Workplace Wellness Programs Linked to Increased Productivity: Here’s Why

Are you looking for ways to help your team members become more productive? If so, it may be time to introduce a workplace wellness program for employees.

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Are you looking for ways to help your team members become more productive? If so, it may be time to introduce a workplace wellness program for employees.

While you likely know that workplace wellness programs offer many benefits to organizations and individuals (such as reduced absenteeism and health insurance costs), the impact of these programs on an employee’s productivity may surprise you.

An August 2017 study carried out by the University of California Riverside found that companies offering employee wellness programs saw a significant gain in productivity among workers. Researchers studied a wellness program and found that all employees who participated improved productivity an average of one full workday per month!

In a work world where studies suggest the average worker is productive for only about 3 hours a day, boosting productivity is a key goal for many businesses. Understanding how workplace wellness initiatives help improve productivity can help you introduce programs or opportunities to improve employee wellness and boost productivity too.

Why Employee Wellness Suffers In Today’s Workplace

The wellbeing of today’s employees suffers due to the enormous impact our workplaces have on our lives.

According to Dr. Jodi Ashbrook, founder of The Yoga Movement and ELEVATE Higher Ed, a performance coaching service for colleges and universities, finding zen amidst the corporate chaos can feel nearly impossible in an office setting. “The ‘Always On’ phenomenon, including email marathons, back-to-back meetings, and long commutes thrown into the mix creates an ongoing demand for wellness tools and best practices to help manage stress, anxiety, and frustration on a daily basis,” she says.

And in a work environment that demands increasingly more from employees to keep pace with accelerating technology and higher expectations, stress can have a negative impact on wellbeing and on productivity.

“The average person spends the majority of their life at work, and about half of the population cites work as their biggest stressor,” says Dr. Ellie Cobb, a Manhattan-based holistic psychologist, researcher, and author. Cobb says that bringing wellness into the workplace has become more important than ever as the workplace becomes increasingly demanding. “Fortunately, research across numerous industries has found that increased satisfaction at work is directly linked with increased productivity,” she says, adding that workplace wellness programs have been found to effectively increase productivity due to this link between satisfaction and productivity. “Basically, workplace wellness programs engenders happier employees, and happy employees work harder and more efficiently.”

Related: Workplace Wellness Programs: Worth it?

How Workplace Wellness Programs Boost Productivity

Wellness is more than simply enjoying an illness-free life. Wellness programs support employees’ physical, mental, and financial health, says Dallas, Texas-based corporate wellness practitioner and Registered Dietician Caroline Susie.

“When employees needs are met and/or [employees] are provided resources for success via a wellness program, employers see high engagement, morale, presenteeism, retention, and in most cases, improved health outcomes,” she says. So how does this translate to improved productivity?

“Productivity is complex: there’s absenteeism, presenteeism (being physically present on the job but being mentally distracted), and the effects of employee turnover,” explains Dr. Martha Menard, a Charleston, South Carolina-based behavioral health scientist, author, and researcher. “Wellness programs, including financial wellness programs, help increase productivity by reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, and by retaining employees,” she explains. “A good wellness program can help employees get and stay healthier physically and emotionally.” Menard says these programs can result in employees taking fewer sick days, feeling less stressed at work and being more focused on the task at hand. “It encourages employee engagement and loyalty,” she says. “Bottom line–healthy and happy employees are more productive employees.”

What to Look For in an Employee Wellness Program

Although enterprise businesses have a wide variety of wellness programs to choose from, if boosting productivity is one of your goals, pay close attention to what each program offers.

“A wellness program aimed to increase productivity should offer everyday, accessible tools for employees to manage their time more effectively, and release negativity and anxiety that often hinders focus,” says Ashbrook. She says workplaces should also offer opportunities for employees to visualize “the larger picture” that might inspire them to work smarter, not harder in their roles to feel accomplished. “Passion fuels productivity, as people will attain more goals if they believe in their business purpose,” she says.

Menard advises reviewing how effectively the wellness program accommodates customization for employees. “Individualization to meet people ‘where they’re at’ is critical–we know from research that one-size-fits-all approaches don’t work,” she says. “Some form of personal coaching is critical–people need support, encouragement, and accountability to really succeed at changing behaviors and building better habits.”

Cobb says that whatever program you choose, simply highlighting the importance of wellness in your workplace can have a positive impact.

“Many workplace wellness programs exist, and the literature shows that any emphasis on wellness will boost satisfaction, and therefore productivity, at work,” she says. “ This should encourage employers to implement even some degree of wellness initiative in their companies. The more robustly the wellness initiative permeates the company, the more benefit the company will see.”

When A Workplace Wellness Program Isn’t Possible

Not all businesses are in a position to offer a full-service employee wellness program, however this isn’t an “all or nothing” endeavor. “While many companies are creating entire wellness initiatives or even using wellness, positive psychology, and holistic principles to build their business, many companies want to infuse some wellness without a full overhaul,” says Cobb. “Many ways to implement wellness into the workplace exist.

Our experts suggest doing whatever you can to help improve your employees’ well-being with an eye to boosting productivity.

“Offering virtual or live workshops on a quarterly basis with expert guest speakers that can offer tools and takeaways in between sessions is a great way to provide workplace wellness education without committing to a full-time or in-house program offering,” says Ashbrook.

The support of leadership, however, is key to success when it comes to any time of workplace wellness activity.

“Employers must have buy-in from the top down,” says Susie, explaining that creating a culture of wellness is necessary for the success of any program.

“Having leadership not just talk the talk but walk the walk is imperative,” she advises. And this means encouraging wellness in the workplace through multiple avenues, even if you don’t implement a formal wellness program.

Related: How Company Culture is Directly Related to Productivity

“Promoting wellness can be done through HR, internal wellness champions, medical carriers, and/or nonprofits like American Heart Association Worksite Wellness program or American Diabetes Association Wellness Lives Here program,” she suggests. “All can collaborate together without hiring a vendor.”

One simple and practical method of promoting workplace wellness is to encourage physical activity, says Menard. “At our office we have scheduled times to plank for 90 seconds, and almost everyone participates,” she says. “ Some people take an afternoon walk, or leave a little early to go to the gym.”

According to Cobb, providing mindfulness training to employees is associated with increased satisfaction and productivity, and overall enhanced work culture and climate.

“Implementing mindfulness in a workplace could be as widespread as having a training program for employees, starting meetings with a mindfulness exercise, offering lunchtime meditation groups, or simply offering to pay for their meditation app,” she says.

Wellness also has a strong educational component, so offer your staff the opportunity to learn about physical, mental, financial and emotional well-being by hosting “lunch and learn” sessions in your workplace.

“Inviting wellness experts to come speak to employees is a good way to signal the company’s value of health and provide employees with cutting-edge information,” says Cobb. She also suggests promoting convenient healthier eating options. “Partnering with healthy food delivery subscription companies to offer employees options for nutritious eating is a double bonus, as nutrition is also associated with increased productivity and mood.”

Whether you choose to offer a full-service wellness program for your staff or to encourage wellness activities and lifestyle choices in the workplace, any steps you take to enhance your employees’ well-being will have a positive impact on their health, happiness, and ultimately their productivity.

Download our free eBook: Your Ultimate Guide to Workplace Wellness Programs

This post was originally published on October 31, 2017.

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