Moving From a Wellness Program to a Well-Being Program

A holistic well-being program can increase employee engagement with work and the company and improve employer performance, according to speakers on a recent webinar.

“Most companies probably have used wellness and well-being interchangeably,” noted Barry Pailet, vice president, products, at Preventure, during a webcast.

But, he explained that wellness is associated with health and disease prevention, while well-being is associated more with happiness. “Well-being tells us people perceive their life as going well,” he said.

According to Pailet, there are five elements of well-being as it pertains to the workplace:

  • Culture – an organization’s underlying values that drive employee behavior;
  • Engagement – strong emotional connection of coworkers with work, teams and their company;
  • Organizational support – intentional commitment of companies and regular nudges to encourage well-being;
  • Well-being – state of optimal health, happiness, and purpose, comprising a holistic approach to physical health, financial well-being, stress and personal and work life; and
  • Whole-person approach – holistic, evidence-based approach recognizing that all these things affect a person’s life and happiness.

In the current decade, the industry has watched wellness become well-being, including physical, financial, social, community and purpose, Pailet said. These things intertwine and contribute to workplace well-being.

He cited a poll that found nearly 50% of Americans worry about personal financial issues during work, while nearly 30% manage personal finances on job. Of this group, 46% said they spent two to three hours each week managing personal finances on company time.

Pailet concluded that employers need to focus on well-being program participation, which will increase employee engagement with work and the company and improve employer performance.

Laura Walmsley, chief client officer and partner at Preventure, said topics that should be included in a well-being program, other than physical wellness, are stress, financial wellness, balance, resiliency, purpose, gratitude, time management and relationships (professional and personal).

She also suggested employers should personalize the program for participants: it should not just include generic requirements. In addition, provide the program using multiple mediums from which participants can choose for their convenience, and include coaching with a personal touch—using connected devices where people can reach out, or provide in-person or call-in coaching. Also, employers should include incentives with meaning—tying charitable rewards to activities or offering rewards for families, such as amusement park passes.

NEXT: Making well-being a part of corporate culture and strategy

Walmsley said once an employer has its well-being program in place, it can make it part of the corporate culture and strategy using four components: leadership, environment, communication and measurement.

Leadership includes showing care for people, visual support and financial support. Ways to do this include:

  • A video message or letter from leadership;
  • Program participation by leadership;
  • Review and align company policies to include company well-being initiatives and management expectations;
  • Hold management accountable for participation and improvement;
  • Include in meetings well-being tips or announcements of upcoming initiatives; and
  • Use initiatives such as “beat the boss” challenges.

Environment includes the actual workplace environment, policies and procedures and equity across all employees, Walmsley said. Ways to do this include:

  • Lighting, ergonomics, food choices and offering movement or mindful areas in the workplace;
  • Policies and procedures about tobacco use, working from home, vacation, physical activity and limiting vacation rollover to encourage people to take time to unplug;
  • Equity across all employees, including discounts on fitness clubs across the country, food delivery at the workplace, etc.; and
  • Support that embraces family, such as a healthy kitchen initiative.

Communication includes awareness of resources, two-way dialogues and addressing the full population. Ways to do this include:

  • Share results and successes of well-being participants in aggregate to see what they are part of;
  • Frequent short surveys, such as monthly, 10-second surveys asking about how things are going;
  • Including family/home messages; and
  • Testimonials from colleagues in the form of videos, letters or case studies, which can convey the idea that well-being is the norm.

Finally, Walmsley suggested employers should measure their well-being program success regularly. She said employers should choose a metric that drives the business. “For example if customer service drives business, check on the happiness of customer service staff,” she said.

Other tips to consider in measuring well-being program success include:

  • Write down specific goals, for example, 5% greater participation over last year;
  • Use comparative, quantitative metrics of employee well-being;
  • Track year-over-year progress to make sure the program is impacting the same population and improving their well-being; 
  • Measure employee engagement, since engaged employees improve business profitability; and 
  • Compare engagement with measures of well-being to solidify the connection between business outcomes and the well-being program, Walmsley concluded.