How to Infuse Employee Well-being into Teams and Organizations
Rosanny Crumpton | Sophrosyne Wellness | KNOW Charlotte
Our health and wellness have been more prevalent since experiencing Covid-19 both on an individual and organizational level. Many people have prioritized physical, mental, and emotional health and they’re wiser for it; however, we still have a long way to go.
According to the CDC, “Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease and stroke, cancer, or diabetes. These and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in America, and they are also a leading driver of health care costs.”
It’s a known fact that lifestyle changes can improve our health. Building sustainable healthy habits such as eating a balanced meal, getting good sleep, exercising, and managing stress can make all the difference in a person’s life. However, this is easier said than done.
The U.S. Department of Labor published the following statistics related to workplace stress
- Workplace stress has been reported to cause 120,000 deaths in the US each year.
- Approximately 65% of U.S. workers surveyed have characterized work as being a very significant or somewhat significant source of stress in each year from 2019-2021.
- 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress and
54% of workers report that work stress affects their home life.
- For every $1 spent on ordinary mental health concerns, employers see a $4 return in productivity gains
With health being a hot conversation topic and numbers like the above, many employers want to offer health incentives to their staff members. Some simply can’t afford the continuous turnover, they want to retain their key employees, and genuinely want to create a supportive culture and are doing so by emphasizing well-being.
As a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, I work with individuals and organizations to help promote health and well-being. Here’s how teams and organizations get it right:
1. Employee well-being systems must emphasize autonomy. While an organization should have a health and wellness action plan (more on this below), each participating employee needs to have buy-in. We each have our own individual why and it differs from the organization’s why. People’s motivating factors are different. For example, leadership may implement a companywide walking challenge competition. They provide pedometers and track number of steps weekly for a period of time. The employer may be doing this to promote health, build community, and support staff retention. With good intentions for a healthy competition among coworkers, the employee will likely choose to participate with their personal reason to do so. They want to comfortably walk their daughter down the aisle three months from now without feeling out of breath. Autonomy is essential. It can be provided by allowing participants to self-opt in on any wellness initiatives, contribute ideas to the organizational cause, lead wellness projects, and even share their why.
2. Employee well-being systems should be infused throughout the organization AKA your workplace culture. I recently met with a colleague who was hired to do some consult work for a local company. She told me that she recently had to have an uncomfortable conversation with the company CEO. She had been hired to build strategic plans for this organization. The team met on this particular day and unfortunately for that company, the boss came in and rained on the entire team’s parade. She explained to me that it wasn’t that he disagreed with the approach she pitched. It was that it became evident to the entire room that he didn’t believe in the message that he had hired her to implement. While I wasn’t in the room for this particular conversation, it reminds me of similar instances I’ve witnessed where a leader is simply contradicting the message. The company’s mission is one thing, leadership does another. The company’s belief is about inclusivity, but practice is another. When health and wellness is implemented as a company wide effort, it should be weaved into the organization- from the top-down and in between. This can be done with a checks and balance system (see more below) and regular touch points for accountability to take place.
3. Employee well-being systems must have measurable outcomes. Like any other company wide initiative, this too should be measurable. Adopt it as you do other requirements in your organization. Make it part of your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) or accreditation outcomes. Build a budget for it under staff development or whichever way it makes the most sense in the company. Make it a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, Timely) goal. Develop a health and wellness team. Appoint a leader who tracks the outcomes. Whatever you do, make it sustainable.
Like many new things, allow yourself some grace and space for trial and error. When building employee well-being support practices, you’ll want to make sure to do more than offering a wellness workshop here and there. Ask yourself how any of your actions are building sustainability and meaningful behavior change to support team members in their health and well-being. After all, work related stress impacts performance. Healthy employees equal happier more invested and productive employees.
Poll your staff anonymously to learn about their current individual challenges. Everyone’s needs are different. Align individual challenges to the organization’s systemic challenges. Be open to the variety of health and well-being support offerings, not just what you already know. And get help from experts to support you and your staff as needed.
More About Rosy
Rosy is a behavior change expert who partners with individuals and organizations to guide people through the journey of behavior change. She’s a National Board-certified Health & Wellness Coach and Duke Integrative Medicine Trained with behavioral health experience since 2005. She’s a novelist to an award- winning book published in English and Spanish. She contributes to various online and print publications that promote wellness, healing, mindfulness, and community.