What responsibility does an organization have for the health of their employees? The answer is unique to individual companies, but those who take on a greater role in encouraging an active and fit lifestyle through wellness may see better performance and lower insurance costs.
Traditional wellness programs provide health screenings and participation or outcome-based programs, but many organizations are taking their responsibility a step further. They’re creating a culture of health through environmental wellness—a strategy that includes organizational and systems transformations that actively promote healthy living.
As Anja Jamrozik of the Mayo Clinic recently said, “the environment can have a profound effect on how people are performing.”
Environmental wellness shifts a portion of wellness’s burden of responsibility on the organization itself to foster healthy living, and for good reason. According to Entrepreneur, “among employers offering wellness programs, more than half saw a decrease in absenteeism” and “66 percent reported increased productivity.”
Anything companies can do to make sure their staff is pursuing better living can have an impact on the bottom line.
Three factors to creating environmental wellness
Environmental wellness falls under three categories—policies, systems and environment. Policies start from the top, molded by leadership. Systems are the infrastructure in place that provides healthy choices for employees. And environment is the surroundings that help employees focus and increase daily productivity. Each factor is just as important as the next.
Policies of health and accountability
Wellness programs are only effective if employees actively participate, and it takes encouragement and communication to implement a healthy culture successfully. Some companies provide financial incentives like a discount on the next year’s health insurance premiums to those who meet goals throughout the year. Others tie manager performance to employee health and wellness engagement. No matter how policies are implemented, they should prove that executives and company leaders are committed to the health of their staff.
Environment’s impact on wellness
As Anja Jamrozik of the Mayo Clinic recently said, “the environment can have a profound effect on how people are performing.” The Mayo Clinic’s Well Living Lab has studied the link between comfort and efficiency. That doesn’t mean your office needs a nap room—though many forward-thinking companies like Google and Facebook do offer them.
Changes in temperature settings, workspace and noise distractions all have physiological effects on people and change the way they may work. In lab studies performed at the Mayo Clinic, researchers have found that increasing temperature from the mid-70s to the low-80s negatively impacted participants’ ability to complete simple math problems.
The environment people work in—whether it’s temperature, chair comfort or standing desks—can be accounted for and augmented to increase productivity.
Wellness structures and systems
Systems refer to the infrastructure an employer offers to encourage healthy living. For example, many organizations provide on-site medical clinics where employees can see a nurse practitioner or even a physical therapist. At larger campuses, you may find outdoor walking trails, gyms and quiet rooms where employees can meditate and gather their thoughts.
These are investments that take time and require a budget. Yet they are often seen as differentiators to potential recruits, proof that an organization cares about the wellbeing of its greatest resource.
When wellness starts from the top and it infiltrates every aspect of an organization—from office settings to events to healthy choices—it provides a foundation for more active and fit employees. No wellness program starts overnight, though. Building an effective infrastructure takes time and the right partner.
To find out more about how Hays Companies can help you implement a robust wellness program, contact us today.