The link between healthy employees and improving company productivity and absenteeism means it’s HR’s business to determine what’s affecting their employees’ health and well-being.
Work-related stress and a sedentary lifestyle are the top major health risks affecting employees according to the new Sun Life-Bennet National Wellness Survey.
"With an increase in illnesses relating to both stress and sedentary lifestyles, the need for employer sponsored wellness programs is growing rapidly," said Lori Casselman, Assistant Vice-President, Health and Wellness, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial. "Employers can positively influence the health of the workplace by implementing initiatives that encourage employees to understand their current health risks, and ultimately to lead healthier lives."
Almost all (92%) of employers surveyed recognised that the health of their employees influences overall corporate performance and 62% of organisations currently offer wellness initiatives. However, the debates about the effectiveness of such programs continues, with just 51% reporting an increase in employee morale and 40% a decrease in absenteeism.
“Employers need to understand value rather than jump on bandwagon,” SOS Resource Group President Don Thomson said. Implementing a program without knowing your base numbers and what you’re hoping to achieve is unlikely to improve the situation in your office. It was important to track an organisation’s absence and disability rates independently to track program success.
Instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach, you need to gauge the needs of your workforce, according to Jane Wagstaff from healthcare specialist Medtronic.
Start by promoting healthy lifestyles as a company value, Wagstaff said, and you can then build on the project by adding additional strategies and offerings.
“The problem with traditional corporate wellness programs is they don’t work," she said. "Human resource and senior managers believe the problem is caused through lack of funds, resources or industry knowledge. This often leads to managers providing safe and easy-to-implement programs which they think employees want [but] lead to poor take-up rates and no longevity.”
The most successful corporate wellness programs identify employee needs through basic health and fitness questionnaires, and then address the organisations needs by providing variety and importantly, motivation.