Benefits on the Fringe: Purpose-Driven Wellness Initiatives
Welcome to Benefits on the Fringe, the monthly Recruiter.com column where Jason McDowell covers the most unique benefits today’s employers are using to woo talent, as well as advances and innovations in the employee benefits realm.
If you push your workers too hard, you’ll drive them right into a slump. Burnout is real, and companies that fail to embrace employee wellness will suffer from increased employee absences, high healthcare costs, high turnover, and lowered productivity.
Some companies are trying to address burnout with cool perks, such as in-house massages or free healthy food and gym memberships. While valuable, these benefits may not go deep enough to address underlying issues that cause stress and frustration at work.
Even a short, focused wellness intervention in the workplace can have lasting positive results for your employees, according to a study from Tufts University, with contributions from Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. The research shows that a 2.5 day comprehensive wellness program that focuses on showing employees how to find a deeper purpose in life and work can have lasting results.
With 75 percent of employees feeling moderately or highly stressed at work and almost half of all employees struggling with work/life balance, it is imperative that companies step in before it is too late.
Helping Workers Find a Purpose
When your workers are just showing up for a paycheck each day, an inevitable disconnect develops between work and purpose. Helping employees see the impact of their work on the company and the larger world can go a long way toward promoting positivity in the workplace.
“Employee well-being is critical,” says Lowinn Kibbey, global head of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (JJHPI). “We’re seeing organizations offering more nutritious food in the cafeteria or education on improving aspects of employee health, like how to sleep better. These programs aren’t wrong, but if companies think that’s going to change behavior on its own, they’ll find they’ll get a fairly low return on investment.”
Based on its work with pro athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, and the U.S. Army Special Forces, the JJHPI has found that behavior change starts with a “deep, personal, intrinsic motivator, such as purpose in life,” according to Kibbey. Giving workers a sense of purpose will encourage them to make positive changes in other aspects of their life. This positive impact will ultimately spill back into the workplace in terms of productivity and positive culture.
“The importance of vitality and purpose in life have only recently received attention in the context of workplace wellness programs,” says Kibbey. “A study published in The European Journal of Public Health showed that vitality was significantly associated with motivation, absenteeism, presenteeism, and work performance. A growing body of evidence also demonstrates that purpose in life is tied to psychological health, biological health indicators, longevity, and preventative self-care.”
Building a Successful Wellness Program
While lunchtime yoga and healthy snacks are certainly helpful, they will just be Band-Aids if employees feel directionless or unmotivated. A wellness initiative should not only tackle physical health, but mental health as well.
“A structured program — such as the one studied [by Tufts and Johnson & Johnson] — is ideal, because some people find that thinking about their purpose in life is daunting, and they could benefit from an experience where there is time and facilitation to move through that process of self-reflection,” Kibbey says.
Unfortunately, there are still many executives and managers in the corporate world who fail to recognize the importance of employee wellness or the return on investment that can come from a happier workforce.
Those skeptics may want to look at Johnson & Johnson’s own experience, which has shown the company gets $4 back for every $1 invested in health and wellness, according to Kibbey.
“The outcomes we’re seeing drive us to continue making investments, both in our own employees and in rigorous, academic studies to prove their value,” Kibbey says. “Employees should share their desire for well-being initiatives with their managers and HR representatives.”
If your employees seem to be wondering what the point of their job is, they may not be effectively engaged with their work. Developing employee wellness initiatives can help employees rededicate themselves to their roles, improve happiness and productivity in and outside of the office, and find clearer direction.