Workplace wellness has become such a blanket term for improving employee satisfaction that some people might think a company can achieve it by starting a kickball team or putting a bowl of fruit in the break room. In truth, real workplace wellness programs are science-backed, solution-oriented, and diversified, concerning employees’ bodies and minds. Moreover, they’re mutually beneficial for employers and their employees.
But before you implement wellness programs in your workplace, you need to separate fact from fiction.
Myth #1: Our employees’ personal health isn’t our concern.
An employee who works 40 hours a week spends nearly half their waking hours on the job. Given that ongoing time commitment, it’s an employer’s duty to look out for their employees’ mental and physical well-being. Caring for and about your employees is, quite simply, the right thing to do.
Besides, it’s undeniable that what employees do when they’re not at work affects what they do at work, from how efficiently they perform tasks to how amicably they interact with colleagues. A healthy employee is more likely to be happy and productive, their morale improving the workplace culture at large. By investing in your employees’ wellness, and helping employees invest in themselves, everyone benefits.
Myth #2: Workplace wellness is really only geared toward already-healthy employees.
It’s a thought shared by many people who enter a gym for the first time in their life, or after a long period away: Everyone here looks like they work out, so what am I doing here? The feeling of not belonging or being excluded can be embarrassing and a hindrance to future progress. Worse, it can be alienating for people who already have mental or physical health issues.
When employers roll out the yoga mats and dole out spin-studio discounts, certain employees might feel excluded for not having done yoga or spin classes before, either because of personal choices or medical disabilities. But by showing employees how wellness and fitness manifest in so many different ways, you can make both accessible, including—and especially—to people who have disabilities.
For instance, consider offering chair-yoga classes, which provide the relaxation and pain-relief benefits of traditional floor-mat yoga while being able to be performed seated in a chair. Or encourage light stretching exercises that employees who use mobility devices can do in any setting—“deskercise,” if you will. With workplace wellness programs that are inclusive of different abilities, you can make every employee feel truly cared for.
Myth #3: We can’t really prove ROI.
There isn’t a single metric for measuring the success of a workplace wellness program. But there are several relevant data points that demonstrate how employers and employees alike benefit from an investment in wellness:
- Well-designed wellness programs have an ROI of $2 to $3 per dollar invested.
- Well-implemented wellness programs can save 25% each on absenteeism, healthcare costs, and workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.
- More than half of employees enrolled in wellness programs say the programs have improved their health, such as by helping them boost productivity (62%) and reduce sick days (56%).
- Employees rank a flexible work schedule and a wellness stipend as the first and second-most important value-added benefits, respectively.
Myth #4: It requires money, space, and facilities that we don’t have.
To many people, the word “wellness” might conjure images of luxurious saunas and upscale gyms filled with incomprehensible machines. But wellness doesn’t need to be fancy, and it doesn’t require extra spaces and special-purpose facilities.
Investing in your employees’ wellness can be as simple as making them aware of—and then encouraging—body- and mind-bettering activities they can do in and around the workplace. Meditation, chair yoga, and stretching exercises, for instance, can be done just about anywhere. App-based programs like Calm deliver expert resources and instructions to employees’ smartphones, empowering them to improve their wellness on their own time.
Wellness doesn’t just involve physical health, of course. Many elements of a high-quality workplace wellness program take up no physical space whatsoever, such as giving employees the autonomy to work from home when they want, offering mental-health days, and providing them with free or discounted access to virtual or in-person fitness classes.
The holidays aren’t the only season to prioritize mental health in the workplace. Learn how to support your employees’ mental health year-round with our guide to improving mental health in the workplace.