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Tom Sermon

the Global Corporate Challenge

Chief Executive Officer

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Employee wellness programmes: Proving their worth and paying their way

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It’s a known fact that happy and engaged employees are more likely to be productive and loyal.

Valuable assets to their employer, they can also help to generate a positive environment for their colleagues, time and resource savings for the HR team and positive financial savings for their employer.
 
Several strategies exist to try and ensure that that workforce remains contented and motivated, with selective recruitment, the provision of workplace social schemes and attractive salaries and benefits being the classic approach.
 
But a recent industry study has also revealed that investing in workplace wellness could prove an effective part of the solution.
 
Commissioned by the Foundation for Chronic Disease Prevention in the Workplace and conducted by Lancaster University’s Centre for Organisational Health and Wellbeing, the research entitled ‘Multi-Business Study into the Impact of Low Intensity Exercise on Employees (2011)’ presents compelling evidence that employee health and happiness can and do go hand-in-hand.
 
The study’s subjects comprised a sample of 752 employees with a mix of ages, genders, health and physical abilities from six leading UK and US-based organisations. Subjects were registered in our workplace health initiative, the Global Corporate Challenge, and their participation and progress was monitored via self-assessment questionnaires and on-site biometric assessments over the course of the 16-week programme.
 
The research, which was collated and analysed earlier this month, offered some remarkable results. Besides showing significant improvements in participants’ physical health and activity levels, there was also a very positive impact on their psychological wellbeing.
 
The most marked improvement was in individuals’ self-esteem, satisfaction with their quality of life and engagement with their work. Here are some key statistics:
 
Improved self-esteem
 
  • 52% fewer participants felt worthless
  • 28% drop in the number of people feeling unhappy or depressed
  • 35% rise in the number of subjects feeling self-confident.
 
Increased satisfaction with quality of life
 
  • 12% increase in employees who rated their overall contentment with life as ‘very good’
  • 10% rise in workers saying that their happiness with life as a whole was ‘very good’.
 
Higher engagement with work
 
  • 20.5% of the sample reported improved productivity levels
  • 17% claimed that their productivity levels were ‘very high’
  • 14% increase in employees reporting that they felt little or no stress at work
  • 6% rise in individuals rating their feelings towards their job as ‘very good’.
 
These results would appear to indicate a powerful correlation between increases in the amount of low-impact physical activity that participants undertook and improvements in their self-worth.
 
In addition, feelings of greater self-worth had a positive impact on individuals’ social interaction with family, friends and colleagues as well as their performance in working life.
 
FCDP Research Director Dr David Batman explained the dynamics: “Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk and symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood and to increase self-esteem. In the workplace, taking frequent, effective exercise helps reduce stress levels and support peak performance.”
 
But physical exercise also increased blood flow to the brain, releasing endorphins, which resulted in increased feelings of happiness and overall well-being. “The benefits to employers are evident in the form of a more engaged and higher-performing workforce,” Batman added.
 
The study also implied that, because the sample felt more fulfilled at work, there could be positive implications in terms of employee retention – and, therefore, the retention of intellectual property as well as savings in both time and money terms in having to recruit and train new staff members.
 
As a result, the research would appear to endorse the benefits of providing workers with a well-designed health initiative – and these benefits are within the reach of every organisation.
 
While no two organisations – nor their employees – are the same and each has their own specific set of circumstances and objectives, when it comes to wellness, there are various generic critical success factors:
 
1. Create a genuine ‘health culture’
 
Integrate employee health and wellbeing objectives into your organisation’s business goals, operations and ethos. Ensuring that managers fully support and advocate these aims will help to generate a positive and open environment that should lead to positive employee engagement
 
2. Ensure initiatives are inclusive
 
Programmes that caters to each and every employee – regardless of the state of their health, their age, ability or lifestyle – will provide both an enjoyable entry back into physical activity for less active employees as well as a challenge for the more active. Taking an inclusive stance should boost participation and improve commitment levels
 
3. Make it fun
 
An exciting, dynamic programme that is attractive to everyone will create a groundswell of enthusiasm and ensure that employees buy into it across the organisation. It should also be more sustainable and not end up being a nine minute wonder.
 
4. Ensure people stay motivated
 
Providing strategically scheduled team and individual milestones and mini-challenges, while ensuring that any supporting communications are timely and tailored, will ensure that participants remain committed to the programme. Pointing out people’s achievements via a peer and information network also helps to maintain enthusiasm and engagement.
 
5. Take an holistic approach
 
To provide sustained improvements and wellbeing benefits, wellness programmes must provide more than a quick fix. In order to facilitate long-term behavioural change, they need to cover exercise, nutrition, stress management, team-building, self-efficacy and life outside of work.
 
6. Demonstrate results
 
Employee wellness programme must be able to prove their worth and pay their way if employers and employees are to remain committed to them.
 

Tom Sermon is chief executive officer of the Global Corporate Challenge, a 16-week corporate health initiative, which starts in May.
 
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Tom Sermon

Chief Executive Officer

Read more from Tom Sermon
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