Often, a hiring manager at a large corporation, when asked about employee wellness benefits, will answer, “Well, we can’t all be Google.” It’s hard to reconcile such a dismissive response when you consider the realities of what corporate wellness programs can bring to an organization. If employees are given personalized choices and take advantage of them, these programs can boost productivity and morale, lower absentee rates due to illness, and save the company some serious money in the long-run. These benefits are ideal ways to both attract new employees as well as retain the ones already employed. This means more and more companies are considering innovative ways to enthuse and excite their employees.
Companies large and small are making corporate wellness available to all employees, as well as extending what is considered part of the benefits package. Back in the early days of such programs, they were often only an elite incentive for executive management. But with clear evidence of the advantages for organizations, nowadays every employee from the CEO down are eligible for these perks. In addition, back in the ‘70s, employee wellness generally was limited to diet plans, gym memberships, and smoking cessation programs. These days, the definition has broadened considerably, incorporating the “whole” person: from both physical and mental health to finances, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing.
This holistic approach to corporate wellness, along with the shift in consumers desiring healthier lifestyles, makes steam a natural fit. However, in this article we'll explore the many different steps you can take to boost your corporate wellness program (or begin one).
One of the ways to both attract and retain employees is to add amenities to the office space. There are plenty of ways to make the workplace an inviting environment without going full-out Google.
Some simple options to consider include:
- Filling that vending machine with healthier options.
- Starting a “Bring Your Pet to Work Day” (always checking first if someone is allergic).
- Holding meetings standing up or walking – not only will they be better for the body, but they’ll take less time, too!
Plus, new “healthy desk” options are on trend right now – and with good reason. A recent survey conducted at Texas A&M’s School of Public Health tested how high schoolers fared when they used standing desks, with test scores rising from 7 to 14%. The study demonstrated that standing desks enhance executive function, by affecting the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex. No wonder employers want to get in on the improved brain power their workers get by simply standing!Office workers report that they feel better, enjoy their work more, and have increased their productivity. And some companies are taking this a literal step forward – with treadmill desk options for employees who want to exercise while they work. Laptops on these desks mean workers don’t have to miss an email or update just because they’re working out.
Of course, if a company can offer an actual fitness center, sometimes even including a personal trainer or two, the advantages to employees are clear. Being able to exercise over a lunch hour or getting into work earlier will reap benefits for the company as well as the individual. (And may we humbly suggest adding steam to the shower at your office gym? The wellness benefits of a short steam shower will help your workers get and stay well. And it will bring them back to their desks recharged and refreshed!)
Another way employers are bringing a greater emphasis on fitness to the workplace is through fitness challenges and contests. These include office marathons, obstacle courses, and more. Not only does this boost physical health, but it also promotes bonding and team-building.As part of these contests, some employers are also offering rewards, both in the form of money and other incentives, for those who take part. (Again, a friendly hint from MrSteam – a steam session is a wonderful reward and fits in seamlessly with health goals. If your organization doesn’t have a steam shower onsite, employees can visit any one of hundreds of locations around the US. See our Try Us Out page to select an appropriate venue near the office.)
It seems like more and more companies are handing their employees wearables such as Fitbit and Garmin, which can track steps, exercise, heart rate, sleep, and more. The fact that they can be recorded online opens up competitive possibilities as well. Some employees are already using employment engagement activities to reward employees with various incentives – if they walk a target number of steps a day, for instance.
Nontraditional Wellness Options
As noted above, organizations are increasingly recognizing the “whole person,” not just focusing on their health. Here are some innovations to corporate wellness programs:
- Flexibility and Vacations. It’s been shown that workers who have the latitude to work from home have less stress, increased productivity and company loyalty, and decreased absenteeism. For workers who must juggle family obligations, this can mean the difference between staying with a job and having to search for another. Flex time and telecommuting can also mean less overhead to the corporation, making this a win-win for everyone involved.In addition, companies who encourage – and even enforce – vacation time are finding that their employees are returning to the office refreshed and ready to dive back into the pressures of the job.
- Vaccinations and Flu Shots. Companies that offer free flu, pneumonia, measles, and other inoculations before they can create an epidemic in the workplace find it well worth the cost, with a clear reduction of sick days.
- Mental Health. Giving workers access to such wellness programs as mindfulness sessions and meditation provides unique benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, and increased calm. Studies have shown increased concentration and improved inter-employee relationships after a course of mindfulness programs.
- Financial Programs. Addressing the “whole person” can also mean allaying concerns about college and retirement spending, or helping employees faced with debt. In addition to offering financial education, forward-thinking companies are learning how to use available data to pinpoint specific employee issues so that trained staff can recommend ways to deal with them.
There is little doubt that corporate wellness is entering a whole new age. It is proving to be among the best ways to attract and retain employees, boost morale, improve productivity, increase employee loyalty and satisfaction, and reduce insurance premiums, medical costs, short-term disability and worker comp claims. Companies that are innovating and providing new benefits for their workers – which might even include steam in the company gym or as an incentive – are those that stand out.