Having a forward-thinking wellness program in the workplace isn’t necessarily a new concept. But these initiatives are far more than eating healthy and weight-loss goals. We’ll look into why it’s important to invest in the well-being of employees and how your workplace can implement healthy changes today.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD OM
In late 2015, Andy Osborn was approached by one of his partners at their accounting firm about being a part of a firm-wide initiative that would focus on the financial, mental, and physical health of employees. Being a health and wellness enthusiast, Osborn was up for the challenge and excited to embrace a unique opportunity to champion his Lakeland office toward healthy living in the workplace.
Osborn is a senior associate for CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA), an accountancy firm with a workforce of over 5,000+ employees split between 100+ offices nationwide which are then organized into six regions. Being one of the six regional champions for this new initiative, Osborn helped to implement CLA’s “Balance 360” program the summer of 2016. The program focuses on encouraging employees to engage in activities that earn charitable dollars for an organization of their choice. Having raised $254,000 for charities around the country, it’s safe to say this program has been a success for CLA.
“In the beginning of 2018, the Lakeland office started a four-month health challenge to lose weight and become more disciplined. We have had local businesses like the Balance Culture come in for a nutrition workshop for our employees,” says Osborn.
Wellness programs like these are not uncommon in today’s health-conscious world. Many other workplaces in Lakeland have captured the idea that healthy work environments create healthy employees … and also productive employees.
CPS, an independent advisory firm, gives each of their employees Fitbits and rewards employees for reaching a 10,000-steps-per-day goal at the end of each month. Inspired by the healthy life modeled by their late founder Chas P. Smith, “[CPS’] partners made sure to carry on his legacy by making sure to encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle,” says Sherrie Morgan, director of marketing and public relations for CPS. Chas P. Smith envisioned their fourth-floor space being occupied with a gym for their employees.
Today, this space is an area where employees can partake in yoga sessions or a midday workout.
Core Wealth has also begun to implement similar initiatives and spaces at their office. Over six months ago, Core Wealth started giving employees the option to join a weekly yoga session as a team. “Happy and healthy employees make more productive employees, and everyone agreed that yoga would be the right way to do that,” says Vice President of Core Wealth, Nathan Dunham. The long-term goal for this business is to add a small gym in their office so that fitness can be accessible for all employees.
Fitness centers, healthy food options, midday yoga with the co-workers — all of this in order to help employees live healthier lives while boosting productivity in the office. But workplace wellness is ever-evolving as is the fitness and wellness industry as a whole. Being healthy isn’t a new trend. People have always wanted to stay healthy. That’s why we have seen new diet fads fade in and out for years. What has changed in our culture today is what we consider to be healthy. The conversation of healthy workplaces spans past just what you eat or how often you work out. Companies are now looking at how they can better assist in the holistic health of their employees.
“A robust, holistic wellness program includes programs and services that focus on the physical, social, emotional and mental dimensions of wellness.”
— CERTIFIED HEALTH COACH KELLY ANDREWS
“A robust, holistic wellness program includes programs and services that focus on the physical, social, emotional, and mental dimensions of wellness,” says Certified Health Coach Kelly Andrews. Andrews is the founder of Andrews LLC, a wellness consulting and coaching business, and has worked with numerous offices to assist with wellness in the workplace. From her work, she has seen how it is important for workplaces to consider other programs in their wellness initiatives that cover topics such as stress and personal resilience, sleep education, personal financial management, as well as personal and career development. “Companies are also seeing the value of social connection time for their employees both on and off site,” Andrews adds. This could include volunteer service opportunities, creating teams for local 5k/10k races, and providing avenues for personal connection like corporate team building and wellness retreats.
“Mental health programs, self-awareness training, and communication of self-care would certainly help to maintain top employees and a healthy work environment,” says Osborn.
Investing in the overall well-being of your employees will benefit them more than just physically. Intentionally providing workplace wellness opportunities communicates that the company values its employees. “When employees feel their workplace values both their personal and professional development, they are more likely to be motivated to perform at their best,” says Andrews.
“It makes you healthier overall. It helps you focus better at work and maintain a healthy perspective,” says Morgan.
There is a significant return on such an investment. “In most service companies, like professional services firms, payroll is the single largest organizational expense,” says Osborn. “This means it is crucial to the health of the company for its human capital to be cared for. A successful program will return both hard and soft cost to the organization. The soft cost savings show up in the happier, more productive employee that will be likely to stay at the firm longer. The employee will also work harder for an organization knowing the company cares and values the employee.”
The hard cost savings may appear in reduced health claims, lowered premiums paid by the employer, and lowered costs for training and recruitment. “The mutual benefit of wellness programs seems to be a no-brainer for me,” Osborn says.
So, how can similar programs be implemented in other local offices and be successful?
The truth is that you may not have the resources today to implement a full-out wellness program like Balance 360, buy Fitbits for all your new employees, or build a fitness studio in your office. However, there are simple actions that employers can slowly integrate into their
work environments, such as “providing healthy eating options at staff and other work meetings, implementing walking meetings, office area or quiet spaces designated for mental health breaks and meditation, mindfulness classes, relaxation and yoga classes on site, or discounts for employees at area fitness centers and yoga studios,” says Andrews.
CPS employees encourage each other to take the stairs and frequently walk to lunch together. They also provide designated spaces outside where employees can take a break and get some fresh air, helping employees to recharge and focus before returning to their desks.
However, workplaces are also made up of people from varied backgrounds. Living healthy may mean something different for one person than the next. “A successful wellness program is a culture of wellness rather than a step-by-step guide,” says Osborn. So it’s important for an employer to hear and understand the real needs of the employees for these wellness initiatives to be successful. “The best way to find out what employees want in terms of wellness programs and services is to ask them through a variety of channels, including employee surveys, focus groups, department meetings, staff retreats, and one-on-one interviews,” says Andrews.
Workplaces are also made up of people from varied backgrounds. Living healthy may mean something different for one person than the next.
Overall, the success of wellness initiatives comes down to a company’s mission. Workplaces should strive for a genuine care for the well-being of their employees, and a healthy workplace should be connected to the fundamentals that make up its organization. “The mission statement for the wellness program needs to be a part of the company’s short- and long-term strategic priorities, goals, and measurable objectives,” says Andrews.
So, maybe you’re not ready to install a yoga room in your office quite yet, but there are simple ways to invest in the well-being of your employees today.
- Implement walking meetings
- Relaxation and yoga classes on site and/or discounts for employees at local fitness centers/studios
- Quiet spaces for mental health/meditation breaks
- Provide healthy eating options
- Provide ergonomic options (e.g., standing desks)
- Mindfulness classes and seminars
- Connect with the Polk Vision’s Worksite Wellness Team: portal.polkvision.com/worksite-wellness-team
- CDC Workplace Scorecard: This scorecard assesses your current wellness program and provides resources for the areas of growth in the program. cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/
- The Wellness Council of America, welcoa.org.
- Search for “Welcoa’s 7 Benchmarks of Success.” This article is an overview of Welcoa’s benchmark approach to creating results-oriented workplace wellness programs.