Benefits and perks are an ever-evolving arms race in the technology workplace, as organizations strive to meet employee needs and stand out in the eyes of jobseekers. The “wellness program” phenomenon isn’t just a shiny perk, though – it is a tool that serves employees and drives business results.
In the tech world, wellness programs are crucial as many in the industry tend to work long hours, sit at a desk much of the day, and thrive on challenge. An effective program can yield a whole host of benefits for your tech teams, from improved productivity to heightened engagement and creativity.
According to TechRepublic, “A good wellness program energizes your team, which fosters their creativity…. Whether they do web design or software development, techies have to continually think outside the box – and when they do, your company is more profitable.”
Given the physical conditions and mental demands of many technology roles, your organization’s concept of a “wellness program” should go beyond just physical well-being. It’s critical to address a broad range of employee well-being issues and strive to engage employees in participation so that everyone reaps the benefits.
Healthy Employees, Healthy Business
Personal health plays a critical role in the life of any employee, and the health of each individual has an effect on your organization. “Well-being reflects the whole person,” says Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management and well-being. “The whole person comes to work, not just the worker.”
According to Zane Benefits, employees who eat healthy are 25% more likely to have higher job performance, and employees who exercise at least three times a week are 15% more likely to have higher job performance. In addition, absenteeism is 27% lower for employees who eat healthy and exercise.
“New research suggests that wellness is an extremely powerful element that can play a significant role in employee engagement, productivity, talent retention, and creativity,” says Kristi Welch, VP of Client Services at FitThumb.com.
The Productivity Drain
Unhealthy employees can have an adverse effect on your organization. They are less productive and have higher turnover rates. Sick employees are more likely to miss work, and incur higher healthcare costs. However, absent employees aren’t the biggest drain on productivity.
Presenteeism, a situation in which employees are physically present at work but unable to perform at full capacity due to illness, creates a greater drain on productivity than being absent altogether (not to mention the potential spread of germs to otherwise healthy coworkers!). According to the Institute for HealthCare Consumerism, one in five workers have experienced a health issue that has affected their ability to get their work done, resulting in productivity loss.
For every dollar spent on medical costs and pharmaceuticals, there is $2.30 of health-related productivity loss due to absenteeism and presenteeism.
The Cost of Un-Wellness
Since the birth of the benefits package, and the birth of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare for employees has been a top priority and financial burden. By offering health care benefits, employers are more likely to attract and retain top talent and ensure the wellness of their workers.
However, unhealthy employees are driving the price even higher. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates $650 – $1400 in excess annual medical costs for adults with high healthcare risk, and $900 in excess annual medical costs for physically inactive adults. Wellness Councils of America states 15% of health claims are attributed to sedentary lifestyles.
Meanwhile, employees with higher levels of well-being have 41% lower health-related costs compared with employees who have lower well-being.
Wellness as Investment
In the face of rising healthcare costs, implementing a wellness program can feel daunting and expensive. However, wellness programs are an investment that benefits employees and the bottom line, and demonstrates caring for employees at all levels.
Harvard Business Review reports that after implementing a wellness program, Johnson & Johnson saw a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent. Forbes reports the average ROI as high as 3:1.
Beyond financial gain, SHRM reports reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, reduced injuries, and improved morale and loyalty as a result of wellness programs. The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism found that employees who participated in such programs are more likely to have a higher level of job satisfaction, feel happier with their employer, and be more satisfied with their overall benefits.
A 2015 survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. employees conducted by Quantum Workplace found that employees are 38% more engaged and 18% more likely to go the extra mile when they felt their employers cared about their well-being. Employees were also 28% more likely to recommend their workplace to others.
The Power of Wellness, the Power of Intent
While these benefits are encouraging, wellness programs are truly about employees – that’s what makes a program effective. Employees will likely not participate in a wellness program and change their lifestyles solely for the purpose of saving their employer money.
Before you create a wellness program, be sure your vision follows these guidelines.
Programs should be:
- Supported, promoted, and celebrated by leadership
- In addition to other basic benefits
Potential ROI should not be the sole reason a program is created. It is not something to cross off your to-do list and hope it runs on auto-pilot. It must be sincerely implemented and run on a daily basis. If senior leadership cannot see past monetary gain, look to the right people to lead the program while senior leadership actively participates. If the program is implemented without sincere intent to improve the life of employees, it could create an adverse effect.
