Today’s work environment is more stressful than ever, and according to the American Institute of Stress, it’s not getting any better. The answer to the question, “how are you” is “busy,” and being busy has become a status symbol. We show off our busyness by carrying our laptops everywhere and checking and answering calls and emails from the moment we wake up until bedtime, and are tethered to cellphones for almost four hours per day, which results in the relaxing lifestyles of the past existing only in the past. The less affluent may be forced to work longer hours to pay for life’s necessities. About eight million Americans are working two jobs and carrying extra projects in order to cover rent and other living expenses, 60 percent of employees are losing productivity due to stress; and 25 percent of those employees are burnt out.
Workplace wellness programs are only covering nine percent of the employees in the workplace, globally, according to the Global Wellness Institute. The study also found worldwide, the cost of unwell workers represents 10-15 percent of global economic output. In the U.S., when you tally the cost of employees’ chronic disease ($1.1 trillion), work-related injuries/illnesses ($250 billion), work-related stress ($300 billion) and the cost of work disengagement ($550 billion), an unhealthy workforce costs the nation $2.2 trillion a year, or a staggering 12 percent of GDP.
Accenture, a management consulting company, conducted an employee health and wellness survey. Its research found that 82 percent of employed consumers believe their employers or health plans should provide health and wellness programs—but the programs offered today are falling short of their needs and expectations. From studies like this, we can conclude wellness is a top-down issue that shouldn’t be ignored.
Fortunately, management recognizes the tension facing employees and more and more companies are starting to offer wellness programs to their employees to help them deal with everyday stress. Wellness is generally thought of as becoming aware of and learning to make healthy choices. As a means to improve company culture, increase engagement, and lower healthcare costs, organizations are now starting to deep dive into the concept of wellness. According to The Business of Health Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities, creating wellness programs drives employee engagement by 47 percent, globally. Also, 25 percent of companies around the country put wellness programs in place in order to attract and retain talent. Every CEO, investor, and board of directors needs to take employee wellness and stress reduction seriously if they want to get a return on their investment in their workforce. Today, it’s the CEO’s job to make this a priority in order for his company to be successful in the future.
Wellness programs are failing because they are not accessible or relevant, and offer no real value. Successful programs can cover nutrition, physical fitness, smoking cessation, cholesterol, and blood pressure screening, massage therapy, and stress management. Programs need to be tailored toward employees and their needs and be inclusive. A company can start slowly with walking meetings, healthier snacks and choices in the cafeteria and stress reduction activities such as stretching sessions.
We need to start thinking of everyone when it comes to building a wellness program, from the back offices to executives. Offering wellness programs that are valuable, personalized, and accessible company-wide can and will boost productivity. Employees offer a great deal of value to an organization and taking care of their health and wellbeing goes a long way. According to Glassdoor, Showtime Networks, Carilion Clinics, Reebok, WeWork, and KIND, each offer terrific wellness programs.
In the United States — California is leading in corporate wellness programs, led by companies that are touching all aspects of our lives, like Apple, Google, and Facebook. Taking a walk in the Embarcadero in San Francisco, or next to the beach in Santa Monica, you’ll see people running, doing yoga, stretching, or even eating healthy. You can see that California is the state of wellness. With that said, you’d actually be surprised that in California only 13.6 percent of companies offer wellness programs for their employees.
However, we can be hopeful, due to California being the heart of entrepreneurship, that the state can set an example and we will soon see a meaningful increase in employee wellness programs nationwide. This will be absolutely crucial for organizational bottom lines and profits as our nation's companies continue to expand and grow.
Guest post courtesy of CEO of REME, Hisham Koshak