Valerie Hayman Sklar, president of Detroit-based Corporate Specialties, helps B2B companies enhance their marketing with branded products.
There’s a lot of talk around mental health these days, and that’s a good thing. For far too long, there’s been a stigma around mental health issues. But as athletes, celebrities and musicians—Michael Phelps, Kendall Jenner and Demi Lovato, among others—publicly talk about their struggles, it can make having conversations with friends, family and even co-workers easier.
That said, it’s often still verboten to talk about mental health issues at work. There’s fear of losing a promotion or not getting a raise. And while talking about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues is becoming more common, there’s still concern about being judged by co-workers and company leadership.
Also, there’s more to wellness than mental health. Physical health is just as important. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand. Poor mental health increases the risk of chronic physical conditions, and those with chronic physical conditions are at risk of declining mental health.
With many people spending one-third of their day working, the workplace plays a significant role in employee health. Employers who prioritize both mental and physical health within their companies’ cultures through health and wellness programs can provide a strong foundation for employees to thrive.
Benefits Of Corporate Health And Wellness Programs
Corporate health and wellness programs offer numerous benefits: Increased productivity, higher retention, reduced absenteeism and lower medical costs, to name a few. But this assessment is from the company’s perspective and how it can maximize human resources.
Let’s flip this around to the employee’s point of view. Big picture, happy humans do great things. They’re not only better employees but also better spouses, parents, caregivers and volunteers. People who are physically and mentally fit have the capacity and ability to give more to their families, communities and, yes, to their employers.
Companies that prioritize wellness can create stronger connections with their employees, and these team members are likely to be happier and more engaged. Creating a vibrant health and wellness program can not only be good for business but good for the people in the business, too.
Five Tips For Designing A Successful Corporate Health And Wellness Program
Interested in launching a health and wellness program? Or perhaps your program isn’t performing as expected and needs revitalization? Follow these five tips.
1. Ask employees where they need support. What kind of support do employees need? Ask them! Use an anonymous survey to get honest feedback, learn about areas of concern and then design a program to meet actual employee needs and wants. For long-term success, use follow-up surveys to determine how well the program works and where further support can be developed.
2. Meet employees where they are. Some employees will be thrilled to participate in a health and wellness program, while others may be hesitant. That’s normal. Just meet employees where they are.
Some may naturally be attracted to individual pursuits and/or mental health benefits, which could easily be supported with a meditation journal that includes prompts and tips. Others might like group activities and/or physical participation. Perhaps a company-sponsored team at a charity 5K run is in your future.
Having a variety of activities, both individual/group and mental/physical health, can add breadth and depth to wellness programs and give you the opportunity to make the greatest impact with the largest number of employees.
3. Offer formal and informal ways to participate. For health and wellness programs to be successful, include both structure and consistency. Perhaps this looks like monthly webinars led by subject matter experts on a variety of health-related topics, or maybe there’s a Wednesday Walking Group that meets at the nearby park during lunch.
In addition to formal program components, consider including informal ways employees can take the lead in their own peer-to-peer programs. Imagine employees sharing healthy recipes in a Slack channel, for example, with the top-voted selections published in an annual cookbook.
However you design the program, consider covering a variety of topics, anything from mental health, personal growth and nutrition to healthy living, fitness and rejuvenation.
4. Make it fun—and easy. If the program isn’t enjoyable, no one will participate. Gamifying the program brings out a little competition and creates opportunities for employees to win prizes for successfully completing challenges. Depending on staff size, you can divide into teams to build camaraderie.
And, it shouldn’t be cumbersome to get involved, either. Consider using apps that provide easy ways to offer fun contests and challenges in an interactive format. There can be a variety of ways to play and win prizes, from weekly step challenges and distance-based contests to health campaigns where employees can earn points for healthy behaviors. Tech tools can make it easy for team members to participate.
5. Promote the program and recognize participants. At the program launch, consider different ways to support employees’ participation. As the president of a company that offers branded merchandise, I’ve noticed some companies prefer to provide a swag bag for employees. If you want to go this route, I suggest including items such as T-shirts imprinted with the program name and branded water bottles and mindfulness journals packaged in a drawstring bag for easy distribution.
Keep the momentum going by instituting a consistent communication plan that promotes upcoming events and recognizes team members. Offer a variety of company merch as prizes so employees can select items they like and that will support them with their health and wellness goals.
Takeaway: Supporting Employee Health And Wellness Pays Dividends
Corporate health and wellness programs are about much more than improving productivity and reducing absenteeism. Providing a support system within the workplace that directly impacts employee health and wellness can not only increase their engagement but also help support them in reaching their potential. Done right, these programs help others be the best they can be.
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