taking the next step in your corporate wellness program

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Nearly ten years ago, the corporation where I worked started to offer wellness programs. We had fitness challenges, maps for walks in the building, nutrition classes, and an onsite gym. Like many other companies, my organization was focused on improving employees’ wellness. The majority of those programs—often inspired by a desire to decrease healthcare costs—focused entirely on physical wellness: weight loss, exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation.

But in recent years it’s become clear that there’s more to wellness than physical health. In fact, an employee’s wellbeing involves at least a few other essential elements. According to O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2015 Health and Wellbeing Study, “Wellbeing is a measure of a person’s perception of how her life is going—whether it is fulfilling and satisfying, whether she feels her best every day, and where her life is headed in the future.”

This more holistic approach looks at an employee’s social, mental, and financial wellness—in additional to physical health—with an appreciation for how those factors combine to impact overall wellbeing. If you’re ready to move your wellness program to the next level, consider each of these elements and how you might be able to support your employees in that realm

Social wellness focuses on the interactions an employee has with other people while they’re at work, at home, and in the community. Just as a healthy diet improves physical fitness, so do positive, fulfilling interactions increase an employee’s social wellness.

How can an organization address social wellness needs?

  • Create situations in which employees can get to know one another and develop friendships among colleagues.
  • Incorporate flexible work options that allow employees to engage and interact with their family and community outside of work.

Mental wellness involves having a positive outlook, enjoying one’s work, and not having a constant sense of stress or overwhelm. Achieving that type of mental wellness takes effort and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Unfortunately, about 61 million Americans (one in four adults) experience some mental illness every year, according to U.S. News World Report.

How can an organization address mental wellness needs?

  • Provide employees with access to mental health hotlines, counselors or therapists.
  • Offer meditation and yoga programs that help educate employees about ways to handle stress.

Financial wellness describes an individual’s financial health in terms of their satisfaction with their current financial situation, their financial behaviors, and their overall financial knowledge. This is an area that causes significant stress for today’s workforce. Many employees are faced with incredible amounts of college debt, as well as an uncertain future when it comes to social security which may not exist by the time they retire.

How can an organization address financial wellness needs?

  • Deliver educational programs about financial basics such as budgets, investments, and savings.
  • Incorporate student loan repayment as an option in your benefits program.

Research indicates that wellbeing has an impact on the way employees work and the results they’re equipped to deliver. When employers provide wellness programs that help employees navigate and address physical, social, mental, and financial stress, those employees are better prepared to deliver results. A broad, holistic approach to wellbeing serves to engage employees, contribute to a great work environment, and ultimately increase the bottom line.

By liz sheffield
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