A new study this week in JAMA a medical journal and a subsequent New York Times article exploring it details some of the challenges in Workplace Wellness programs. They specifically point to the lack of both a sizeable reduction in overall health care costs for employers and long term health benefits for participants.
While most programs seem well-intentioned (who wouldn't want to help their employees live longer, fuller lives?) the reality is most of them are treating the symptoms of our workplace malady rather than the cause.
Here are three things you can do to focus on the holistic wellness of your people:
1. Provide a greater purpose.
We have a great privilege living in the age we do of being able to push not just for effectiveness in our organization but also the impact that we have on the wider world.
No longer exclusively the domain of not for profits, every organization from the most fanciful to the most practical has the ability to shape the impact it has on its community in a profound way.
When your people feel they're contributing to something bigger than themselves; their soul, spirit, psyche, whatever you want to call it has a stronger likelihood of being fulfilled.
Take some time to think about your organization's and your team's vision. Does it call your people to a higher purpose? Does it excite them to come to work every day?
2. End the allure of busyness.
One of the key issues workplace wellness programs seek to solve is fatigue, burnout, and stress which ultimately lead to reduced productivity, absenteeism and turnover.
So instead of providing a fancy juice bar to inject your people full of vitamins, why not get to the root of the problem and cut the allure of busyness?
Stop measuring productivity by face time in the office, how late in the evening someone responds to emails and how many weekends they work in a row.
Instead, encourage your people to separate the signal from the noise and to simplify what they do as much as possible. Reward their ability to wrap up a project early to spend time with their family. Most importantly model these behaviors yourself!
3. Build a community.
There's a creeping sense of isolation developing in our culture. The relentless focus on individualism and erosion of community organizations can leave members of your team feeling alone on an island.
The more your team can fill that void and provide a sense of community and belonging, the more likely that their overall wellbeing will be improved. More than just bowling nights or team lunches, are you going out of your way to make your team feel that they are part of a community?
Are you taking the time to tackle shared problems, to discuss your collective goals and to share in the successes of each team member?
You don't need costly wellness programs to have a positive impact on your team, you just need to start with them in mind.