A few years ago when I would ask executives whether they had employee health and wellness programs, they would say, “Absolutely, we pay for their gym membership and give them healthy snacks.” We’ve come a long way since assuming health and wellness is about food and muscles. Today, health and wellness means focusing on the mind and the body. According to the American Institute of Stress, our jobs are by far the leading cause of stress in our lives. We work longer hours, we’re more connected, our attention spans are shorter, and we just can’t seem to find the time in the day to do everything we need to get done. Oftentimes this means we skimp out on the time we need to keep ourselves healthy. We don’t have time to eat breakfast, so we grab an egg sandwich from McDonald’s; we’d love to work out, but we have a big presentation due, so we have to skip the gym; and we can’t relax and have time to ourselves after work because we keep checking out email every five seconds. Then, of course, we have family and all sorts of other things in our personal lives that we need to deal with. We live in a new world where things move faster and we’re always connected.
Workplace stress can lead to all sorts of unhealthy habits and problems that affect our bodies. Weight gain, poor eating habits, heart problems, trouble sleeping, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the common things that we can experience because of workplace stress. This keeps us from doing and being our best at work and at home. Organizations are acknowledging this shift and are doing all sorts of things to help keep employees’ minds and bodies healthy. Health and education training programs, healthy snacks and meals, gym memberships, access to nutritionists, team and company fitness contests, nap rooms, wearable fitness devices to track activity, and walking meetings are just some of the things that are being implemented at organizations around the world. We also have to focus on the mind, which includes stress workshops, financial planning advisors to help with saving for retirement and college tuition, yoga and meditation classes, and the like.
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Forward-thinking organizations understand that their responsibility isn’t just providing a job for their employees. It’s also looking after them and taking care of them. Although health and wellness programs are typically experienced while employees are at work, the impact is oftentimes felt at home, as well. Employees who feel taken care of will be more relaxed, have more energy for their friends and family members, feel better about themselves, and lead a happier life. There are also plenty of benefits for organizations, such as reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs, higher employee morale, and lower employee turnover.
Still, health and wellness doesn’t mean offering short-term solutions to long-term employee needs. It means having an organizational commitment to looking after employees. One-time events that aren’t part of a larger healthcare strategy will likely fail.
Marriott International has 200,000 employees around the world and truly believes in employee health and wellness. In fact, its CHRO, David Rodriguez, believes the wellness program helped save his life. He was diagnosed with leukemia and through Marriott’s TakeCare program was able to successfully make it through chemotherapy while learning new habits that helped put him in a better physical and mental place. Health and wellness is a unified goal that starts at the top with the CEO of Marriott International and spreads to presidents across every geography. These executives are tasked with helping employees take advantage of the various programs, including everything from physical fitness classes to online courses, to financial planning assistance to getting involved with local community efforts. In turn, Marriott sees employees becoming more committed to the company and what it stands for.
Health and wellness efforts do more than just keep employees strong—they also show a company’s commitment to overall employee well-being. Take a look at your existing programs to make sure it is more than just snacks and gyms. Offer health and wellness programs that employees really want, and watch the results grow.
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