questions like these ones to determine whether or not a candidate will be a great addition to the company’s culture.

Invest in Wellness

A study by Gallup shows that 71% of employees who are satisfied with their healthcare packages are more likely to stay loyal to employers. Businesses that invest in initiatives like these can therefore benefit in the long run.

To encourage a culture of well-being, investments may include, but should not be kept limited to:

  • Programs that target certain ailments, such as chronic diseases
  • Health education and screenings
  • Options for healthy food
  • Wellness activities, such as free vaccinations and psychological checkups

Address Multiple Components of Health

Outside of your healthcare plan, it is vital to address multiple components of health. According to Snacknation, happy employees are 12% more productive than their counterparts. However, showing up to work doesn’t necessarily mean efficiency, and this stems from health issues. In research conducted by the Population Health Management journal, employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to have high presenteeism (being at work, but not being productive) than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. To combat this, it is necessary to invest in healthy lifestyle programs that are not a part of a traditional healthcare plan.

There are many components of health other than healthy eating, and the following programs could help to stem these issues before they become a problem:

  • Offering a yoga or fitness program can be a possible solution for employees who suffer from back problems, that either is free or supplemented by the company.
  • Encouraging company sports teams, such as a kickball or softball team.
  • Providing a healthy lunch one day a week and/or healthy snack options.

These investments will not break the bank, are usually classified as a business expense, and will show your employees that you really care about their well-being.

An organizational culture should be healthy, positive, and supportive. It involves addressing employee concerns and using this knowledge to come up with solutions that benefit all parties. The strategies outlined above can enable any organization to execute a wellness-first culture successfully.

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Tracy Julien
Tracy Julien is the VP of Marketing for GuidedChoice, a leader in retirement investment planning. She has over 15 years of experience working for multi-national companies. Tracy specializes in consumer marketing, focusing heavily on marketing strategy, global brand management, customer experience, and product innovation.

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