If we're all being completely honest with ourselves, nobody wants a job that just pays the bills and drives us straight into the ground. And discouraged, sick workers aren't the best formula for profits, either.

Humana understands these realities well. The company has been working actively to improve worker satisfaction, and their efforts are paying off--according to their Annual Customer Workplace Survey, they've been able to boost physical workplace satisfaction by 24 percent from 2015 to 2018. They also have seen a 20 percent increase in Healthy Days overall from 2013 to 2018.

Tim State, Humana's Senior Vice President of Associate Health and Wellbeing, says the jump comes from getting obsessed with centering decisions, priorities and activities around the workers and their experiences at the office. That shift has led to changes like

  • Redesigning office space so people can collaborate, focus and relax better
  • Offering more services oriented to physical wellbeing, such as a fitness center open both to workers and the larger community
  • Using technology to resolve more day-to-day requests and work orders

The company also is setting new, long-term goals and celebrating successes along the way to ensure that the new energy doesn't fizzle. For example, one objective is to get 500,000 more Healthy Days by 2022 and, given how stressful the modern office can be, to focus more deeply on emotional wellbeing.

Two key best practices to improve satisfaction and wellness in your own office

Take a whole person view. State cautions that, while there are a ton of great programs, digital solutions and other options on the market that can be quite helpful in themselves, a "point solution" approach can do more harm than good.

"[Unless individual options are] thoughtfully integrated within a whole-person framework in a strategic way, they can be experienced as either disjointed, overwhelming or just not even relevant by employees."

 "[Move] from traditional wellness that may address primarily physical health and some aspects of mindset to an integrated and more holistic framework of human wellbeing. This fully incorporates mental/emotional health and a sense of belonging, security and even purpose or meaning in one's life. These are balanced with physical health and are interdependent within each of us. Plus, they all can be significantly influenced in the context of our working lives."

Bring a focus on wellbeing into the core of how leaders and teams operate. "This includes the model for leader behavior in how they demonstrate care, to practices that normalize the conversations about wellbeing as part of the 'every day', to influencing how decision making occurs in a way that puts people and their holistic health as a business priority."

How to put the best practice to work

Both of the above best practices are something you can work on and get better at over time. And State gives some advice on how to go about doing that well.

1. "Approach these efforts primarily as a cultural journey for the organization and teams, versus a single program or narrow initiative.  This is about fundamentally shaping what it means to be part of the team, and how the employee experience is lived out in ways that help people be their best. 

2. Use a holistic model of wellbeing. From the programs and solutions to the language and measurements, leverage an established, science-based model as an anchor that will help address the broad spectrum of needs and social determinants that influence real outcomes.

3. Set clear, meaningful goals that inspire progress and energy. These should be measurable, multi-year and high impact goals that apply to the organization broadly, but translate into relevant change at the local team level.

4. Embrace openness and vulnerability as leaders.  To inspire and model an atmosphere of social support for each teammate's well-being journey, leaders can make a big impact by openly sharing their own progress and setbacks. Their example will help establish a new-normal for their teams and working relationships."

As you work toward these objectives, by far the most important thing to remember is that, when it comes to employee wellness, by far the best people to tell you what the workers need are the workers themselves. This might require using creative strategies to dismantle fears and biases so employees respond honestly, but the more you show that you genuinely are interested in helping, the more trust you'll earn for the entire life of your business.