Prioritize Employees’ Health to Retain and Attract Talent

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Over the past year, roughly 33 million Americans have turned the job market on its head with the Great Resignation. Many factors have contributed to why people are leaving for greener pastures, but the most important is that employees want to work for organizations that show they care about their employees, including their physical and mental health and wellness.

Your greatest asset as a company is your people. When you invest in solutions for your employees to perform at their peak, you’re simultaneously investing in the success of your company. Poor employee health is estimated to cost US employers upward of $530 billion per year, and rising healthcare costs and inflating consumer pricing make it more challenging for employees to access high-quality physical fitness and wellness. Organizations need to invest and cover these costs for their employees because they are at the heart of ensuring your business continues to grow and thrive.

Related: Benefits of Corporate Wellness Program

Health and wellness benefits for company culture

While the Great Resignation is far more complex than people simply gravitating to a better benefits package, providing competitive physical and mental health benefits is a major way to attract new hires and retain current employees. It’s the responsibility of your company to provide a range of well-thought-out benefits, display supportive and engaged leadership and foster a company culture that encourages everyone to live a healthy lifestyle.

The companies we work for are covering our lives by providing not only income, but also healthcare coverage and social connectivity. If you want your company to stay competitive in the job market, apply the following strategies in your business:

1. Give

One of the best things you can do for your employees is to provide a fully funded, comprehensive fitness and wellness benefit. More than just compensation for a gym membership, this benefit addresses physical and mental health, nutrition, mindfulness and stress reduction. This is especially important for today’s hybrid workforce. Employees are more likely to engage with a program when you remove the barriers such as cost and geography.

Workplace wellness programs that are properly implemented can return a 25 percent savings on healthcare and associated costs. Healthy employees make happy employees who then create a positive workplace. This, in turn, results in reduced turnover, reduced absenteeism and an increase in productivity and business performance.

Related: 8 Natural Wellness Habits That Will Keep You Mentally Healthy and Happy

2. Communicate

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index recently coined the term “hybrid paradox,” which illustrates that people want the flexibility to work from anywhere, but they simultaneously crave more in-person connection. This information coincides with a 2021 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, which uncovered that 35 percent of those they polled have felt more lonely or isolated while at work and 28 percent have felt less loyalty for their employer.

Make sure there is a constant flow of communication around access to the wellness program. One of the biggest barriers to participation is more than likely a lack of knowledge in the existence of wellness programs to begin with. Make it part of your employee onboarding, nominate wellness champions to promote and encourage participation, send out monthly newsletters highlighting different areas of the benefit, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Overcommunicate about all of the options available to your employees, and encourage them to use the benefit.

3. Make it fun

Your health and wellness benefits should be fun, engaging and social. Encourage your teams to make physical activity a part of their workday through scheduled workout or stretch breaks, walking meetings or time off to go take a fitness class or attend a therapy session. You can also provide statistics that show how an increase in movement correlates with an increase in creativity, collaboration and productivity to encourage and educate your employees about why it’s important to get up and move around every once in a while. Physical activity has been proven to improve concentration immediately; Simply going for a 10-minute walk can boost mood, creativity and overall health.

In a survey conducted by Peerfit, a physical health benefits program, 42 percent of its users saw improved existing relationships with friends and co-workers, and 42 percent created new friendships and strengthened social bonds. Furthermore, their sleep and mental health improved, as did their waking energy levels. When your employees are provided with benefits that enhance their lives outside the office, their lives and relationships at the office will prosper, too.

4. Lead by example

Part of creating a workplace environment that fosters employee well-being is getting everyone on board and leading by example. Make sure your C-suite and members of your leadership team are not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk. They need to set the example and make employees understand that self-care is a company wide initiative. You can reinforce this message via company meetings or even one-on-ones with direct reports as a way to encourage positive behaviors.

For example, as a startup with fewer than 20 employees, we have intentionally fostered a work environment that provides people with as much flexibility to manage their work and their busy lives. We appreciate our employees by minimizing the number of meetings and encouraging people to block off time to prioritize their well-being (eg, midday workouts or breaks during the day). Additionally, every year, we allocate funds on behalf of each employee to donate to a charity that has meaning to them. In 2021, the total donation was $5,000 per employee across 42 charities. There are no restrictions, and we hope to do more each year.

Related: Eight Strategies to Improve Workplace Wellness

Since the start of the global health crisis, people are working upward of 10 percent more hours per week than they previously did. When you ask someone to work for you, you’re asking them to commit a significant percentage of their time to the company mission. Providing health benefits that promote exercise, balanced nutrition and overall mental health is the least you can do to show your employees that they matter, and it’s a smart way to care for and energize your people.