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Improving Workplace Well-Being Is Crucial for a Winning Culture

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Providing employee well-being programs to jumpstart health and perfomance goes a long way for companies struggling with low morale.

To develop happier, healthier and more productive workers, incorporating wellness programs should be a top priority for managers and executives.

“We look beyond health and take a whole-person approach to well-being,” explains Henry Albrecht, CEO of the corporate wellness technology company Limeade. “This means promoting physical, emotional, financial and workplace well-being — basically, all of the interconnected parts of well-being.”

Whole-person well-being

“We started in 2006 with this crazy idea to measure and improve well-being in the workplace. We talked about resilience and mindfulness, and how a sense of team could make you happier and more engaged at work. Ultimately, we knew having higher well-being would lead to great business results. That idea was a bit early in 2006, but today the best companies in the world embrace it.”

Statistics show mental illness has a broader impact on health and productivity costs than cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease combined. Mental illnesses cost employers and the American economy not only in direct health care costs, but also through loss of productivity, absenteeism and disability. Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, says untreated employee depression contributes to loss of engagement and effectiveness in work performance, and greater risk to the company.

“Employers need to take a more active approach to help support employees who may be struggling with issues such as depression and anxiety. They need to educate their workforces about how to recognize potential issues, and how to effectively guide them to resources that can help. This is particularly important for those who are most directly involved in performance and people management, such as HR and supervisors.”

Thompson notes, “Employers should break the silence on mental health, so that people who need help will seek help.”

Supporting the whole employee

In addition to whole-person well-being, Albrecht stresses the importance of having organizational support for well-being.

“Organizational support describes how an organization intentionally encourages well-being improvement. This can include things like processes and how employees can manage their own schedule, how leaders in the company model well-being or even how the organization rewards well-being. We’ve found that both the whole-person approach and organizational support are essential. You can’t just have one or the other. You need both to have a successful program with great business results.”

“Individuals have never had so much opportunity to improve their well-being, thanks to the efforts and initiatives their employers are taking,” says Brian Marcotte, president & CEO of National Business Group on Health. “Successful well-being initiatives attract employees by helping them achieve their own goals.”

Marcotte says employers can promote well-being by offering healthy food/vending/meeting policies, water stations, open stairwells, walking paths, stretch breaks, sit-to-stand desks and ergonomically designed workstations. Fitness classes, on-site fitness centers, the use of Fitbits and weight management programs can also be effective.

An increasing number of employers are also taking steps to assess employees’ financial well-being, by surveying employees or tracking indicators, such as the growth in employee 401(k) loans. In follow-up, they may offer online or group courses and access to a personal investment advisor.

“The business payoff takes many forms,” says Marcotte, “including improved recruitment and retention, better employee engagement, higher net promoter scores, lower medical and workers comp costs and other industry-specific business outcomes.”

“Employers can’t just treat people like cogs in their machines. It’s about building social connections and community, encouraging people to take care of their physical and emotional well-being and making sure they’re not stressed about money or work, so that they can focus on doing great work and show up energized for work.”

An employee from one Limeade client, UnityPoint Health, remarks, “It’s a partnership. I’m there to better the company and not just my pocketbook, and they’re there to better me, and not just their bottom line.”

Smart technology also plays a significant role

According to Albrecht, “Having smart, mobile game-like experiences that people want to use versus punitive or boring HR programs that they have to use is really important. This means technology where employees can choose their own goals, earn points and rewards and challenge themselves and others to improve.

“We deliver a ‘smart start’ approach that gets people up and running quickly with our best practices. Our software does most of the heavy lifting to make that work. We have some great customer success people who guide employers in ways that will work for the specific culture of that company, while leveraging all of our best practices we’ve accumulated over the past decade.”

Well-being as a KPI

“Companies are still bottom-line driven,” states Albrecht, “but they’re starting to see that caring about their people drives great results. We know employees are 38 percent more engaged at work when they feel like their company cares.

Committed to measurably improving well-being in the world, Albrecht and his colleagues recognize the significance of well-being as a business key performance indicator.

“My dream is that CEOs will be compensated based on a well-being score, the same way they have revenue growth, earnings per share or employee engagement metrics. We believe well-being is actually the driver of all other business results. We’re designing dashboard reports with real-time data to show these connections between well-being and real business results.

“One of the new dashboard reports reveals how participation in the Limeade well-being program connects to employee turnover. By identifying areas with high and low turnover, HR leaders know where they need to boost their well-being program to reduce potential turnover.

“What’s more exciting is the future of analytics powered by machine learning. Based on this new turnover dashboard, we’re exploring how to predict employee turnover a year in advance at the aggregate level, just by looking at that data.”

High well-being vs. low well-being

According to new research cited in the “2016 Well-Being & Engagement Report” conducted by Limeade and Quantum Workplace, 83 percent of employees with high well-being enjoy their work, compared with 41 percent for those with low well-being. Further, 91 percent of employees with high well-being intend to stay at the company for a year versus 55 percent who don’t.

It’s also worth noting that of the employees with both high well-being and organizational support, 99 percent recommend their company as a great place to work.

The Limeade Institute conducts research, establishes market points of views and keeps track of the latest employee well-being and engagement research and trends. Researchers include organizational psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, psychometricians, business insights experts and data scientists.

“We have some great customer success people who guide employers in ways that will work for the specific culture of that company, while leveraging all of our best practices we’ve accumulated over the past decade.

Albrecht adds, “The best way to drive real employee engagement is by taking a whole person approach, and coupling that with a real organizational commitment to well-being. That’s the secret sauce to business.”

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