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What Is Employee Health and Well-Being?

Most employers now acknowledge that their workforce’s health is directly related to engagement, productivity, and the bottom line. As a result, many are turning to well-being programs to help employees achieve better health. In this blog, we go back to basics and discuss what employee health and well-being is, why organizations should have a well-being program, and how to get started.

What is health and well-being?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines well-being as “the ability of individuals to address normal stresses, work productively, and realize one’s highest potential.”1 In recent years, well-being has come to mean more than just how we feel physically. There is now general acceptance that well-being encompasses many dimensions—including physical, mental, social, clinical, and financial. Today, more organizations are supporting their employees’ health and well-being by offering benefits that support these dimensions.

What does an employee well-being program look like in practice?

Typically, a robust well-being program includes several components, including:

A health assessment.

This is the best way to help organizations and employees get a clear picture of current health risks. The results of a health assessment can help employers target the right programs to employees and help individuals take concrete steps to improve health.

Biometric screenings.

Biometric screenings provide a way for participants to know their current health status. Either during an onsite event or a visit with their physician, a participant can learn their numbers, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, BMI, and more. Getting a biometric screening also allows participants to understand what these numbers really mean, what clinical risk factors they may have, and any recommendations needed to improve their well-being. In essence, they help kickstart the individual’s journey toward better health.

Access to coaching.

Whether the coaching is live, virtual, or via chat, this resource is critical for helping employees reach their goals. This element of a well-being program works best when participants are paired with a coach that specializes in a specific area of wellness to best support their goals and interests. This could include topics like losing weight, quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, or reducing stress.

Wellness challenges to build a culture of well-being.

Corporate-wide wellness challenges are a great way to help build a culture of well-being at an organization. Offering challenges sends the message to employees that their employer really does care about their health. And the community that these challenges build supports that message even more.

While some challenges can be self-driven—like trying to drink more water—others may be designed as a group activity. For example, we have The Invitational Team Steps Challenge, which allows participants to compete in small groups to get the most steps per week. Participants love these group challenges! People across departments and offices who may not otherwise communicate now have an opportunity to connect and compete together, giving each other inspiration to keep moving each day. And their friendships often continue after the challenge is over. By promoting wellness challenges, organizations help build an amazing community that furthers their culture of well-being over time.

Why is wellness important in the workplace?

As employees engage with their health, they learn ways to manage current conditions and prevent health risks from developing into future concerns. This is a big deal! Improved overall employee health not only supports their personal lives, but also reinforces the message that their employer really does care about them. The by-products of this are huge. Improved engagement, better retention rates, less absenteeism, and reduced healthcare costs are just some of the benefits of offering a comprehensive well-being program.

There is also greater acceptance that the work of well-being isn’t something we can fit into the few hours we have in the morning or at night, especially for employees who are caregivers. Some aspects of caring for our health might need to occur during the workday—yet another reason why workplace well-being programs are so important.

What can an organization do to get started with a well-being program?

There are a few things organizations can do to support employee health and well-being.

First, it’s critical that senior leadership—from the C-suite down—is on board with the well-being program. Leadership and modeling healthy behaviors are an essential ingredient in the success of a corporate well-being program.

Second, it’s important to ask employees what they want and need in a well-being program. Not only does this send the signal that your organization puts people first, but it will also make sure you are offering programs that your employees want and will participate in.

Third, make sure you are prepared to communicate about the program. If employees don’t know programs exist, they can’t use them. It’s important to communicate often about the program and generate excitement. That way, more people can participate and feel enthusiastic about working on their well-being.

Keep in mind that this is just a start. There are other essential elements of a well-being program that we outline in our recent article 9 Best Practices to Well-Being Program Design.

As the lines between work and life become increasingly intertwined, attitudes about an employer’s role in its workforce’s health and well-being are shifting. To allow employees to bring their whole selves to work, it’s clear that we need to care for the whole employee. A good well-being program can do that.

If your organization is interested in making employee well-being a bigger part of the employee experience, contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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