"Whether your company is considering wellness initiatives or has a solid program already in motion, the most important thing you can do for your employees' well-being is to focus on your organization's culture.
Health fairs, onsite yoga, and healthier food choices are valuable benefits for your employees, but they won't create a more productive, engaged workforce on their own. You can't just start a wellness program and expect success without attending to issues that fundamentally help or hurt employee well-being, such as communication practices, relationships and the work environment.
Leaders, this starts with you, so consider the following:
- Go to the source: To help your team genuinely flourish, you need to ask the right questions so every employee, no matter what role or level, will answer as honestly as possible. Consider an anonymous all-employee survey that solicits feedback on both individual well-being and organizational health. Have a third party conduct the survey so employees feel confident responding candidly without fear or repercussions. But keep in mind that the only thing worse than not asking for employee feedback is asking for feedback and doing nothing about it. Only invest in an all-employee survey if you're truly committed to taking action with the information you gather.
- Over-communicate: As a team leader, one of the most valuable ways to foster employee development is to create conditions where two-way communication is frequent and candid. This means frequent check-ins with your team members about their personal well-being, asking how they're feeling about work and really listening to what they say. Hold a group discussion where you address what needs to happen for people to feel comfortable with leaving their desks to use the onsite fitness center or participate in well-being initiatives. This also might mean sharing the ways you're working on your own well-being or, conversely, how you don't expect your team to be connected 24/7 even though you are.
- Involve your team in decisions: Most people only support what they've been a part of creating, so make sure your team members are part of the decision-making process. For example, if the team worries about participating in healthy living programs because they're afraid of disapproval, ask them directly what might help to resolve these concerns.
- Walk the talk: No matter how much you say it's fine for your team to participate in health and wellness initiatives at work, your body language and actions will always convey the most powerful message about what's encouraged and accepted. If you never take breaks, work late every night and seem to be emailing at all hours of the day, your employees will inevitably feel compelled to follow your lead. Do your best to demonstrate the behaviors that are best for you and your team. If you're out of balance, acknowledge it and share how you're working on it.
- Think about well-being holistically: Many things affect your well-being outside of physical health, such as financial security, career satisfaction, emotional health, and relationships.
Your support on a holistic level could involve anything from encouraging the use of the onsite fitness center to scheduling breaks so your team can do lunch-hour meditation classes. You can also establish professional growth plans for broadening team members' skill sets or work with your team to create flexible work schedules that support work-life balance.
This may seem challenging, but it's doable
If this sounds overwhelming or in the "it's not my responsibility" realm, let me be clear: I'm not suggesting it's your job to "get" your employees well. (In fact, I'm certain it's virtually impossible for any human being to "get" another human being well!)
As a leader, you have an incredible impact on the lives of those you lead. So, it's your job to create conditions where your employees feel empowered and can thrive. Ultimately, the best way to create the right environment is to be the best version of yourself and support your team the way you would like to be supported: fully, respectfully and compassionately.
Rebecca Johnson is Director of Wellness Services at Corporate Fitness Works, a full-service, one-stop shop of fitness and wellness solutions for companies to ensure their employees bring their best selves to work each day."