Employee Wellness Programs Move to Center Court
Employee health and wellness programs are nothing new – as early as the 1880s, the head of National Cash Register met employees for horseback rides before work. In the 1900s, Milton Hershey built a leisure park for his employees as a place to blow off steam. While formal programs to promote work-life balance started to become widespread in the 1970s, the trend has accelerated in recent years – in fact, over two thirds of U.S. employers now offer wellness programs.
Recently, a wave of innovation has transformed modern health and wellness programs, shifting the focus towards employee values and creating a customized experience for employees. Employers are willing to go the extra mile due to research that shows the workplace can influence and reinforce healthy lifestyle choices that end up being better for production – increasing focus and mental sharpness, improving memory and reducing stress.
To further the argument for workplace wellness programs, in-office fitness programs support a positive work culture and unite employees with a common goal. At B+L, we focus on fitness as an agency – working towards the goal of 4,000 or more cumulative workouts from our 25 employees each year. To reach this level, we participate in a variety of fitness events as a team and encourage each other to workout throughout the year. As with any health and wellness program there are incentives, ranging from B+L swag to extra time during the holidays.
Beyond fitness initiatives, many companies want to focus on the whole person by encouraging “mental fitness.” Mental fitness is meant to improve the employee’s quality of life and de-stress them through volunteering, meditating, journal keeping, etc.
Another trend in modern wellness programs is redesigning the work space to encourage more physical activity during the workday. The B+L office is beginning to incorporate employees who prefer a standing workstation – which has both metabolic, spine/posture and mental alertness advantages over conventional desks. Some workplaces (particularly home offices) are going a step further and incorporating treadmill desks.
Regardless of their specific approach, most C-suite execs agree that there are multiple benefits to improving the health and wellness of their workforce – ranging from improved morale and productivity to lower insurance costs. What is your office’s wellness program? We’d love to share ideas on this increasingly important topic.