For years, research has proven the unhealthy state of the modern workplace. Employees face back and weight problems because they sit at a desk all day and have poor diets and little or no exercise. Then, there's the fast pace of business, which puts undue stress on many of them.
To counteract these issues, organizations have developed wellness programs. But what’s really working?
Each year, Springbuk assesses thousands of companies to uncover which ones best support employee wellness. In September, the company narrowed down, from 8,000 companies, its annual list of the Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America.
Through a partnership with Fitbit Health Solutions, Springbuk dug deep into data collected from those 8,000 participating organizations. And this analysis, released in Springbuk's 2017 State of Corporate Wellness study, had some eye-opening results.
For instance, more than half (51 percent) of the companies dubbed the "Healthiest 100"use tools like apps or web portals to track how employees are trying stay healthy.
What's more, they reported, their wellness initiatives are paying off. Of the companies that track financial ROI, more than one in 10 reported seeing $2 to $3 back on every dollar they invested in employee health -- suggesting a real connection between the two.
Of course, technology isn’t the only aspect these "healthiest" companies have gotten right. Here are their goals and the steps they've taken to support their wellness programs:
Wellness needs to be a core value.
There’s a difference between creating a wellness program just because it’s trendy versus prioritizing employee health. If wellness isn’t a core value, it will be pushed to the side and forgotten when times get tough.
The Starr Group, a Milwaukee-based insurance and risk solutions company, incorporated health and wellness into its core values, mission and vision. It has since seen great results and in fact ranked No. 8 on Springbuk’s Healthiest 100 list. “The value we have received on our investment in wellness has been tremendous and continues to grow,” Mary Starr, executive vice president, said via email.
“We have experienced first-hand that healthy employees are more creative, passionate and productive, which equates to better customer service and retention and a more profitable company overall," Starr added.
Health is about more than the physical body.
Health of the mind and the body are tied together. A person can run marathons and eat healthy, yet derail his or her overall wellness by not taking care of the mind.
Unfortunately, the State of Corporate Wellness report found that just 8.5 percent of the 8,000 companies analyzed focus on mental health. A wellness program can’t be completely successful without supporting employees’ mental as well as physical health.
Pro Athlete, Inc. is a sport equipment manufacturer in Kansas City, Mo. ,and No. 4 on Springbuk’s Healthiest list. After conducting an employee survey, the leaders of Pro Athlete discovered that their employees weren’t getting enough sleep. Since this was hurting employees’ health, the company established nap rooms in its on-site spa.
“Since we pay our employees to work out or use the spa 40 minutes every day, they can use that enrichment time to take a nap on those 'tired' days,” Chris Hawkins, the company’s wellness program director, said via email. “We also have a meditation room that employees can go to for a quiet space, select what type of meditation they’d like to do and go through a guided session.”
Even without a spa, organizations can still offer employees a place to relax. Allow your staff to sign up for alone time in the conference room. That way, they can go there to meditate, journal or even take a nap.
Take advantage of wearables.
Technology makes many aspects of business more efficient. It provides data that allows companies to track productivity. The same is true of fitness wearables.
As part of a university study, Buffalo, N.Y.-based insurance firm Walsh Duffield started offering wearables to employees. The program allowed employees to gain a deeper understanding of their wellness level and helped land Walsh Duffield at No. 42 on Springbuk’s list.
“Pre-wearables, people weren’t able to ‘see’ how simple movement translates into success,” wellness coordinator Courtney K. Moskal stold me. “People are more motivated to take that extra lap around their neighborhood after work to reach their goal, and understand what it might take to maintain or lose weight.”
While some startups can't afford to buy top-of-the-line wearables, there are affordable alternatives. Almost every smartphone, for instance, has a built-in pedometer or else allows you to download one for free. Organizations can then help employees track their metrics and see improvements.
Offer the right incentives.
Not everyone is athletic or "into" fitness. But that doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t benefit from their company's wellness program; they just need a bit of incentive. The best corporate wellness programs offer a wide range of these extras for employees.
The State of Corporate Wellness survey, for example, found that 9.6 percent of the companies surveyed offered insurance-premium reductions, 5.7 percent gave cash and 14.3 percent offered gift cards.
Some companies, like San Francisco-based health coaching platform Optimity, let employees choose their own motivation to exercise.
“We provide a full catalog of gift cards -- Starbucks, Amazon, Sephora, Target, etc. -- as well as customized rewards like trophies, company swag, paid days off and health-spending account contributions,” CEO Jane Wang said in an email.
Such incentives encourage all employees to participate, improve their health and achieve benefits for other aspects of their lives. The result can happier, healthier employees -- the kind all companies want.