While you may have heard the terms ‘workplace wellness’ and OHS used interchangeably by some, it’s important to remember that they’re actually quite distinct areas, with differing goals.
Where Occupational Health and Safety practices serve to protect employees from harm and employers from compensation claims through the pre-emptive management of risks in the workplace, employee wellness programs seek to promote health and wellbeing, reduce stress and boost engagement among employees.
Employee health and wellness programs come in a number of different formats. Some workplaces may choose to run workshops on healthier living and stress reduction. Others may revise and update office facilities to support wellness or offer discounted memberships to local gyms.
Do employee wellness programs work?
Employee wellness programs have their fair share of sceptics, with some believing the investment simply isn’t worth it.
However, take something as basic as BMI.
Studies have shown that employees who fall into the ‘overweight’ category on the BMI scale take on average five sick days a year, while employees who fall within a ‘normal’ weight category may only take two to three.
While absenteeism is estimated to cost the economy $7 billion annually, ‘presenteeism’ (the practise of people coming to work despite illness, injury or mental strain) costs an estimated $34 billion per year. It stands to reason that having programs in place designed to keep your employees healthy can reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism – which can only mean good things for your business.
Corporate wellness programs also reportedly assist in managing stress related illnesses and absenteeism, with initiatives like meditation breaks, an office masseuse, or on-site pet shelters (animals at work help alleviate stress and add a sense of “home” to the workplace – especially when employees are encouraged to play with the animals during breaks). Alleviating the stress of your employees is important – nobody wants to work where they feel constantly overwhelmed.
How does employee wellness boost engagement?
Implementing workplace wellness programs shows your employees that you care – ultimately, if a company demonstrates an interest in the physical and mental health of their employees, employees will feel cared for and looked after.
This alone will boost engagement. Employees are able to acknowledge the benefits to their health from the wellness programs their workplace provides them. The program also increases employee loyalty to your company, as the programs you put in place will make your company look like the better option should they be offered a position in a company that lacks these schemes.
Certain workplace wellness initiatives may help in developing a community feeling in the workplace. Things like group yoga, gym or exercise sessions give employees an opportunity to have fun at work and interact with their fellow employees in a more social setting.
This helps develop workplace friendships, making the workplace somewhere employees can look forward to coming to. The break from mentally taxing work in favour of physical activity is also proven to reduce stress and increase employees’ feelings of satisfaction at work.
Corporate wellness programs: The business benefits
A corporate health and wellness program fosters invaluable goodwill among your employees. Employees will feel secure and cared for, allowing them to focus more on their work and concentrate for longer periods of time, increasing overall productivity.
Businesses that have implemented wellness schemes have reported a marked increase in staff productivity, reduced levels of absenteeism and a large improvement in office community and atmosphere.
On top of this, having workplace health programs established within your business makes you more attractive to potential employees. Your employees will enjoy health benefits from the workplace wellness program, which means you will cut down significantly in employee turnover. These programs drastically lower the chances of employees terminating their employment due to mental or physical health reasons.
Despite the criticism lobbed at workplace wellness programs, the general consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of them – and it’s easy to see why. They eliminate health concerns for employees, while showing that, as an employer, you recognise your workers as people with lives that could benefit from such schemes.
While they might cost a little extra to implement, workplace wellness programs are a significant boon to any company, improving the health of your workers, reducing mental strain, improving company relations and elevating your standing with your employees as their leader. No bad can come from any of these, and the rewards will always far outweigh the costs.
Find out more about improving your workplace culture or learn more about our workforce happiness rating tool today.