Companies Are Making Health a Priority

CULTURE | Aug 23, 2018

Finding time to exercise and cook healthy meals can be difficult for many people in today’s world. Between work, a social life and everything in between, it seems nearly impossible to make health a priority. Luckily, more companies are pushing to give health and wellness a place in the office.

Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Business School conducted research on how businesses can encourage health on a bigger level. To get a better understanding of how companies are promoting health, they created a program called A Culture of Health: A Business Leadership Imperative.

John Quelch, a Harvard faculty member involved with the program, says, “A company that incorporates a culture of health in its mission and daily decision-making will not only seek to make its net impact on public health as positive as possible, but will also create business opportunities for itself in doing so.”

For example, CVS pharmacy decided to stop selling tobacco products in an effort to emphasize its commitment to health. While the company lost those initial tobacco sales revenues, it made up for it with improved primary health care offerings. Consumers also took notice, appreciating the effort CVS made in improving public health—which also boosted revenue. Thus, looking out for public health resulted in prosperity for the pharmacy.

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On a more individual level, companies have concluded that having healthy, happy employees means higher productivity and quality of work. Not to mention, lower costs for the company and employee when it comes to health care and medical expenses. When there are fun, wellness-related opportunities for employees to engage in during the work day, it creates a more enjoyable environment for everyone involved. Staff members are more likely to be in a better mood when they’re encouraged to take productive breaks, which leads to increased productivity during work hours. Some companies are taking this to the next level. Whether it be a party every Friday afternoon (TGI Friday’s), access to any and every workout facility on a 200-acre campus (Nike) or nap pods complete with soothing sounds to encourage snoozing during the day (Google), it’s never a bad idea to make sure employees are not only healthy, but happy. It’s sure to benefit the company in the long run when employees feel they’re valued and taken care of.

To further emphasize the importance of this, Shaun Subel, strategy director at VitalityHealth, stressed that well-being is usually the cheapest option in boosting productivity, yet has a huge impact. He also found a strong link between staff involvement in workplace programs and enhanced health and productivity. However, providing these healthy opportunities at the office isn’t enough.

Subel says, “Promoting wellness among staff requires commitment from the top, with policies that support good health and line managers trained to support employee well-being in a holistic way. That is working to prevent illness in the long-term while proactively supporting the overall health of staff.”

A key point in making sure workplace well-being is successful is ensuring communications around it are continual and informative. If communication is lacking, the results will show it. For example, research found that only about 30% of employees at large companies were aware of the discounted gym memberships their companies offered. Thus, participation was strikingly low. Businesses that invest in their staff’s health and well-being will see positive change in their organization in more ways than one. Workplace well-being is a win-win for both sides.

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