Why workplace wellness is important
Over the past few years, employee health and wellness have become increasingly important for companies and their senior leaders. While such programs have commonly been viewed by employers as a nice extra benefit for their staff, this has recently changed dramatically into an area of strategic importance.
According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), workplace wellness was a $48 billion market in 2017, and is projected to grow to $66 billion by 2022. GWI estimates that today, only 10 percent of employees worldwide have access to workplace wellness programs and services–mostly located in North America and Europe. In fact, workforce unwellness, including chronic disease, work-related stress and employee disengagement may cost the global economy 10–15 percent of its economic output every year.
Opportunity for change
So, what to do about it? With the rapid change of how we think about the modern workplace, both established players and startups are pushing the market forward. The workplace offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health. Healthcare companies, in particular, have been at the forefront of promoting programs aiming at improving the health of their employees. Many others have followed since then and innovative business models have been created in this context.
Walk the talk: C-Suite in the driving seat
This brings us to the role of the C-Suite for workplace wellness programs. Living and breathing a wellness message can help all staff members become active advocates for the company vision.
The CEO and senior leaders set the culture of an organization; if they lead, the rest will follow. People look to them as role models for how to succeed. Adopting healthier behaviors encourages others to do the same, creating a ripple effect of increased performance and satisfaction. Most importantly, you need to walk the talk. Internal communication plays a crucial role in conveying a positive message about wellness. This is really about living and breathing the vision, rather than just creating internal positions and conducting town hall meetings.
In fact, leaders can have very different approaches to corporate wellness. The focus might be on promoting physical exercise or awareness of mental health issues. Others put their emphasis on the link between effective leadership and getting enough sleep.
Still a long way to go
But let’s not be naïve. CEOs often don’t believe the pitch to promote a healthy environment. To make matters worse, employees are likely to push back on being told how healthy, productive or flexible they should be. A real problem that needs to be addressed is also how to measure the success of health programs. Typical C-Suite tools like scorecards and dashboards just don’t get the job done properly.
To sum up, senior leaders, and in particular the CEO, play a crucial role in thinking and acting strategically about how to create a workplace environment that promotes health and wellness. In a world where companies are desperately trying to attract talent, the bottom line is simple: when employees feel better, they perform better.