Wellness means ensuring an employee’s total well-being is taken care of. Sarah Ducott from Insight talks about how to keep employees engaged at work while lowering their stress and providing work/life balance. Listen or read more to find out how these programs work.
John: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Sarah Ducott, Account Manager at Insight, a human resources and employee benefits consulting firm based in Massachusetts, with offices in Dedham and Beverly. Today, we’re talking about wellness. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah: Thanks, John. Glad to be here.
John: Sarah, wellness seems to be a hot topic these days, but what actually is wellness?
Sarah: Wellness has evolved into a culture of total well-being. It’s not only just seen as the physical anymore, but also the emotional, financial, and professional side of things. Finding that balance is really the meaning of well-being right now. A lot of times, we bring the stresses of our everyday lives into the office and it creates a lack of efficiency — and productivity is lost. When employers bring in wellness into the office place, they’re showing that balance and that they care that you have a life outside the office and vice versa.
John: You said that it’s more of a total well-being thing, whereas we used to maybe think of wellness as being more of — that you have a gym at the office that you can go to and workout or something like that — it’s more than that now.
Sarah: Absolutely. The stresses of finances or picking your child up from daycare, a sports event or school really impact your health and your overall wellness itself. A lot of times, we spend time at work doing our finances or paying bills, looking for daycare or services like that, and when you have resources at the office that ease that hassle, it really helps bring the employee back into the office and into the workspace.
John: All right. Why are employers seeing this as something that’s important to their organization?
Sarah: Productivity, longevity, and stability are really the driving factors of this trend. Employers want happy employees; and when they’re contributing to that through the corporate culture, employees see that and appreciate that. It brings in this element of respect from both the employer to the employee, and the employee to the employer. You’re really building that ability to gain that relationship again.
John: What’s causing this need?
Sarah: It’s apparent in the market that there’s been a significant shift in how much of the workplace views employment and their employers. Employees are no longer staying at one or two companies for their entire career, they’re really jumping around and realizing that, “Well, if I’m not happy here, I’ll just go to the next place”. There isn’t that loyalty and length of service that, traditionally, was in the workplace.
Employers are using wellness as a means of gaining that back, bringing the employee back into that idea of, “Well, I’m really happy here, so I’m going to stay here”. The cost of training, hiring, and recruiting is really expensive, so keeping that employee happy and in their place is really — financially — great for the employer.
John: So, anything that can keep an employee happy will potentially keep them from leaving and going to a different company, and that’s a good thing in the long run?
Sarah: Absolutely. With millennials, essentially, we grew up in a time of instant gratification. If we’re not reaping the benefit of something pretty quickly, we get bored or lose interest. Something along those lines of your 401K program — not as many millennials are excited about that anymore. They’re actually much more excited about a Student Loan Assistance Program or something along those lines, where they’re actually seeing in their paycheck, “Well, I don’t have to pay towards that this month”. Or, ”It’s smaller out of my pocket right now”.
A lot of them don’t care about their retirement, they just want to travel or do whatever right now. I think that’s one of those financial instances where that could be a wellness benefit that you don’t really think of as wellness, but financially, you’re helping that employee and they’re not as stressed out about what they’re paying their bills or whatnot.
John: What are some things that companies can do to address this shift and change in the way that employees are viewing their employers and loyalty?
Sarah: Some companies may not even realize that they’re practicing wellness because of that idea that it was just the physical fitness side of things. For a long time, it was seen as, “Well, we’ll do a walking challenge or do a health assessment to see where our employees are at, and then, hopefully, that will bring our medical premium down”. However, any perk or practice that gives employees balance and the ability to stress less is exhibiting wellness and the concern for an employee’s well-being.
That is what employees want: an employer that cares about them. Every employee has a life outside of the company that is still happening while they’re at work. Making that juggle between the personal and the professional a little bit easier can really impact an employee’s life and create a more productive and motivated member of your team. That’s really the basis of what well-being is: How can we keep our employee focused and in the moment? And if they’re not, how can we help them get back there?
John: What’s the process for a company in implementing a wellness program?
Sarah: It doesn’t take implementing an expansive or exhaustive wellness program to show employees that you care. Our company, for example, we’re not very large, but our wellness initiatives that we partake in all the time or we do — we have a water cooler with healthy snacks around it, so we always look at what’s convenient and they make something convenient for us that’s also benefiting us. Walking in hydration challenges — our walking program got pretty competitive and it was a great team building event as well, so the morale was boosted with everyone.
Every Wednesday, we do a wellness email, just a reminder to people that, “Hey, check in with yourself. If you’re feeling stressed or if you need a break, take a walk, just get away for a minute”. Because a lot of what wellness programs do in showing that you care about their well-being is back to that respect and, “Well, my employer respects me and will give me that wiggle room. Well, I’m going to work harder for them to prove to them that I deserve that and earn it”. It’s a dual respect where, “I’ll give them a little space but also, I won’t take too much of it”.
John: You’ve mentioned that wellness programs can also include financial or professional aspects. Could you maybe talk a little bit about what some of those things might be?
Sarah: Financial, it goes back to more of the student loan assistance, having free services — that a lot of employers already have through other lines of coverage, whether it’s an EAP program (an employee assistance program) or a well-prep assistance program, just knowing what resources you actually have. Professionally, having a flexible schedule, knowing that if you have to leave a little early to pick up your kid, as long as you get the work done, the work’s getting done.
Sitting in your desk from 8:30 to 5:00 p.m. every day doesn’t create a healthy work environment and often, creates quite a crabby employee. Or, having standing desks, knowing that employees are going to socialize a little bit, not all day, but having those interactions is really important for employees’ morale and their intentions at work.
John: Even creating a space that allows them to do that. I know a lot of companies have open spaces, but they have places set up that are a little bit more set up like a living room almost, with a couple of couches and a table or a place where some employees could gather and, like you said, have a little healthy snack or something like that and socialize around the water cooler without feeling like they’re doing something wrong by taking a few minutes out of their day.
Sarah: Right, absolutely. Because we do — we spend most of our time at work or our waking hours. Knowing that you’re in a place that respects that and really fosters that socialization, productivity, and getting work done, really creates a happy employee.
John: I think that sounds like that’s what these wellness programs are really all about, is showing your employees that you care, that you care about all aspects of their lives, whether it’s their home/work/life balance or the fact that they’re doing healthy eating, that they’re maybe getting some exercise but that they’re also taking care of their financial responsibilities as well, helping them with those sorts of things. All of those types of things create a happy employee and an employee that will be working for you for years to come.
John: All right. Well, that’s great information, Sarah. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Sarah: Thanks, John.
John: For more information, visit InsightPerformance.com or call 781-326-8201.