Wellness: Corporates have got it wrong

by External05 Mar 2013

Countless well intentioned 'wellness' initiatives only appeal to a small percentage of the workforce.Timo Topp provides some tips to broaden the appeal of any corporate-led health and wellbeing initiative.

More and more companies are investing in corporate wellness programs for their employees. Innovative organisations understand that investing in their staff is no longer a fluffy extra but an important part of corporate responsibility for the retention of talent, brand perception and the welfare of workers.

Studies show that wellness is an important area that should be taken more seriously. Medibank Private has run numerous initiatives that highlight the need for the improvement of the health of the humble office worker, with conclusions such as: ‘healthy employees are up to three times more productive than their unhealthy colleagues and take an average of two sick days per year compared to eighteen.’ Other studies suggest that for every dollar spent on wellness there is a return of two to four dollars in reduced costs and improved productivity.

The trouble is, when it comes to wellness, corporates have often got it wrong. Instead of wellness they think in terms of fitness with traditional approaches being to offer staff discounted gym memberships or lunch time fitness or yoga classes. These only appeal to a small percentage of the workforce that have the desire or motivation to go.

Neither is wellness not truly addressed with the annual health expo which proves to be a fleeting gesture that a company is seen to be doing the right thing. An annual event is not going to make a real dent to daily healthy actions. Other solutions include a nice relaxing massage every once in a while which proves popular as it gives employees a welcome break from the mountain of work and stresses they are under. However, again, it is not a real solution for creating healthy change.

Workplace wellness is designed to change employee behaviour in order to achieve better health and reduce the associated risks. It is achieved through education initiatives not exercise initiatives. It is about providing employees with information and resources from which they can make better daily decisions that improve how they feel and perform.

‘Economic growth, efficiency and development cannot be sustained without addressing factors driving Wellness’  - World Economic Forum’s Working towards Wellness

When an employee is educated and made more aware of the benefits to their wellbeing of simple strategies such as drinking plenty of water, sitting up straight and eating the right foods they can replace unhealthy habits with healthier ones, every day.

Employees will benefit from wellness by having better energy levels and feel better - less stressed and less overwhelmed - which is something that most people want in their daily lives, not just at work. Companies benefit by having healthier more motivated staff that contribute to improved productivity and reduced health care costs from worker compensation claims and absenteeism and even presenteeism – where staff are at work but underperforming due to lifestyle factors such as stress and poor health.

Compared to the traditional corporate approaches to wellness, education is less expensive, reaches more people and it is something that everyone can participate in together, in the actual workplace. As opposed to the fit few who see the joy in a lunchtime fitness session only to leave the less healthy ones – the ones who need it – behind.

Wellness is an area all companies should take more seriously. Whilst the current approaches of fitness options, expos and massages are a step in the right direction, education is empowering, further reaching and effective that a weekly fitness session that only a few people participate in.

 About the author

Timo Topp is a health and fitness expert with 20 years experience who is the founder of Well for Work - a workplace health education program that aims to make health at work simple and feasible. Visit www.wellforwork.com for further information

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