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True Leadership Includes a Corporate Wellness Program

How important is a Corporate Wellness Program (CWP) at your company?  Consider the following facts:

  • Health-related loss of productivity costs American companies $530 billion annually.  
  • Unhealthy employees cost employers twice as much in healthcare expenses.  
  • There are strong links between highly effective wellness programs, high performing employees, and strong financial results.  

One thing is obvious.  You can be an organized, socially adept, and inspiring leader, but true workplace leadership also includes a high-quality CWP.  But what IS a high-quality CWP? And what is required to embrace wellness at your company?   

A high-quality CWP is an intentional effort to cultivate health in the workplace by encouraging well-being and supporting the health and professional goals of all individuals in the company.  That’s a mouthful, but if you break it down, it’s pretty simple. Having a CWP basically means that the company proactively and meaningfully supports optimal health and personal growth of its owners and employees.  The trouble is that most companies don’t know how to do this intuitively or naturally. In fact, most workplace leaders don’t even know how important a CWP is to the company.

A true leader must be proactive and focused on the well-established long term benefits of CW, and also keep in mind that all CWPs are not created equally.  Many CWP provide only cookie-cutter classroom-style lectures by practitioners who are not necessarily licensed or registered to teach all the content being delivered.  According to a recent article published in JAMA, the usefulness of this kind of content and employee participation is predictably low.  This might be a program that looks easy and affordable in the short term, but it may not be effective for your company.

A good CWP considers the needs of the company, the personal and professional goals of the individuals participating and then delivers professional medical evaluation, disease management, and content that is tailored, relevant, and fun to implement over a period of many months or even years.  Finally, a good CWP helps leaders keep up the momentum by facilitating ongoing programming and support from within the company so the culture of health begins to come from the inside and starts to pay off in reduced healthcare costs, absenteeism, and inefficiencies.

Even though there are steps toward a CWP you can take right now, the entire CW process takes time.  A leader must have the insight to understand that CW is a long term project with potentially huge financial benefits down the road.

A leader must also realize that workplaces are poised to change the culture of health in America like no other institution.  Americans spend nearly a third of their lives at work, and their employers are usually making the decisions about health insurance and other health benefits.  With chronic disease on the rise, workplace health is becoming more and more important in the lives of Americans. In fact, a strong culture of health is one of the most important things top recruits look for when choosing where to work.  A leader must take this seriously, and understand his or her pivotal role in facilitating true wellness for the company and community.

Finally, a leader must recognize the value of his or her own joyful participation.  Too many CWP are considered to be “for the employees”, and employees are basically sent to a room to be talked at.  Why should they participate? If it’s important worthwhile, the owners, executives, and managers will be there. Participation and engagement matters a great deal when considering the potential effectiveness of any CWP.  Leaders must be present and excited.

Since a culture of wellness is important to top employees, companies who aren’t embracing their role as leaders in this area are seen as archaic or behind the times, and they are going to have increasing difficulty recruiting and maintaining good employees, which is costly.  Also, remember that comment about the value of joyful participation of leaders? It’s important. Employees who don’t see their leaders embracing health and who don’t see their leaders providing wellness programming have no incentive and may actually feel devalued. The cost of not having an effective CWP is seen in poor morale, absenteeism, inefficiencies, poor health habits, and higher healthcare costs.  Nobody wants to work in a place like that, and leaders who don’t take wellness programming seriously risk having a negative, unhealthy workplace.

Effective leaders equip and facilitate others in their roles for personal and company success.  This starts with health. Healthy employees are more stable, more efficient, and more effective in their roles.  They cost the company less money, too.  And what about those “soft” ideas that are hard to measure?  Leadership that embraces employees by being mentors, caring about workplace health, and facilitating the highest contribution in the workplace, are better able to create trust and loyalty.  Leaders who support their workforce as individuals on their own health journeys have a lot to gain in the “soft” areas. And, ultimately, the “hard” areas show improvement as well, because a good company with good employees is not only a great place to work, it is a more profitable place to work.

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How Wellness at Work Can Help Your Business Grow

For decades, top employees have considered benefits packages, most specifically healthcare coverage, as important factors when choosing an employer.  Today, with fewer and fewer healthcare costs being covered by conventional insurance, and a growing public awareness of the impact of lifestyle on chronic disease, top employees are looking for more than just health insurance coverage when they consider their options.

Millennials and Generation Z’ers, the current majority of the new workforce, are particularly interested in workplace wellness.  According to Forbes, 87% consider health and wellness packages and incentives when choosing an employer, and 54% of Z’ers and 58% of Millennials consider a company wellness program important or extremely important when making a job decision.  

High-value candidates are in a position to choose where they want to work.  With unemployment low and with specific difficulty recruiting top talent in rapidly-changing industries affected by recent technological advances such as technology, IT, bioscience, and financial industries (industries dominated by younger generations), companies are having difficulty finding qualified employees.  Competition for top talent is high.

Consider the ideal employee:  organized, reliable, goal-oriented, self-motivated, resilient, and socially adept.  These are the very same people who are most concerned about their health and well being, and they are smart enough to realize a culture of wellness in the workplace will definitely affect both their personal health and relationships and their job performance.  Ideal employees are looking for a company that takes the health and well being of its employees seriously enough to have an effective wellness program in place.

In addition to recruiting top talent, a good workplace wellness program results in decreased absenteeism and increased productivity.  It is well known that employees with health issues such as pain, depression, asthma, and cardiovascular risk factors have significantly more absenteeism and significantly reduced productivity when compared with their healthy counterparts.  High-quality Corporate Wellness Programs are designed to help employees manage and even cure these health issues. In fact, Harvard researchers demonstrated for every dollar spent on wellness programs, companies saved $2.73 in reduced absenteeism.  

Companies with a culture of wellness and formal programming also save on healthcare expenditures, and these savings cut across industries and work type.  From 17% to 66% medical claim savings are reported in corporate wellness and medical literature following the initiation of wellness programming, from railroad companies to government units, each with unique demographics and health issues facing its workforce.  The savings offset the cost of the programming and also results in decreased work comp claims.

Once employees participate in a workplace wellness program, 70% say the program positively impacted their work culture

Top talent can choose where to work.  Why not increase your odds of attracting the best?  Workplace wellness programming results in decreased costs and increased productivity.  Why not contribute to the profitability of your company?

The most important question is why wait?  

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