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How to develop a wellness strategy for your workplace

August 10, 2020 • read

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How to develop a wellness strategy for your workplace

Creating a top-tier company culture starts with the simple truth — invest in people. A team that is healthy, happy, and secure operates like a well oiled machine. People are more content to work for a company that truly cares about their well-being. Whatever your company goals are, they’ll be accelerated by an engaged and healthy workforce. 

COVID-19 has brought the topic of Canadians’ health to the forefront. We’ve seen the inextricable link between the health of the greater populace and business’s ability to stay afloat. The economy has changed, certainly in the short term, and very likely in the long term. 

As Canadian businesses re-open and employees return to the office, health is on top of everyone’s minds. In addition to keeping workers safe, employers are wondering how they can create a culture that maximizes health. To this end, an exploding trend is for companies to reexamine, or create from scratch, their corporate healthcare and wellness strategy. 

What is a corporate wellness strategy, and why is it important?

A corporate wellness strategy, usually overseen by a company’s human resources department, is a series of goals and tracking milestones aimed to improve employee satisfaction ratings and lower business overhead. 

Absenteeism

Employee absenteeism, more plainly known as sick days, cost employers around $2,000 per employee each year. It’s natural that employees would need to take a few days off if they’ve come down with the flu or undergone a major surgery. What many employers are finding, however, is that chronic health problems, mental stress, and preventable health episodes are driving more and more worker absenteeism. 

Fight disengagement

Improving a company’s wellness culture brings intangible benefits that add up to be hugely valuable over the long run. The pervading office culture is a company’s internal brand. A company that makes its employees feel healthy, safe, and valued in turn receives workers who are highly engaged. On the flipside, employee disengagement costs companies huge. According to one poll, disengaged workers have 37% higher absenteeism rates, are 18% less productive, and are 15% less profitable. 

Attract and retain talent

A fantastic health and wellness strategy is a huge differentiator for your company when attempting to attract and retain top talent. 86% of survey respondents say that wellness culture is an important factor when deciding whether to accept a job offer, or to stay at their current job. Highly skilled workers can afford to be choosy when shopping multiple job offers, and will often select the company that seems the best fit for their overall lifestyle.

Avoid an employee skills gap

Companies that want to be competitive in their market need a highly competitive workforce. Conversely, companies that uphold a revolving door culture will find their employee skill level permanently stunted. This is known as the employee skills gap, and it occurs when employees leave a job before they’re fully trained and productive. Since it takes most employees 1-2 years to be firing on all cylinders in their job, high turnover means that companies will always be lagging behind and relying on stressed, under-performing employees. A revolving door culture tends to emerge when a company neglects the well-being of it’s workers, or fails to keep pace with the industry standard for overall culture and compensation.

How to create a corporate wellness strategy

1. Set goals

The most successful corporate healthcare and wellness strategies start with clear objectives. To make sure that the strategy gains widespread acceptance and adherence, make it tied to business goals. Top-level company KPIs should incorporate employee wellness objectives. For example, what is the average score for employee workplace satisfaction? What are employee retention rates? Showing employees that culture and well-being are high priorities will create a positive trickle down effect throughout your company. 

2. Identify challenges

What current factors are at play that are lowering the wellness of your workplace? Are there strained relationships, overloading of work, or lack of healthy food options? After setting goals, identify the challenges that made those goals necessities. 

3. Choose one or two opportunities

Don’t try to boil the ocean in your first attempt at a corporate wellness strategy. Rather than looking to heal the whole office, choose a couple high-importance areas to focus on. You’ll be able to track results and make progress against one or two well-selected goals. 

4. Create a plan of action

After choosing your highest priority goals and identifying your challenges, carve out a plan of action to tackle them. Say you want to improve absenteeism rates. Your plan of action might include collecting data about current absenteeism rates, identifying the main reasons behind time off, and taking clear steps to address those reasons. 

5. Create an initial benchmark score

To measure whether your corporate wellness plan is working, you must be measuring against an established benchmark. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea whether things are improving or degrading. You can create a benchmark by surveying your employees, and looking at company data related to your wellness goals. If surveying your employees, make questions detailed so that answers will be as close to objective as possible. Giving vague questions like “How satisfied are you with your job?” are subject to an employee’s broad judgement. Questions like “I feel stressed at least one day each week” are more specific and telling. 

6. Carve out time

The main factor that puts corporate wellness plans on hold is lack of time given towards the project. This stems from leadership attitudes that employee wellbeing is not as valuable as initiatives that are tied to immediate monetary gain. 

Wellness strategy leaders must be deliberate in how they allot their time to ensure health goals are pushed forward. Tying wellness goals into top-level company KPIs is a great way to state that employee wellness is a company mandate, and to remind leadership that a wellness culture is innately tied to a business’s success. 

Things to keep in mind when creating a wellness strategy

  • Mental health one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction problem in any given year. Young workers, under 34 years old, report higher levels of stress than their older counterparts. Virtual therapy allows people to see a therapist from the comfort of their home, on whatever schedule suits them best. 
  • Chronic illness 44% of Canadians above age 20 are reported to have at least one chronic illness. These types of illnesses often require frequent doctor’s appointments and a long term medication schedule. 
  • Preventative healthcare — for Canadians under 75 years old, one in four deaths are due to preventable causes. Including preventative and lifestyle health into your wellness strategy can help your workers live longer and healthier lives. 
  • Workers prefer flexibility — “old school” working arrangements have long fallen out of favour. Employees prefer flexibility in their working life, from work-from-home schedules, flexible start or ends to the day, and customizable health benefits plans. 
  • Take advantage of technology — employees, especially those of the younger generations, are widely open to using technology health tools. 70% of employees under 34 indicated in one survey that they would use health technology. From health and fitness wearable trackers, to diet and nutrition apps, to virtual doctor’s appointments, technology offers convenient and personal health options.

Investing in employee health is like watering a garden — after some time and attention, everything starts to bloom. A workplace wellness culture makes employees feel more secure and emotionally invested, which results in higher productivity and a more competitive workforce.

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