While work has an overall positive impact on mental health, it is also a common source of stress, which can lead to depression and anxiety as well as other serious health issues. A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating patterns have become synonymous with the modern-day lifestyle of the average employee, which steers people further away from performing at their full potential.

CEOS are ranking their workforce as the third strategic business priority in 2022, preceded only by growth and technology. Lessons from The Great Resignation and other factors are clear indicators that wellbeing at work is no longer a perk, but has now become integrated into the strategy of many businesses.

In this article we will explore six factors that make corporate wellness programmes effective: Leadership, Alignment, Purpose, Accessibility, Partnerships & Communications, have attributed to the success of the uptake of the programmes, which translated in a high return of investment.

Let’s begin by taking a look at one organisation who committed to having the healthiest workforce in the world:

Case-Study: Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson were one of the pioneers of health and wellness programmes, which they kicked off in the mid-eighties by rewarding employees who signed up for health risk assessments. 

They employ 142,000 employees worldwide, and continued moving forward through challenging times. Their philosophy that “good health is the foundation of vibrant lives, thriving communities and forward progress” starts from the employees and extends to their work with the rest of humanity.

Their programme kept evolving throughout the years, and is now adapted to the modern age, when we know that health assessments alone do not work. However, a combination of practical education, coaching, team challenges and providing the infrastructure to support it, does.

They found themselves not only saving on healthcare costs (2.5 per cent lower than industry average) but also enjoying higher levels of motivation, which translated into productivity and lower rates of voluntary turnover from employees worldwide.

“You have to have the basic belief that investment in your employees is the best way to ensure their long-term commitment and resiliency. You have to be committed to it for the long run because it’s the right thing to do.”

Peter Fasolo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Johnson & Johnson

How they do it:

  • Help employees discover and maximise their energy resources through professional courses which analyse what works for them and what they can do better.
  • Promote healthy eating by making fresh fruit and salads widely available. 80 per cent of what is served in the Johnson & Johnson office cafeterias is healthy.
  • Create healthy challenges and link them with a meaningful goal. They ran a global step challenge where the winning team would choose the charitable organisation to donate to that year.
  • Set a movement/microbreak culture by encouraging walking meetings and regular microbursts to get sedentary workers out of their chairs. Starting with coaching their employees to see the big picture, that they CAN leave their desk and workload for a five-minute reset…
  • Provide professional coaching to help employees change a behaviour, such as better eating, stopping smoking or targeting particular health issues.

Effective wellness programme study

Before the pandemic, when wellness was considered an ‘extra’, HBR ran a study across 10 organisations who had wellness programmes in place, and interviewed 300 CEOs and CFOs to analyse what worked and what didn’t. It was already clear that onsite gyms and healthy lunch days were not enough.

These are the top six traits that made a corporate wellness programme effective, which are still very relevant today:

1. Health culture starts in the C-suite

When the CEO is initiating walking meetings, others will be encouraged to do it themselves rather than limiting them exclusively to the boardroom. HOD’s are empowered to sustain their team’s wellness goals aligned with the organisational culture. Wellness programme managers are needed to develop and coordinate the right programme for the organisation. When voluntary wellness champions were appointed, it helped them stay close to the employees and keep the programme relevant and fresh.

2. Stretching not leaping

Aligning the wellness programme to the current culture is extremely important. While it needs to have a goal for growth, big sudden changes are often rejected by both the leadership and the employees. The most effective wellness programmes are well planned and integrated gradually into the organisation. Rewarding measures works better than restriction in the long run. If there’s a plan to encourage healthy eating, including healthy snacks at a subsidised cost is better than just removing the snack machine.

3. Purpose and relevance

Wellbeing stretches far beyond a person’s physical state. Education and support on managing mental health is crucial, particularly for roles which are associated with high levels of stress.

Getting an assessment of the health levels and lifestyles of your employees through surveys or interviews is the foundation to build a suitable programme based on what they need that will engage them. Nobody is motivated to work out in a dingy gym with rusty equipment. Similarly, whatever is implemented needs to be of good quality to match the company’s purpose and include an element of freshness and fun!

4. Accessibility

Convenience is key. A good wellness programme that complements our lifestyle rather than adding stress to it will increase its uptake. If a wellness activity is scheduled on a weekend, extending an invite to family members (even on payment) can encourage attendance and create an opportunity for team bonding. Fruit in the office kitchen instead of cookie jars will help employees make a healthier snack choice.

5. Partnerships

Teaming up with expert wellness providers: providing feedback, training or coaching the team, or providing a specific wellbeing service or activity, additionally helps organisations by getting an outside/in perspective. Internal partnerships are also very powerful. For instance, when the wellness team partners with the top leadership team, it can help wellness programmes gain credibility with the right top-down endorsement.

6. Communications

Wellbeing can be a delicate subject for some individuals, particularly those who feel they are not in a good state of wellbeing, which can cause unease and resistance. The messages need to be powerful yet neutral, and be in line with the company language. The format should also be one that employees respond to best, eg. visible posters with positive messages vs short videos they can consume in their own time.

In summary

It is clear that poor health comes at a high cost to companies in terms of absenteeism, loss of productivity and low morale, which directly impact performance, growth, innovation and resilience.

It also impacts employee branding: 89 per cent of employees would recommend companies that support wellbeing initiatives. Turnover is generally lower in companies that have a good wellbeing programmes in place. In exit interviews at the Financial Company Nelnet, who have a strong wellness culture, employees repeatedly state that the wellness programme is the one thing they’ll miss!

If you would like to improve wellbeing at work, our team of business and wellness coaches can help you through interactive training, coaching and specialised workshops. Contact us on academy@upyourlevel.com or visit upyourlevel.com to set up a chat.








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