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