Everything is now, and now is everything. The Information Age has birthed the Immediate Age. And when “now” is an expectation from clients, customers, or superiors, it can directly affect the health of the entire organization. While it might not seem that stress is a main actor in the office, it’s often the effects of the strong undertow that people underestimate. And as the war for talent heats up, the effects on the organization are quantifiable. Healthy, productive people want to work in a healthy, productive environment. Employees who feel well, work well and attract well workers. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It seems, however, that many companies are not yet on the right track to reap these benefits. According to a study by The Stress Institute of America, the vast majority of American workers show signs of stress. More than a third report harmful effects to their physical or emotional well-being, and 42 percent say job pressures are interfering with their family or personal lives. Looking at the city of Austin as a case study, a recent survey of just over 1,000 employees across seven companies found that 57 percent of the aggregate workforce ranked lowering stress in their top three desires, with over 70 percent looking to increase their energy.
While companies can’t slow the speed of business, they can mitigate the negative effects it is having on the workforce by implementing wellness – and there are major competitive advantages in doing so.
Industry leaders like Whole Foods, and fast-moving startups such as Adlucent and Spredfast, transform the stressful undertow into a first-mover advantage. These companies have taken proactive steps that are flexible, yet focused on finding a personalized benefit mix that enables employees to lower their stress levels and ultimately elevate their well-being. In fact, Spredfast sees a reduction in stress by up to 80 percent every month by bringing in wellness activities for their employees.
It’s impossible to ignore the direct correlation between wellness benefits and their effects on recruiting and retention. According to the 2012 MetLife U.S. Employee Benefits Trend Study, 43 percent of employees strongly agree that benefits are one of the reasons they chose their employer, and 50 percent strongly agree that it is also the reason they’d like to remain with their current employer. Those are some powerful numbers.
The benefits go beyond recruiting and retention, too. The day to day operations of a company can see improvements by elevated employee wellness. A 2010 study done at Harvard reviewing 36 corporate wellness programs reported that for every dollar large employers spent on wellness programs, the companies’ absenteeism-related costs fell about $2.73. Furthermore, companies saw their medical costs fall about $3.27 for every dollar invested. The hard numbers are there.
So how can companies get started getting well?
Be So Good That Employees Fight To Stay
In Jim Collins’ highly acclaimed book “Good To Great,” he highlights the strength that making employees a priority can bring to an organization in a case study about the steel company Nucor. Nucor was competing to be the top steel producer in the world, and they did one thing differently that gave them an unbeatable competitive edge. They made strong employee unity and support a non-negotiable ingredient. This came to life in programs such as granting each employee’s child $2,000 towards their continued education after high school, including all 7,000 employee names on their quarterly reports, and removing hierarchy from their management systems to promote peer to peer communication and trust. The results were astounding. While their competitor was suffering from strikes, Nucor’s employees chased union organizers out of the building because they were so loyal to their company. Imagine if an organization in the talent war in Texas had that kind of retention power. They would be unstoppable. There would be less re-training of new employees, greater efficiencies from long-term team members who have the opportunity to make breakthrough innovations after years of understanding the company mechanics, and more.
Uncover Opportunity Through Honest Communication
The most important step in launching a successful corporate wellness program is frequently skipped or underestimated—and that is opening up an honest dialogue to determine what wellness really means for the office. This step is critical because, more often than not, it’s clear that wellness isn’t clear at all. Surveys have shown that “Increasing Energy” is a consistent employee desire, and “Mindfulness and Meditation” is a top requested topic of education. These are topics that an office gatekeeper might not typically think of. To find these hidden growth opportunities, companies need to enable employees to share their desires and worries with anonymity, and in a supportive environment. Think surveys or forums. Not only does a survey offer quantifiable, actionable data, it then allows executive teams to see the most promising opportunities to invest in with specific tools and services to improve company culture.
No Big Budget Required
Talk to Andres Traslavina, Global Head of Recruiting at Whole Foods Market, and he’ll tell companies that making employees matter doesn’t need to mean spending tens of thousands of dollars, it can be as simple as taking the time to learn what a person is passionate about. Talk to Vicki Parsons, Director of the Butler Community School for Ballet Austin, and she’ll communicate the power of taking a five minute walking or stretching break in the middle of the day. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to send out a company-wide meeting invitation for a walking break. Twice a month, RealMassive brings in yoga for their team. Black Locus has designated relax rooms with foam rollers to support their employees taking a mental break and checking in with themselves. All of these tactics require a small investment for quite a big return.
Experiment Until You Find Success
Every company will have a different recipe for success, and it’s not always apparent from the start. For example, some companies might find that they have an employee base heavily skewed female, and they have questions about mothering program options. Other companies bring chair-massage to the office once a week resulting in random, team member high fives in the hallways.
As Jim Collins related in Good to Great, “…when you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results.” Discipline means doing the right thing every time, even when it’s not easy. Doing the right thing for the team – that is the new definition of wellness. And it is breeding a whole host of companies who are doing very, very well.
Melanie Weinberger is the founder of Austin-based Fit Steady, a company that helps offices build the foundation of a healthy culture. She’s also the founder and Executive Producer of WELL, an HRCI accredited corporate wellness conference that is educating companies on how to elevate the health of their organization. Visit www.fitsteadywellness.com andwww.welltransformation.comto learn more.
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