Wellness programs should make employees feel cared for, not used. Insincere programs are more likely to be superficial, and therefore, ineffective.
Be sure that any program is designed with the reality of your culture in mind. Not all workplaces enjoy sunshine and rainbows, and that’s okay – there are wellness options that align with every kind of culture. Align programs with the company mission, vision, and values and be sure that your culture supports wellness initiatives.
“Well-designed workplace wellness programs should reinforce the company mission and values at every turn, orienting newbies and reconnecting veterans in need of a boost.”
– Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade
The most important cultural aspect for a successful program is accountability, for leadership and employees. Demonstrate transparency and establish trust by following through with promises, and encourage employees to do the same.
Supported, Promoted, and Celebrated by Leadership
Your wellness program needs to be actively supported and recognized by any and all leaders within your organization. Leaders must participate and communicate that they value the program in order for employees to feel comfortable.
For example, if your wellness programs include special extended lunches to take a workout class, senior leadership should lace up their sneakers and attend. Then, during meetings, they will recognize and celebrate others who also attended. They should regularly communicate the value of the program.
This will demonstrate sincerity, and will encourage others to participate, especially any programs that occur during the day.
It is up to leaders to remove obstacles that may prevent any and all employees from participating. For example, according to Humana and the Economist Intelligence Unit, employers and employees agree that the biggest obstacle to increased participation in wellness programs is lack of time. Leaders should create time-conscious programs in response.
In Addition to Other Basic Benefits
Wellness programs are not a substitute for a benefits package (health, dental, vision, etc.). However, if you are limited in how much insurance you can offer employees, a wellness program can help fill the gap.
Make the Wellness Program of your Dreams
When thinking of wellness, most think of diet and exercise. While these are essential for a healthy lifestyle, wellness is holistic and dynamic, and a wellness program should mirror that.
Wellness is “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – The World Health Organization
Gallup and Healthways break down wellness into 5 factors, and Ledgent Technology adds a sixth.
- + Mental
In the era of Google-sized programs, small programs can feel insufficient. However, your program doesn’t have to be a giant, expensive endeavor. In fact, you’ll find that many of our suggestions come at little to no cost. While in-house massages and on-campus gyms are attractive, employees simply want to feel cared for more than anything else.
Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
Defining a purpose across an organization can serve as a powerful motivator for employees, while increasing job satisfaction. Knowing exactly how one’s role contributes to the greater world instills a unique responsibility in each employee.
A study by Deloitte found that in organizations with a strong sense of purpose, 73% of employees were engaged, compared to only 24% of employees in organizations without. In addition, according to Humana and the Economist Intelligence Unit, some 67% of employees said participation in wellness programs increased their engagement in their employer’s mission and goals.
- Define, document, and promote your company, team, and individual purpose (if you need assistance, see our White Paper.)
- Include recognition and celebration for team and individual accomplishments
- Go out to lunch to celebrate new hires
- Subsidize personal development books and courses
- Offer structured career paths
- Set aside time for leaders to meet with any and all employees for “coffee talk”
Having supportive relationships and love in your life
Workplace friendships are a delicate dance, but a vital ingredient to a successful work life balance. Humans are pack animals, who thrive in collaborative environments.
Employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate, and more loyal to their organizations. They get sick less often, suffer fewer accidents, and have more satisfied customers, along with increased productivity.
- Include social collaborations, i.e. happy hours, team contests, and company lunches
- Coordinate team events or activities for new hires as soon as they start
- Create a company softball or kickball team and engage in friendly competition
Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
Financial well-being affects all aspects of well-being. According to the Institute for HealthCare Consumerism, workers facing debt and unstable financial situations reported their stress has caused occurrences of ulcers, digestive problems, migraines, anxiety and depression.
Do not pry into employee’s financial status, but provide them with the tools to build their own finances – creating better, more focused workers.
- Bring in experts to advise on 401(k) saving
- Provide financial literacy and budgeting tools
- Offer financial coaching and education on productive saving and spending, and investing basics
- Start an employee-donated emergency fund to help those affected by a sudden financial crisis due to catastrophic events
Liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
Provide a safe workspace, which includes removing toxic teammates. Focus on your organization’s role in the local community and get involved.
