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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - Igniting Wellness in the Workplace

Tech and Innovation

Igniting Wellness in the Workplace

Jennifer Shirley

While wellness is generating a lot of buzz with Gen Z workers in particular, company wellness programs must provide value for all employees. Unfortunately, leaders often misunderstand wellness, resorting to superficial perks like snack bars. To remain successful in your respective market, you must listen to employees, reconsider the definition of wellness, and recognize workers’ wellness progress.

Wellness might be the “buzziest” word in our post-pandemic world. We use it so often that we may have become a little separated from its meaning. What does it mean to be well? What does it mean to be well at work? And how can you build a culture of wellness for your employees?

The demand for a workplace culture of health and wellness is only growing. For new generations joining the workplace, there is a desire for wellness to be part of their daily experience. Over 70% of Gen Z employees are looking for better mental health resources in their workplaces, and 61% would leave their current job to find them. Gen Z is also known as “Generation Anxious,” with 91% of 18- to 24-year-old workers reporting high stress levels, according to the “Cigna 360 Global Well-Being Survey.”

And it’s not just Gen Z — the growing population of working Millennial parents are also feeling the imbalance. There’s a greater demand for better parental benefits from employers to support their wellness values. 

Wellness at work in 2023 is no longer synonymous with “work-life balance.” Rather, it’s the desire to condense work into a smaller part of someone’s overall experience, allowing them to live a more holistic, authentic lifestyle. This demand is shaping the way leaders build their workplaces. But diving into an organizational culture transformation without fully understanding what your employees need and want when they say “wellness” can lead to inefficient and ineffective efforts. So, let’s first answer the big question …

How Are Leaders Getting Wellness Wrong?

The rise in concern over wellness at work has led some companies to jump with both feet first. Rather than taking the time to understand the wellness needs of their teams, leaders are quick to set up ping-pong tables, build snack bars, and host pizza Fridays. While these benefits are not bad, they may not address employees’ core needs.

Every employee has different wellness needs, so setting up an initiative and hoping it satisfies your whole team is not the right approach. Creating a true culture of health and wellness means being flexible to employees’ shifting needs and building an organizational structure that accounts for the diversity of work and career preferences that true wellness requires. 

The best action you can take to support your team’s wellness is simply to be ready to listen and be flexible. Start by asking your people what wellness means to them, and you’ll soon find out how multidimensional it really is. An effective organizational culture transformation must start and end with your people.

Creating a Culture of Wellness: A Multidimensional Approach

When you start to listen to your employees and think outside the box, you’ll find there are many ways to support someone’s well-being. Here are some good places to start.

  1. Don’t assume you know it all.
    This was touched on this earlier, but the first step to creating a wellness culture is humility. You may have some great ideas, but until you talk with your employees, you will never really know if those initiatives are hitting the mark.Set up various avenues such as lunch and learns or a Slack or Teams channel that allows office chatter to exist in a hybrid work environment. Also, consider surveying your employees to solicit their workplace wellness ideas. During one-on-one meetings or monthly check-ins, ask your employees what they have been enjoying outside of work. Notice their pain points, and see if you can identify patterns. Use those insights to guide your wellness efforts. In short: Listen before you leap.
  2. Consider all the facets of wellness.
    Leaders create experiences for employees across all dimensions of wellness: occupational, emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and values. Once you consider all the little things that affect the human experience, you are bound to enhance your wellness strategy.For example, if you want to start with physical wellness, listen to your team’s aches and pains. Do they want to improve their posture? Do they get sleepy in the afternoons? Are they trying to stay fit while working a sedentary job? Look into bringing wellness benefits beyond just a health savings account to your people, such as acupuncture, sound therapy, massage therapy, or other physical wellness services.Improving occupational wellness doesn’t just rely on employee education and growth opportunities. (Though all leaders should prioritize this regardless of where they sit or what role they play.) Look into instituting wellness days and flexible paid time off to allow your employees to reset and focus on wellness.

    Consider social wellness. In this time of hybrid work, everyone needs help creating connections and nurturing relationships. These work relationships — especially for entry-level talent — are essential to driving career growth and fulfillment. Support the development of after-work employee social clubs, game nights, and happy hours. As a leader, it’s your job to facilitate connection opportunities for your employees as a way to support their well-being. And you’ll be surprised at how quickly these activities take on a life of their own. You can quietly step away to let your people enjoy social wellness together.

  3. Reward and recognize wellness.
    Now that you’ve begun to implement wellness initiatives within your company, you must keep a pulse on the ways that your employees are adopting and embodying a wellness culture. This can’t be approached with a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. Check in on your people. Start by rewarding wellness wherever you see it growing and thriving at your company. And recognize those that are going above and beyond to share their wellness with those around them.Recognizing and rewarding wellness is a key first step in measuring the success of your initiatives. It prompts you to look into other key performance indicators, such as employee satisfaction. Are your employees actually feeling better? Are your wellness initiatives making them more productive and engaged? Are they able to clock out both physically and mentally at the end of the day? Curious about those answers? Just ask! Continuously check in with your employees to see how they are doing and adjust your strategies as necessary.

Another great way to measure success is to look at employee retention. Wellness is a draw that makes people stay at companies longer. Are your employees sticking around? Are people excited to work for you? Would your employees recommend your company to their networks? If the answers to those questions are no, you may want to rethink your wellness strategies.

Creating a culture of health and wellness is no longer optional for companies that hope to remain successful and competitive in their respective markets. Although this does require organizational change, it is always worth it. Ultimately, it will help your company stay relevant and allow you to better care for your people. When your people feel well, they perform work well, which will help build a strong foundation for your company moving forward. It may be time to rethink your wellness strategies, listen to your people, and take steps toward building a true wellness culture. 

Written by Jennifer Shirley.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - Igniting Wellness in the Workplace
Jennifer Shirley
Jennifer Shirley returned to Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness as its President to evolve the agency to its next chapter. Her experience spans nearly every category within advertising.

Jennifer Shirley is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.