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The Future of Wellness Programs – Beyond Skinny, Non-Smoking Employees

Patrick Ball on February 19, 2015 04:05 PM

Employer-provided wellness programs are no longer the exception – they’re the rule. 

In its recent Strategic Benefits Survey, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that about three-quarters of respondents indicated their organizations offers some kind of wellness program – and 40 percent indicated they’re increasing their investment in these employee wellness initiatives. 

As work and life have become more intertwined, the popularity of employer-provided wellness programs has only increased. Most mid-sized to large employers are offering some kind of investment in wellness initiatives. Frankly, today’s talent expects as much. 

And they want more than Weight Watchers. The workplace shouldn’t be the only place where wellness is limited to physical health. It’s time to move beyond the stale carrot-and-stick approach and evolve wellness so they support our employees as a whole person.

We’re talking about everything from standing desks (or surfing desks!) to stress management; from CSA pickups and yoga studios to wearable, shareable, careable lifestyle benefits. We’re talking about Wellness 2.0.   

It used to be that employers looked at wellness programs with visions of svelte, non-smoking workforce and dollar signs dancing in their heads. Logic held that health screenings and incentivized nutrition and smoking cessation programs would lead to healthier employees and, in turn, drive down health care costs for employers.

Those days are gone. Wellness is about stress, mental health and general wellbeing.  And modern wellness programs can do more than trim waistlines and health care costs – they can be an integral part of your company culture and your employer brand.

So, in approaching the next generation of initiatives, let’s modernize and evolve our offerings so they meet the wants and needs of our workforce. Here are a few examples of modern takes on wellness initiatives that actually work:

  1. In-Office Yoga and Zumba
    A gym in the basement is a great start, but there’s a population of employees  who’ll simply never use it. (And this is by no means a knock on onsite fitness centers.) Try bringing in a yoga or Zumba instructor once a month to engage those employees who care about fitness but aren’t interested in bulking up or whose reconstructed knees can’t run on a treadmill.
  1. Organic CSAs
    The next generation of Weight Watchers and “Biggest Loser” competitions, many enterprises are arranging for their offices to be pickup spots for local organic CSAs. This approach promotes healthy choices for all employees, and makes CSA participation more convenient for employees who work long hours. Plus, it supports a local business and extends a wellness benefits to the employee’s families.

  2. Nap Rooms
    Sleeping on the job sounds is no longer a bad thing. Many tech companies and global enterprises have built out nap rooms in their offices to help employees recharge and refocus after a long night of coding or catching a red-eye. You know about Google’s, and HuffPo’s nap rooms. But did you know AEGIS FinServ Corp has quiet rooms, HubSpot has a hammock at its office and even has nap rooms.
  3. Standing/Treadmill/Surfing Desks
    By now everyone’s heard that sitting’s the new smoking, right? Even if you think treadmill desks and balance boards are a little extreme, standing desks have a real appeal to many employees. Consider investing in convertible sitting/standing desks, or building out a section of standing desks your employees can book for an hour a day. Research has shown the significant health risks of sitting too long each day, and the occasional change of scenery can help spur focus and productivity for employees, as well.

  4. Manicures, Massage and Dry Cleaning Pickup
    A little pampering never hurt anyone – and a little pampering in the office won’t hurt your productivity, either. Employees today are as comfortable homing from work as they are working from home, and lifestyle-type wellness benefits, like weekly manicures, dry cleaning pickup and monthly massages, are gaining popularity. For the skeptics who cringe at the thought of cubicle-side cuticle care or dry cleaning delivered to the reception area, think of it like this: Your employees are doing this stuff anyway, so would you rather they leave for 90 minutes at lunch or take 20 minutes mid-morning?
  5. Wearable Wellness
    We’re not saying wearables are all the rage, but… yeah. FitBits are pretty much ubiquitous, and studies are starting to prove out that the accountability that comes with wearables and tying technology to fitness goals can improve effectiveness. Companies like Virgin Pulse have sprung up to bridge the gap between corporate wellness programs and wearable fitness tech.

  6. Solution-Based Stress Management
    When it comes to work-life balance, the struggle is real. As one bleeds into the other, personal and professional responsibilities – and stress – can pile up and impact performance and happiness at work and at home. When companies can provide solutions for life challenges, such as help hiring a housekeeper or employer-provided emergency child care, it removes a layer of stress and helps the employee to better focus on job responsibilities.   

Like any benefits program, wellness initiatives are only as effective as their administration. So it’s essential that the programs and promotion fit with your organizational culture, or the participation and effectiveness will be limited.

Culture Guide