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The growing conversation around workplace health and wellness is influencing how companies build benefits plans. From flexible teleworking policies to discounted gym memberships, companies are taking a more holistic approach to making sure employees are happy and healthy outside of standard health care plans. U.S. Chamber vice president of health policy, Katie Mahoney, sat down with four health and wellness experts at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Ignite Wellness Summit to break down what works when it comes to wellness at the office. Here are three top tips to maintaining a healthy and happy workforce:
1. Remove the stigma around mental health.
A whopping 91% of millennials and Gen Z employees want employers to pay more attention to mental health, according to Peter Bridges of Ginger, an on-demand mental health care company. Relationships, work stress and sleep issues are the three largest threats to modern employees’ mental health. Relieving these stressors goes beyond health and wellness offerings and in-office initiatives. The modern employee needs a safe space to talk about mental health at work and access to care and support – on and off the clock.
2. Health and wellness starts at the top.
Embedding health and wellness practices into organizational culture is an integral part of building healthy, productive work environments. Promoting these practices at the leadership level integrates balance and wellness into the rest of the organization. “Intellectual agreement doesn’t mean participation,” explained Rachel Gutter, president of the International Well Being Institute. Providing a range of programs and resources isn’t enough. Patrick Mescall, vice president of employer and health services at Welltok reported that “well-designed incentive programs” alone usually result in 20-30% improvement. Ensuring that leadership is engaged in wellness initiatives is key. If organizations want to see a return on investment from wellness programs and offerings, they must set the “tone from the top,” Jenny Harris, Deloitte audit and assurance partner, said.
3. Data drives wellness.
Both qualitative and quantitative data are critical components of creating health and wellness initiatives. About 90% of business operations expenses are people, Bridges said. If companies want to see a return on investment, employee feedback should be a key factor in the planning process of these programs. Mescall discussed the role data plays in forging wellness programs for clients. Data ranging from provider density to nearby parks all go into consideration when analyzing the health and wellness needs of employees. Monitoring health and wellness initiatives through surveys and data collection helps improve the work environment over time. Organizations "have to ask" employees directly about health and wellness if they want to establish an effective program, Gutter pointed out.
When these strategies show signs of success, share it. Lack of evidence is not the issue, but that “we aren’t doing a good job of sharing that evidence,” Gutter said. The more information we can gather about health and wellness in the workplace, the better chance we have of building a stronger business community.