Corporate wellness has become a hot topic - a necessity for companies to attract and retain employees, but also a cost for HR teams who sometimes struggle to see direct benefits from it.
A recent article from Deloitte highlighted that despite the huge amount of money thrown at corporate wellness programs (an estimated US$10.5 million a year), burnout rates are still increasing, and employees are still feeling stressed in the workplace. Why is that, and are there better ways to do it?
What are corporate wellness programs?
Corporate wellness programs are initiatives that companies implement to support and improve the health & well-being of their employees. They typically include activities and resources designed to promote physical activity, support mental health & reduce the risks of illnesses and injuries. They are often advertised during the hiring process, but also as an employee retention tool - while the HR department is benefiting from it through, supposedly, higher retention rates.
What is the issue with most corporate wellness programs?
1. Corporate wellness programs are too often designed to tick HR boxes
Corporate wellness has become a requirement for most companies as they seek to attract younger talent who place a higher value on well-being and work/life balance than previous generations. However, HR departments often struggle to find or create programs that truly meet the needs and desires of employees.
It's not that HR departments have bad intentions - they simply lack the resources, time, and insights needed to create effective programs that resonate with their workforce. It can be a daunting task to try and please everyone, but it's important to keep in mind that the success of these programs hinges on how well they meet the needs of employees. By taking the time to truly understand what employees want and need, companies can create programs that are not only effective but also enjoyable for their workforce.
2. Corporate wellness programs are seen as a cost-saving initiative, and rarely get sufficient funding
Unfortunately, many corporate wellness programs don't live up to expectations due to being underfunded or understaffed. This can be a major letdown for employees, who should be at the heart of these programs. After all, well-designed and engaging activities come at a cost, and companies shouldn't skimp on providing their employees with the resources they need to truly thrive.
Moreover, most programs only focus on one or two aspects of wellness, like physical activity and having fun, while neglecting other important aspects, such as nutrition, stress management, relaxation, recovery, and even social and financial wellbeing. To truly improve the wellness of employees, companies should take a holistic approach and provide resources that cover all aspects of wellness, not just the most visible ones.
3. Innovative ideas are hard to find
Most companies would use and reuse the same ideas - discounts on gym memberships, a few workshops a year around health-related topics, and an occasional day out with the entire team. If this is a good start, it is far from being enough to have any durable effects for the employees - nor instilate the idea that the company really cares about their wellbeing.
Because of all these reasons, it is easy to see why many employees don’t engage in the corporate wellness programs’ activities they get access to.
Often an afterthought or a box to tick, corporate wellness programs are often perceived as not being sufficient and effective.
How can we make corporate wellness programs better?
1. Spending more time to understand what the employees want when it comes to corporate wellness
To create successful corporate wellness programs, it's important to put yourself in the shoes of employees. They want to take care of their physical health, which means having access to gym memberships, health screenings, and nutrition education. But it's not just about physical health; mental health is just as important. Programs like counselling services, stress management, and meditation classes can help employees balance the demands of work and their personal lives.
But let's not forget about convenience - employees want the flexibility to participate in wellness programs on their own schedules.
Corporate wellness activities should not eat into employees’ personal time - employees might not be willing to participate in activities during their lunch breaks, after work hours, or on weekends.
To ensure that they stay engaged with the programs, it's important to make room for activities during working hours. Happier employees are more productive, so investing this way in their wellness is a win-win situation.
2. More team-based activities, with no importance given to the hierarchy
Corporate wellness programs are a fantastic opportunity to bring employees together and encourage a sense of community that time spent in the office often fails to generate.
Organizing team-based activities with randomly assigned teams is an excellent way to break the usual barriers and help employees, including newcomers & interns, make connections within your organization.
Disregarding job titles and status in these activities is also recommended, as it brings back the human factor that can be lost in usually drier, solely business-focused interactions.
Better social support and an increased sense of community lead to better work conditions, and a higher employee retention rate over time.
For example, gathering employees in teams of 4 and giving them a common objective to achieve as a team will encourage the team to communicate and support one another, especially if teams are having some friendly competition against each other, with the potential of getting rewarded if they win.
3. More engaging and creative activities
Corporate wellness as we know it has been around for a few years now, and it can sometimes be difficult to come up with innovative ideas.
Here are some examples of creative activities some companies have successfully implemented:
Office Yoga: Bringing in a yoga instructor to lead a class during the workday can be a great way to break up the routine and get employees moving.
Walking Meetings: Instead of sitting in a conference room, encourage employees to take their meetings outside and walk and talk. It's a great way to get some fresh air and exercise while still being productive.
Cooking Classes: instead of a nutrition talk, host a cooking class where employees can learn new recipes and cooking techniques that promote healthy eating.
Guided Meditation or gong bath session: Offer meditation sessions to help employees manage stress and improve their focus.
Volunteer Opportunities: Organize a company-wide volunteer day where employees can give back to the community while also bonding with their colleagues.
Fitness Challenges: Set up fitness challenges or competitions to encourage employees to get moving and have fun while doing it. To make it more inclusive and accessible, what about hosting a month-long collective challenge, in which each employee can take part as and when they please? At District, we focus on creating immersive experiences for teams of all sizes - we could provide your team with ideas to engage your teams locally and across offices.