4 Important Ways to Look at Employee Well-Being 'Holistically'

Employee well-being is so much more than just nutrition and sick days, and management is taking note.

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By Matt Straz


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There's no doubt about it: Healthy employees save companies money. But there's more to the story. A holistic approach to employee well-being can improve employee engagement, productivity and morale -- not just an organization's bottom line. And senior level management groups around the country are taking note.

Related: Commit to Employee Well-Being and Your Team Will Grow the Company

In a recent survey of management and HR professionals conducted by Workforce and Virgin Pulse, 48.4 percent of respondents said they viewed physical energy, mental focus and emotional drive as interconnected pieces to overall employee well-being.

Still, employee health goes beyond nutrition and the number of sick days used. Looking at employee health as a whole can lead to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. Here are four important areas of employee well-being and how to address them within the workplace:

1. Financial health

When we think about employee health, money typically isn't the first thing to come to mind -- but it's a big piece of the well-being puzzle. In a survey of working adults in the United States released earlier this year by PwC, 45 percent of respondents said that dealing with their finances was stressful. What's more, 37 percent said they spend three or more hours at work each week thinking about their personal finances.

How can companies ease this kind of financial stress? Some 70.5 percent of employees surveyed this year by Quantum Workforce Solutions said they wanted standard-of-living raises -- but just 31.4 percent of employers actually provide them as financial benefits. These raises, also known as cost-of-living adjustments, take into account average increased living expenses due to yearly inflation. When employees receive these raises, according to the research, they are, on average, 14.8 percent more engaged.

What to offer: Organizations can show employees they care about their financial well-being by compensating them for increased living costs. Unlike performance-based raises, pay increases each year to keep salaries even with inflation rates. This way, employees can spend less time stressing about money and more time happy and engaged at work.

2. Emotional drive

A company's mission, values and culture have a huge impact on engagement and employee health. When employees feel connected to company values and see the impact of their efforts, they become emotionally invested in their work and driven to achieve goals.

In fact, U.S. and Canadian employees recently surveyed by Virgin Pulse rated a company's mission among the top reasons they love their employers, and the number of employees who ranked it as important grew 20 percent from last year.

What to offer: If emotional drive is lacking around the office, remind employees of the company's mission by introducing volunteer and community service programs. Volunteer work brings the team together around a common goal, gives everyone a break from the office and can boost morale with feel-good vibes.

With all these benefits, it's no surprise that the Workforce study found that community programs and opportunities were -- in employees' view -- among the top three offerings employers provide to improve emotional drive.

Related: How You Can Improve Employee Engagement (Infographic)

3. Mental focus

Stress and burnout are rampant in the workplace and put a huge strain on employee health. Professionals feel that they can't afford to take time off, so they'll often keep working until they run themselves ragged. The stress wears on employees until they can't focus, putting them behind on their work and leading to more stress.

What to offer: Before stress gets out of hand, offer small employees small breaks to refresh and reset their focus. After all, 71.1 percent of employees surveyed by Quantum Workforce said they wanted their employers to provide stress relief breaks, including naps, massages, required breaks and more -- but just 28.4 percent of employers do so.

Offering small breaks, especially during busy and stressful times, can keep employees focused without the added stress of being away from their work for long stretches of time. Fun office lunches or breaks for treats can get people away from their work just long enough to return recharged.

Add these breaks into the schedule, and send out email reminders throughout the day to make sure employees follow through. Little breaks will keep minds sharp and prevent big, stress-induced disasters down the road.

4. Physical energy

To boost employee health, the notion of small breaks sounds great, in theory. But they're not possible if employees constantly face overloaded schedules. Unmanageable task lists mean employees are staying late and spending extra time at the office each day.

The more time employees spend at work, the more drained they become and the more time they spend sitting at a desk -- which is the opposite of healthy.

What to offer: Be conscious of the time employees spend on work activities, so realistic goals and schedules can be set for each day. When setting schedules, include a little breathing room in case there are unexpected fires or bottlenecks.

In addition, to boost physical energy, build in time for physical activity. Exercise boosts endorphins and energy, and 49.8 percent of employees surveyed by Quantum Workforce said they wanted time for healthy activities at work. Giving employees the option to exercise at work -- without throwing their entire day off -- will help keep them energized, healthy and happy.

Is employee well-being a top priority in your office? Share your strategies for keeping employees happy and healthy in the comments below!

Related: Using Wearable Devices to Help Promote Employee Wellness

Matt Straz

Founder and CEO of Namely

Matt Straz is the founder and CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world's most exciting companies.

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