Investment in wellness of team pays off

Rebecca Weitzel
Rebecca Weitzel

If you root for a favorite sports team, you likely appreciate the role sports medicine plays in athletic performance. Not only does the team treat injuries sustained by athletes, it also provides athletes with the nutritional, physical and psychological recommendations required to prevent injury and preserve long-term health and wellbeing.

While it’s obvious why sports clubs invest in the health of players to maximize their performance, it’s less obvious similar investments should be made in the wellbeing of other players in other organizations — employees. Every successful business relies on its staff. Those people behave better, produce more and think more clearly when they’re healthy. It makes sense that, as in sports, employers should devote resources to promote physical, mental and emotional health if they want to tap into the productivity potential often lying dormant in each person.

Think about the last time you had a cold, back pain or stressful event in your life. Was it hard to focus at work? Did you feel productive? Now think about that distraction and low productivity multiplied by every person in your organization over time and consider how chronic poor health and stress affects your business. Is there anything you can do? Yes. You can introduce a wellness program.

Perhaps you’ve heard about wellness programs, but dismissed them because you believed they wouldn’t work in your organization. “We employ men — they don’t care about wellness.” “It’s a nice idea, but we can’t afford it.” “I’ve read there’s no real ROI on wellness programs.” It might be time to reassess your beliefs. When business leaders expand their vision of wellness beyond gimmicky weight-loss competitions and overly hyped health care savings measures to programs that are holistic, rooted in company culture and linked directly to strategic business goals, they begin to see the  potential benefits. 

One potential benefit is an increase in employee engagement. Engagement is the level to which employees feel plugged in at work, expending — or not — their discretionary efforts based on the degree to which they care. A 2013 Gallup state of workplace report showed only 22 percent of U.S. workers were actively engaged. This suggests most workers showed up, but don’t perform as well as they could. However, a 2015 Benz Communications survey offers hope. It shows that of employees who report they work for organizations that inspire healthy choices, 80 percent are engaged in their jobs compared to only 44 percent of employees who said their company doesn’t inspire health. Considering engagement has been shown to affect productivity more than perks (think Ping-Pong tables and free food) or enticing policies (think paid time off), it becomes clear proven strategies like wellness programs should be prioritized.

Other potential benefits of wellness programs include helping organizations attract top talent and reduce turnover. According to the Benz survey, an organization that actively promotes health and wellbeing is 2.5 times more likely to be viewed as a top-performing organization, potentially increasing its appeal to top talent. In addition, 64 percent of workers who indicated they were satisfied with their organizations’ health promotions said they plan to continue working there for a minimum of five years. The value of wellness programs is clear when leaders assess the high costs associated with turnover and the fact employee satisfaction and turnover correlate with profitability and customer satisfaction.

As organizations realize what sports teams already know — that healthy people perform better — investments in wellness programs begin to make a lot of business sense. So where do you start? For inspiration, consider a line from the book “Hot, Flat and Crowded” by Thomas Friedman in which Barnabas Suebu, governor of an Indonesian province, is quoted as saying: “Think big. Start small. Act now.” By employing this motto, it’s easy to break down the steps to implementing a wellness program.

To think big, consider adding wellness initiatives to your strategic plan and identifying ways in which wellness is tied to such existing programs as safety and employee recognition.

To start small, avoid investing tens of thousands of dollars right away. Instead, assess your organizational needs and employee interests and structure a program that fits your goals and company culture.

Finally, to act now, do one small thing today. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Any step you take will either move you forward or provide a learning experience that reveals what the next step should be.

Before you know it, the high-performing team you’ll be rooting for will be your own.