Healthier Employees, Healthier Business

Everyday businesses increase profitability by investing in their employees. A growing number of businesses are distinguishing themselves to potential employees by implementing well-rounded workplace wellness programs.  “A healthier, more productive workforce contributes to employee engagement and retention [and] can have a positive impact on business performance,” says Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health.  Research conducted by Harvard University backs this up, showing an average return of $3 for every $1 spent on wellness.  With the cost of poor health estimated at 15% of payroll (according to research from Society for Human Resource Management), it stands out that healthy employees are more productive, less absent, more engaged, and more loyal.  Nearly 90 percent of employees surveyed by Colonial Life say health and wellness benefits played a role in initially choosing an employer.

Johnson & Johnson, which has one of the longest standing wellness programs in the country (more than 30 years), recently received a platinum award from the National Business Group on Health for exemplary workplace wellbeing programs.  Johnson & Johnson creates an environment that values health and healthy decisions, incorporating occupational health, mental wellbeing, disease management, health education & awareness, and healthy lifestyle programs.  Just a few of the things they offer are pedometers, walking trails, exercise reimbursement, nutritionally dense whole foods, and Weight Watchers discounts.  A report put out by Johnson & Johnson shows that they save an average per employee of $565 per year and medical and pharmaceutical costs are around 3.7% lower than similar industry costs.

Some businesses get more out wellness programs. One example? Knoll is partnering with Westside Yoga in Atlanta to take wellness initiatives a step further, working with corporate interior design firms to create work spaces that are conducive to holistic wellness and empower employees with more choices for how they work, which is especially important for working women with the huge demands they face.  These work spaces are designed to foster community, ensure physical comfort, control noise levels, encourage activity and stretch breaks, eliminate toxins, and offer connections to nature.  Employees can choose to work in individual space, group space, activity based work space, outdoors, etc. The idea is based in Knoll’s research that shows the importance of engaging employees from a holistic perspective, incorporating physical, mental, and social needs.  Amber Barry, founder of Westside Yoga, has taught corporate yoga for years and has seen it make a difference in the employee experience.  “People are happier when they’re empowered to stretch and meditate and practice yoga at work,” Amber observes.

Businesses that benefit do so by emphasizing stress management, chronic disease management, nutrition, sleep and mindfulness.  Chris Franklin, a long time corporate employee, tells PINK, “I notice my productivity increases substantially when I have access to a private, quiet, comfortable area for 20-30 minutes a day of silent reflection.”

Important factors influencing success and sustainability include creating a cultural shift (incorporating wellness into the way the business operates, thinks, and acts) and maintaining strong leadership engagement (making sure company leaders promote the program and set the example through active participation). Gap Inc has created a culture where individualized wellness and lifestyle balance are respected.  Human Resources Director Holly Conway has seen colleagues transform their lives through health coaching offered by the company.  She notes that for one colleague, “as she became healthier, her confidence increased and her decision-making skills as a manager got significantly better.” Holly says this culture not only allows her to be the most focused and productive version of herself, but is also the reason she wants to stay at the company.  “Those are words of validation any employer would be glad to hear,” she concludes.

By Autumn Tarter
Photo by Christopher Campbell

Autumn Tarter is a registered yoga teacher with a Masters in Psychology.  She leads workshops for Stress Management in the Workplace and is passionate about taking holistic health into the corporate environment.

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