Putting emphasis on employee wellness – everything from their physical to financial health – is an important aspect of running your business right.
Health and wellness are most often acquainted with things like diet, exercise and lifestyle choices that promote physical wellbeing. But true wellness includes more than the body; it extends to the mind as well. And while it’s logical for a person to be concerned about his or her health, it’s also something that should concern employers.
“Healthy employees are happier employees,” said Yolanda Turner-Williams, CEO of Down With the Pounds, which helps individuals and businesses develop plans to improve their overall health, including weight. “Having control of your physical health goes hand-in-hand with financial health, relationship health, being a better parent. You have to work on the mental part as well as the physical part.”
Down With the Pounds offers patient-specific, physician-supervised, medical weight loss programs, as well as operating a corporate wellness program. The program provides employers the tools and information to help their employees get healthy and stay healthy.
But why should employers care? Employee physical health can impact a company’s bottom line. It impacts health care and insurance costs, employee productivity and attendance and workplace morale. “I have learned in my experience that employees who are unhealthy and/or overweight are not as productive,” Turner-Williams said. “When they’re out sick, you are paying them as well as the person you have to call in to work for them or overtime to cover for people who aren’t there. So that affects the bottom line.”
Down With the Pounds will conduct a “lunch and learn” program in the workplace and provide materials to help employees learn about physical wellness, such as cookbooks with healthy recipes, help them think about making good choices, and exercises they can do at home. They also encourage businesses to build in time for their employees to exercise or have group fitness activities. “In a workplace that provides healthy food choices or opportunities to exercise, you get better output,” Turner-Williams said.
SCALE BACK ALABAMA
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MOVE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION- PHYSICAL WELLNESS SIMPLE STEPS
Encourage employees to drink more water by always having it on hand for them, either for free or a minimal cost.
Opt for fruit, nuts, salads and other healthy choices when providing office snacks and meals.
Run a “biggest loser” competition in your office.
Schedule “required” mini-breaks throughout the workday to get people standing, stretching and giving their eyes a break from computer screens.
“If my money is funny, everything in my life is out of order,” said Nakima Boleware, Vice President of Workplace Solutions for BBVA Compass, South Alabama Market. “Show me an employee who is stressed about finances, and I’ll show you an employee who is not productive.” Boleware conducts free financial wellness seminars for BBVA clients, as well as for businesses that are not customers of the bank. Each seminar typically lasts about an hour, and can be scheduled quarterly, monthly, even weekly or bi-weekly, depending on what the business needs. “If you empower your employees to be financially secure – whatever that means to them – They will be more loyal and more focused,” Boleware said.
Although each program has a general focus, such as how to handle credit or how to plan a retirement savings program, Boleware and other BBVA Workplace Solutions representatives work to address individual concerns. One of the biggest worries involves credit. “This is critical because it all goes back to worry about taking care of your family. What if there is an emergency, how are you going to handle that?” Bolware said. “For an employer, this affects productivity. If I’m not financially where I need to be, I’m going to be spending my time figuring out how to take care of my home life.”
MONEY MATTERS- FINANCIAL WELLNESS SIMPLE STEPS
Conduct an employee survey to find out their most pressing financial concerns and consider hosting a seminar or a series of “lunch and learn” events focused on their concerns.
Compile a list of free, easy to use budgeting and financial literacy tools to distribute to employees, and remember to look beyond just saving for retirement. Controlling credit is a big issue for many.
Consider a program that includes real accountability for establishing good financial habits.
Be open. Make it clear that you or someone else in your office is accessible and available if employees need to talk about financial concerns.
Professional development and continual learning are key components for employee wellbeing and productivity at all stages of their career. Both employees and employers need to be intentional about setting goals and making professional progress a priority. But it doesn’t have to be expensive or even formal training. “You don’t have to have money to do this,” said Sharleen Smith, Director of Professional Development, Continuing Education and Outreach for Troy University. “Help employees set a plan for themselves. For example, I set a plan for myself, and I read a book a month, or read 12 articles online that have to do with an area I am challenged with. If you have the internet, there’s really not an excuse for not developing yourself, and usually it’s free.”
Dr. Yulanda Tyre, Assistant Vice Chancellor Student Affairs and Director Counseling and Health Promotion Services for Auburn University at Montgomery, encourages work teams to actively look for articles and educational journals or join or create a professional ListServ and share the information. Webinars are also a good, inexpensive way to gain professional development.
Even with a small budget, Smith encourages companies to give employees the opportunity for professional development outside the office as well. “I may hear a speaker, or even someone next to me at the luncheon talk about something I haven’t thought about. That’s where I see a lot of growth.”
Smith notes that in today’s world, knowledge changes every three months, and in medical and technical fields, may change as often as every three weeks. “People have to start focusing more on their career development,” she said. “Our world is changing so fast, it can leave people behind.”
IT IS WELL, AT WORK- CAREER WELLNESS SIMPLE STEPS
Get employee input on challenges or learning curves they are facing and the programs and opportunities they’d like for you to provide.
Encourage involvement and participation in continuing education programs with rewards and by celebrating goals reached and other milestones.
Be welcoming. Make sure employees know they have someone in the office to go to when they want to talk about pursuing learning opportunities.
Including mental health in overall wellness is becoming a priority, as millions of Americans are impacted by mental health conditions every year. “Corporate America has been connecting the dot between the mental health and wellness of their employees, and its direct correlation with productivity and even the success of their organization,” said Janeese Lowry Spencer, the founder and executive director of Venture Life Coaching.
“This increased awareness has heightened the importance and necessity for employers to be well informed of the most common mental health issues facing their employees.”
According to Spencer, when employers prioritize the mental health of their employees, they can reduce challenges like absenteeism, tardiness, co-worker conflict, poor work quality, apathy, dissatisfied customers and more, and it all starts with creating a healthy work environment, something Spencer says requires thought. “Without a strategic plan, this will not happen,” she said.
MIND OVER PROTOCOL- MENTAL WELLNESS SIMPLE STEPS
Prioritize intentional care and service by providing opportunities for learning about mental health issues, expressing care affirmation, and encouragement, providing a work environment that is clean and welcoming and by being attuned to the stress levels of your teams.
Push a team approach. Employees thrive in a culture where they are included and where there is camaraderie. Small changes in language can bring significant positive environmental shifts, like shifting from first person pronouns like “I, me, and my” to collective pronouns like “we, us, and ours.”
Choose growth by welcoming creative and innovative ideas and embracing challenges and risks and placing a high value on investing in their employees’ professional and personal development.