- Volunteer at local charities
- Donate to community causes
- Coordinate lunches from neighborhood small businesses
- Coordinate team outings to local attractions and hotspots
“Promoting community charity walks, races and other events reminds employees that work is a community, not just a paycheck. Allowing employees time for volunteer activities of their choice fosters autonomy, renews a sense of purpose and provides a jolt of motivation.”
–Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade
Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily
According to Humana and the Economist Intelligence Unit, 91% of employees participating in wellness programs have improved their fitness, while 89% said participation has improved their overall happiness and well-being.
Don’t force employees into physical routines or healthy eating habits, but make your program so fun and widespread that they can’t resist joining in. Even something as simple as providing healthy eating alternatives can make a big impact. For example, TechRepublic states that “Techies are grazers – and they are often so in the zone they don’t want to bother with a full meal, which leaves them prey to junk food from the vending machine or convenience store.” By having healthier options on hand such as nuts and fruit, you can “fuel” your team without the empty calories, thus boosting focus and productivity. Here are some other ideas:
- Regularly stock a fresh fruit and veggie bowl in the breakroom
- Host webinars on different wellness topics, encourage internal employees with expertise to share their knowledge and lead the webinars
- Coordinate fitness competitions
- Set up a reimbursement system for gym memberships and workout classes (that way, employees can choose a fitness routine that works for them)
- Offer great health insurance
- Discourage people from coming in sick
- Provide reasonable paid sick time
Internal health centered around confidence and self-esteem, enabling you to fully enjoy and appreciate other people, day-to-day life and your environment. Using abilities to reach your potential.
Good mental health may be the most important, and hardest to detect, aspect of well-being. It is vital for the health of your employees and your business.
About 44% of employers said stress management programs would be the single most effective way of establishing a culture of wellness, according to a study by Humana and the Economist Intelligence Unit. While 80% of workers feel stress on the job, for many employees, mental health goes beyond that.
Nearly 30% of young adults age 18 to 25 have a diagnosable mental health disorder, and 5% of U.S. adults have a mental health-related disability that seriously impairs their daily functioning. Additionally, behavioral and mental health issues comprise approximately 6% of total health care costs.
Harvard Business Review states that depression and stress have proved to be major sources of lost productivity. And according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, for certain conditions, such as anxiety, employers lose as much as $20 in productivity for every dollar they spend on medical care and pharmaceuticals.
Mental health is a personal matter, and there are ways to respect the privacy of your employees while supporting them
- Don’t let frustrated people keep working. Encourage them to take a walk and record their steps. (It’s a physical + mental double whammy!)
- Encourage people to actually use their vacation time, primarily by using yours
- Ensure that all health insurance options include mental health care benefits
- Establish comfort and an open environment where mental health claims are taken seriously and handled accordingly
- Train managers to look for signals that an employee might be having a hard time
- Reduce physical stress due to noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor temperature control or inadequate sanitary facilities
- Allow employees to bring in their pets
- Consider offering “Ferris Bueller Days,” where employees can take a day off for any reason
As you build your program with passion and intent, document the plan, consistently coordinate future events, offer awards and incentives, and maintain the program. Make information about the program available to all employees, and send out regular reminders about different aspects of the program.
Frequently survey your employees for their feedback on the program and adjust accordingly. Practice patience, cultural shifts take time. The key is to continue with the program consistently.
More than anything, these programs should be fun. These programs should be implemented because you love and care about your employees. You want to give them a fantastic work life, allowing them to be their best personal and professional self.
About Ledgent Technology
Ledgent Technology specializes in the placement of full-time and contract professionals in roles ranging from IT support to software development. We are a division of Roth Staffing Companies, one of the largest privately-held staffing companies in the country, operating from more than 100 locations in 20 states and the District of Columbia via six specialized business lines: Ledgent Technology, Ultimate Staffing Services (the 11th largest office/clerical staffing company in the country), Ledgent Finance & Accounting, Adams & Martin Group (legal staffing), and affiliates Ultimate Locum Tenens and About Talent (a workforce solutions company).
Roth Staffing Companies stands as the only firm in the industry ever ranked #1 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing, privately-owned companies, and is the only one to receive all of the industry’s most prestigious honors in a single year, accomplishing this feat for two consecutive years. The organization is consistently ranked among the 50 largest staffing companies in the country.