The debate in corporate wellness:
Last year I spent a lot of time reading about current debates in corporate wellness. There are two vocal camps (albeit vocal in very different ways):
- The camp that publicly proclaims we must soldier on with the health risk assessments, the biometric screenings, the weight-loss challenges, and the “cost sharing” of health insurance with employees. That camp is mostly plugging their ears at (and not responding to) the questions from the other camp.
- The camp that keeps asking that pesky “why” question. But they’re not asking “why” like a toddler who presses on, and on, an on without purpose. Those in that second camp are asking why we must persist with corporate wellness practices that don’t work.
Some in the industry rise above the fighting to offer their long-held positions that are alternatives to more traditional corporate wellness. Check out the work being done by Rosie Ward and Jon Robinson at Salveo Partners, or Bob Merberg’s Health Shifting blog for some insights.
An alternative view:
I admire their work and their passion. I offer my own considerations here based on a blog I read focused on well-being for caregivers of the elderly. (Half of my work life is spent focused on health and fitness services in senior living communities.) The blog is about how The Eden Alternative assesses well-being, the dimensions they use, and how they apply them to their employees and those they serve.
Traditional wellness uses areas like physical, intellectual, and occupational wellness to map out how an individual is experiencing well-being in their lives. The Eden Alternative instead looks at identity, connectedness, autonomy, security, meaning, growth, and joy.
How does the worksite look if we build a corporate wellness strategy around optimizing those elements for employees? Here are three areas to consider.
What are the ways we cultivate and sustain connectedness for staff?
This is about more than your break room, or your subsidized healthy foods in the company cafeteria. This isn’t really related to your corporate IT policies for use of social media. But the answer(s) to this question could be about establishing policies that allow employees to provide family support in caregiving roles under reasonable circumstances. Or it could be about establishing a well-thought-out mentoring program at your company.
How are we communicating and following through on areas of autonomy for employees?
No one really likes to feel like they don’t have control over a particular area of their lives, and studies show that lacking autonomy at work can increase stress. If your micromanaging, timekeeping structure has employees taking bathroom breaks in shifts and feeling chained to their desks, it might be time to rethink how you can improve this area of your workplace culture. In a call-center environment, highly scheduled time on the phones is central to business success, and while you can’t change that paradigm, you can invite your team into building the schedule. They’re smart (or you wouldn’t have hired them, right?), so they might have productivity-increasing, autonomy-boosting ideas that you can actually put into practice.
Do we provide opportunities for our crew to engage in work that’s meaningful?
Not everyone has the good fortune to work day in, and day out, in a job they love. And there’s a decent chance that some of the people on your team are in that tough spot. Maybe you can restore a little meaning in their career by providing opportunities for them to engage in a passion through their work. The catch here is that you have to know your employees well enough to know what they’re passionate about. Start with that discussion and see where the ideas lead you. Establishing a day of service might spark enough enthusiasm for some (“I don’t LOVE my job, but the company I work for is solid”). Others might benefit from a mentoring experience to move into a new role with the organization.
You may have noticed that a lot of this alternative approach boils down to building relationships with colleagues. It’s a scary thing—getting to know your staff. But the rewards for individual well-being are far greater than we could get from any health assessment report or biometric screening. When we’re struggling (so much) with true employee engagement in corporate wellness, we need to step back and look at what we’re inviting them into. If it’s not meaningful, if it doesn’t add value (and I don’t mean money) to an employee’s life, why would they engage?
Change is hard—no one really likes change. But this might be a change your employees can get behind. So what do you think? Are you resolved to do better in 2016?