80% of large U.S. employers and 58% of organizations overall offer employee wellness programs, which are part of the $8 billion workplace wellness industry. Employee wellness programs have often been touted as a powerful tool to improve employee health, productivity, and absenteeism while generating savings on healthcare costs. While companies may view this as just another box to check, when a program is prioritized and well-designed, it can become a catalyst for a thriving workplace culture and stronger performance. But if the idea of sweating alongside your boss makes you, well, sweat… hear us out. The following are three areas that could see a boost from hard-wiring wellness into your organization, along with some ways our team has prioritized wellness for our Thinkers.
OFFER LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
In our own experience, wellness initiatives are a perfect opportunity for employees at any level of an organization to hone their leadership skills or showcase unique capabilities.
Almost 10 years ago, Think Up introduced our own internal wellness initiative. While we adjust the individual habits and tasks each year to keep the program fresh, we track a mix of fitness, dietary, and healthy lifestyle habits and challenges over a designated period (typically several months).
Often, we’ve made wellness into a friendly competition by forming teams that compete for a grand prize. Team leaders are selected based on their passion for wellness—no matter where they might be in that journey—and ability to rally and encourage their team. This is a great opportunity for team members at all levels to take a trial run in a defined, yet informal, environment while building their confidence and leadership skills.
We also incorporate wellness challenges and events such as a yoga class, a guided meditation session hosted by a Thinker with a holistic arts background, or a group walk in the park led by a Thinker who prioritizes short walk breaks. It’s always fun to see our coworkers and friends shine while doing something they love.
The key to a strong workforce is resilience, as we’ve previously written about. Resilience exists when a person can bounce back and thrive from major challenges. It is often tested when stress factors arise in everyday life.
Increasingly, employee wellness programs are making workplace stress and mental health resources accessible to all employees. This better equips them to handle and protect against stress—which improves workplace culture and contributes to a more resilient workforce. Because resilience is associated with greater job satisfaction, organizational commitment, productivity, and engagement, employers reap the rewards of building wellness into the organization.
Think Up makes mental, and emotional wellness a priority and supports Thinkers in building healthy habits and managing stress. Our resilience as individuals and as an organization has grown as we’ve found opportunities to bond over healthy habits and friendly competition. Thinkers have run local 5Ks together, and because we haven’t been able to do that in 2020, we hosted our own virtual Fun Run. Other members of our team have attended yoga and Cyclebar classes together, sweating out the stress side-by-side. A group of Peloton-enthusiast Thinkers enjoy following each other’s activity and join live rides together. However we each get that endorphin boost, when we sweat and accomplish hard things together, we’re building relationships and organizational resiliency.
We take fun seriously at Think Up. In fact, Fun & Laughter is one of our 10 core values. While team happy hours certainly have their place, wellness activities are a great way to infuse fun in a productive, healthy way. And, we often find it’s easier to create and maintain a healthy habit when you enjoy it and are connected to others. Teams come up with their own (creative, often ridiculous) names and bond over fun competitions like Last Planker Planking, wall-sits, and increasing our daily servings of fruits & veggies. One of our biggest crowd-pleasers is our Drink Up, Think Up water bar featuring healthy H20 add-ins (cucumber mint water, anyone?) to encourage boosting our water intake. It only takes a little effort to make wellness fun—and the payoff for your team and organizational culture can be big.
A NOTE ABOUT LEADERS AS WELLNESS CHAMPIONS
If you’re questioning how to make this happen, we suggest you start at the top. Those in formal leadership roles must champion wellness programming to make it “stick.” This starts with senior leaders allocating funding and expressing their support, but direct managers are most critical to the success of wellness efforts (and, by the way, overall employee engagement).
Laura Putnam, founder and CEO of Motion Infusion and author of Workplace Wellness That Works, writes, “while senior leaders set the tone, another ‘inconvenient truth’ is that it’s largely the manager who effectively gives permission (or doesn’t) to their team members to engage with well-being…according to Gallup, the manager alone accounts for 70% of the variance in their team members’ engagement with both their work and well-being.”
Beyond expressing permission to participate, managers can lead by example, create team-based opportunities, and help remove barriers. This could take the form of a quick team meeting to remove obstacles to participating in a guided meditation session or yoga class. It could also look like a manager encouraging a direct report to take time to grab a healthful lunch instead of quickly eating a granola bar in between meetings. The consistent support of managers throughout your organization is instrumental in prioritizing and supporting wellness efforts.
An investment in wellness is certainly time and money well-spent. Ultimately, moving the needle in leadership, resilience, and fun can positively impact individual team members and your organization by improving engagement and work performance.