Why businesses need to take a holistic approach to wellness
By: Jennie Overton
Companies all over the world use wellness programs to encourage their employees to eat right, exercise and manage stress effectively. When employees are healthy, they’re more likely to attend work regularly, take on extra duties and form positive relationships with colleagues, making wellness programs a boon for employers of all sizes. Limeade research shows that employees who report a high level of wellness are more likely to feel supported by their employer and engaged in their work.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that physical health shouldn’t be an employer’s only concern when rolling out a new wellness program. As a result, some companies are now focusing on holistic wellness, which takes several other factors into account when trying to improve poor employee health. In this guide, Limeade provides an overview of holistic wellness programs, explains why they’re so helpful for employers and offers tips for creating a holistic wellness program of your own.
What is holistic wellness?
The term “wellness” is typically used to describe a person’s physical or emotional health. Holistic wellness takes it a step further by considering multiple dimensions of employee well-being. This approach to wellness recognizes that employees are influenced by many factors, including their physical health, emotions, social relationships and financial circumstances. By addressing each dimension, it’s possible for employers to increase engagement and create workplaces where employees want to spend their time while living healthier lives.
4 key elements of holistic wellness
Holistic wellness has four key dimensions that can be incorporated into wellness programs in the workplace. Addressing each dimension makes it easier for employees to develop collegial relationships and work together to achieve company goals. The four dimensions are physical, emotional and mental health, social wellness and financial wellness.
Workplace wellness programs often emphasize physical health, or the condition of the human body. Many companies offer fitness classes, gym memberships, healthy snacks and nutritional counseling to help employees maintain their physical wellness and avoid missing work due to illness or injury. Some firms even offer wellness incentives to encourage employees to adopt healthier habits, therefore improving job performance. For example, employees who complete an annual health screening or achieve some type of health goal may qualify for reduced health insurance premiums and overall healthcare costs.
That said, there are drawbacks to emphasizing physical health at the expense of mental health. Doing so can cause resentment among staff members who struggle with their physical health, worsening morale and overall wellness among employees. For companies looking to effectively improve wellness overall, it’s important to demonstrate care for the whole person.
Emotional and mental health
Emotional and mental health are just as important as physical health, but they’re often overlooked by workplace wellness programs, perhaps because it’s difficult to track mental health outcomes. If an employee commits to losing 10 pounds, it’s easy to determine if they’ve met their goal. It’s not as easy to track the effects of wellness initiatives on an employee’s emotional or mental well-being.
The COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted the importance of emotional and mental health in the workplace, especially for frontline employees who had to worry about catching COVID-19 while performing their duties. Firms that incorporate emotional and mental health services into their wellness programs may offer yoga to relieve stress or provide access to free mental health counseling.
The importance of well-being programs can’t be overstated, especially when it comes to improving workplace relationships. Maintaining open communication between teams and fostering positive relationships among coworkers have several benefits for businesses, including improving the quality of life of your employees. For example, effective team communication makes it easier to collaborate on difficult projects. When employees have positive relationships with each other, they’re more likely to enjoy coming to work every day, making it easier to retain high performers. The firm also benefits from improved social health in the form of increased productivity and less time spent resolving employee conflicts.
A holistic wellness program should also emphasize the importance of pursuing social interactions outside of work, as long as these interactions don’t affect an employee’s ability to be punctual and productive. Spending time with family members and friends gives employees a chance to clear their minds, improve their emotional well-being and return to work refreshed and ready to perform.
It’s important to compensate employees fairly for the value they provide. Employees who can’t satisfy their basic needs are likely to have difficulty focusing on their work due to high levels of stress and unstable personal finances. An employee who can’t pay their bills may also have to take on a second job, making them unavailable for urgent overtime projects or leaving them too tired to focus on their regular work. Successful holistic wellness programs focus on providing appropriate compensation and benefits for each employee to improve and ensure their financial health.
Importance of a holistic wellness approach
In the past, business owners didn’t see the need to offer wellness programs or worry about their employees’ physical, emotional, social and financial well-being. They simply wanted to exchange money for labor. Over time, that proved to be the wrong approach. Business owners started to realize that emotional and mental well-being and overall employee satisfaction have a tremendous impact on an employee’s ability to focus on their work, think outside the box and solve complex business problems.
A focus on holistic health acknowledges that employees are people with hopes, dreams and worries that don’t just disappear when they arrive at work each day. Embracing the whole person improves employee performance and makes it easier to create positive workplace cultures, making holistic employee wellness programs critical for business success.
Benefits of holistic wellness programs in the workplace
Introducing a holistic wellness program has many benefits for businesses and their employees. By giving employees the tools they need to manage stress, it’s possible to reduce employee burnout and help workers maintain high levels of innovation and creativity. Holistic wellness programs also improve retention rates, encourage higher levels of employee engagement and increase productivity, making them beneficial for businesses of all sizes.
