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Why Employee Wellness Programs Are More Important Than Ever

Posted by Guest Post on Jul 21, 2020 7:37:00 AM

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The COVID-19 lockdowns have changed the face of small businesses and corporate America. Businesses have gone from the thought of their workers working remotely as “something we’ll implement someday” to “we have to do it now.” COVID-19 didn’t give them a choice. It was “do or die” for many if they wanted to remain in business.

In addition to developing a model that allows employees to work remotely, businesses have had other concerns. How can they maintain a company culture and ensure the wellness of their employees under current circumstances? Obviously, the natural go-tos of having an onsite health fair and having healthy foods in the break room are not going to work at this time. In addition, the newest, youngest generation to enter the workforce wants their specific needs catered to. Therefore, it is important that we become innovative in this time of uncertainty. So, what, exactly are employee wellness programs, and how can we create something that will help protect the health and well-being of our employees in these uncertain times? 

What Are Employee Wellness Programs

According to Maryville University, employee wellness programs are “employer-designed plans constructed to improve employees’ physical and mental health.”  A lot of people assume that such wellness programs are a new development in the business world, but they are not as new as they seem. In fact, Johnson & Johnson’s “Live for Life” program, created in 1979, is considered by many as the standard wellness program that other companies should base their wellness programs upon.

Businesses have known for a long time that healthier employees make more productive employees. Thus, as time has progressed, employee wellness programs have become more holistic in their approach. Now they attempt to incorporate not just an employee’s physical well-being but also their mental and social well-being. As part of the employee wellness program, many companies are now incorporating better employee working conditions. Included in such a program could be for the company to make sure that the workplace is free of asbestos and other harmful chemicals.

In addition to creating a safe workplace, employers are also incorporating fitness goals using Fitbits, using fun games such as Pokemon GO, providing paid gym memberships, and offering flu shots as part of their employee wellness programs. The result? Employee wellness programs have reduced absenteeism as well as disability and worker’s compensation costs and have increased employee’ productivity and morale. Employee wellness programs have also done a lot to improve company culture.

Why Are They Important Now More Than Ever

Now, with COVID-19 forcing everyone to work remotely, usually from home, employee wellness is more important than ever. Working at home can be very stressful; just ask the parents who have their children with them in the same physical spaces all day long. In addition, with the gyms closed in many areas, many people are not exercising as much as they used to, and without much interaction from work, people are isolated.

In a study done since the COVID-19 shutdowns, almost 70% of employees claim that they’ve never been under so much stress at work. In addition, there was a high increase in prescriptions filled to alleviate anxiety and depression, with 78% being new prescriptions.

In a recent Gartner study, nearly half of the companies detailed that at least 81% of their current workforce was working from home with another 15% saying that 61-80% were doing so. That is a tremendous amount of people at home. In addition, employees are working more than three extra hours per week in addition to dealing with problems within their homes. This is where employee wellness programs can come into play, helping these employees cope in the worst of times.

How Can a Wellness Program Be Implemented Out of Office

Many of the traditional parts of employee wellness programs such as “take your dog to work day,” special rooms set aside to rest or meditate, and company breakfasts and lunches just don’t work when employees are at home. Due to that, companies have had to be creative with their wellness programs.

One way that you can help your employees is by making sure that their home offices are as comfortable as possible. Buying some greenery for an employee’s home office or getting them a comfortable armchair to take breaks in can work wonders on an employee’s morale and comfort. You can also offer reimbursement on ergonomic office equipment and desks so they can purchase what they need to work from home.

Since you cannot have a real, on-site health and wellness fair, have a virtual one. It can include polls, health trivia, and activities that will get your employees up and moving. You can also create virtual meeting places for employees to share recipes and healthful eating tips. You can encourage physical activity in the workplace by supplying employees with virtual fitness classes or fitness challenges that they can do online.

Employee wellness programs have become an integral part of employee culture and, in light of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, are more important than ever as people are facing stress and isolation at home. Employee wellness programs must change with the times to help employees make it through the storm. With a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, your company can create a wellness program that will help with company culture as well as help employees through a very difficult period in their lives.

This guest post was written by Luke Smith and may not be copied or published without permission. 

Topics: HR, Wellness

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