Reduce employee burnout
One of the main benefits of employee wellness program components is that they can help reduce employee burnout. The Mayo Clinic defines job burnout as a state of “emotional and mental exhaustion” that affects work performance and leaves burned-out employees feeling like they’ve lost their personal identities. Job burnout has many undesirable symptoms, including the following:
Difficulty starting new work projects
Increased frustration with coworkers and supervisors
Poor sleep quality
Impatience and irritability in the workplace
Reduced energy levels
Drinking or using drugs to cope with job-related stress
These symptoms have a negative effect on employees suffering from job burnout, their coworkers and their employers. In a collaborative environment, someone struggling with burnout may snap at coworkers or criticize them frequently, leading to high levels of tension.
This makes it difficult for stressed employees to collaborate on new projects or solve problems related to previous projects.
Poor sleep quality, drinking and drug use may lead to tardiness, absenteeism or poor work performance, making the burned-out employee feel even worse. Holistic wellness programs reduce employee burnout by ensuring that workers have the tools they need to address their physical health concerns, improve their mental well-being and learn how to manage stress in a healthy way.
Improve employee engagement and retention
Low engagement and high turnover create serious problems for businesses in every industry. Disengaged employees just don’t care as much about their work as engaged employees, leaving them more likely to show up late, call out frequently or cause workplace accidents due to their indifference. Low levels of engagement also hurt morale and overall employee well-being. If a disengaged employee shows up late, misses deadlines or engages in other undesirable behaviors, their coworkers may get upset about having to do extra work without any additional pay. Holistic wellness programs address multiple sources of stress and give employees access to resources to help create a more engaged workforce.
High turnover costs employers a significant amount of money. When an employee leaves your company, you have to pay to advertise a job opening, interview multiple candidates and spend money on background checks and other forms of pre-employment screening. Once a new employee comes on board, you invest in them by providing training and purchasing new equipment. If that employee leaves within a matter of months, the vicious cycle will start all over again. Companies with robust employee wellness programs have higher retention rates, making it easier to manage recruitment and training costs, as employees are more likely to stay with a firm when their physical, emotional, social and financial needs are being met.
Once you improve retention, you can start thinking about increasing productivity. If employees are worried about their physical, emotional, social or financial well-being, they may have trouble focusing on their work. They may also struggle to solve problems or come up with creative ideas for marketing campaigns, new product launches and other business initiatives. As a result, their output declines. Poor engagement and high levels of burnout make it even more difficult to concentrate, exacerbating the problem. Holistic wellness programs increase productivity by increasing engagement and reducing burnout, leaving employees with more energy to focus on the work at hand.
Support company growth with a caring culture
Company culture refers to how a firm’s employees think and behave. When you hire a new employee, their ability to fit into your company’s culture is just as important as their ability to manage projects effectively or use spreadsheet software to track expenses. Prospective employees want to work for companies that view them as people and understand that it’s impossible for employees to completely separate their personal lives from their professional lives.
Offering a holistic well-being program shows prospective employees that you value their overall well-being. As an added bonus, customers are more likely to shop with companies that treat their employees well. Therefore, implementing a holistic wellness program can help you attract new customers and increase your annual revenue.
4 tips for creating a holistic wellness program
If you’re ready to reap the benefits of having a holistic wellness program, it’s time to create some wellness initiatives of your own. To get started, consider offering remote or hybrid opportunities, prioritizing internal communication, devoting more resources to mental health support and maintaining a diverse workforce. Once you have these program components in place, you can branch out into other areas of wellness to create a culture of health.
Offer remote or hybrid opportunities
Remote and hybrid opportunities are more important than ever, as they offer more personal time and give employees the flexibility they need to balance their professional duties with their work responsibilities. Working from home reduces the amount of time employees spend commuting and lowers their transportation expenses, improving emotional and financial well-being. Employees with chronic illnesses can also benefit from remote work, as they can work from home even if they’re feeling a little under the weather. This can reduce absenteeism and help employees stay productive, even when they don’t feel up to commuting to the office and spending the day around other people.
Maintain internal communication
Good communication doesn’t cost much, but it can have a big impact on employee engagement and retention. When you decide to implement a holistic wellness program, it’s important to be transparent every step of the way. Make sure employees understand what to expect and know how to take advantage of the new program when it finally launches. Prioritizing good communication in other aspects of your business can make employees feel more valued, making it less likely that they’ll leave your firm.
Attribute more resources to mental health support
Physical health is important, but it’s essential to dedicate plenty of resources to mental health support for employees. Take a broader approach and consider offering free therapy sessions or giving employees the ability to take mental health days without penalizing them for missing work. When employees have the tools they need to address stress and other mental health concerns, they’re better able to focus on their work.
Maintain a diverse workforce
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are essential for effective holistic wellness programs. For employees belonging to minority groups, it’s difficult to feel empowered when no one else looks like you or behaves like you. Companies that make an effort to promote diversity and include employees from different backgrounds in major business decisions tend to be more successful than companies that don’t. If you want to promote diversity, don’t just focus on race. Empower employees of different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations and physical abilities.
Take a holistic approach to employee wellness with Limeade
Limeade helps employers deliver a consistent experience, increasing employee engagement and reducing turnover. Our holistic platform makes it much easier to infuse wellness into work, helping employers increase productivity and better manage their costs. Contact Limeade to learn more about our scientific approach to workplace wellness.
Despite the pandemic, Gallup reports a sharp drop in the percentage of employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing. Check out this guide on how to reduce employee attrition with a well-being program.