Posted and filed under Business.

Being confined to a cubicle day in and day out can take a toll on your body. Stress levels increase, health concerns can arise, and the overall happiness of employees can decline. Health and Wellness programs have been a hot topic in many large companies in the last decade. Companies such as Google, USAA, and IBM are taking initiative and providing wellness programs to their employees. Companies are also beginning to include health and wellness initiatives into their Missions in order to improve the overall wellbeing of their employees, and in return increase the overall health of the company. Being able to live a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be a tug-of-war between employee and employer.

The Director of USAA’s wellness program, Peter Wald, has been providing healthy options to the company’s employees since 2002. Wald designed the wellness program to focus on three goals: to improve health, lower company health costs, and to improve productivity. Since the program’s implementation, 85% of USAA’s employees have participated.

What can be included into a wellness program ranges from physical fitness and nutritional advice to stress management, and everything in between. More often than not, the best way to incorporate an effective program is to listen to the employees. Conducting surveys or focus groups can help determine what employees find motivating and what they lack interest in. The company Honest Tea had incorporated a yoga class into the company’s wellness program, but the turn out had been declining. By using surveys, Honest Tea was able to determine that most of the employees were interested in a more rigorous and intensive workout session, and not yoga. After making the change to the program, the company saw a 50% increase in attendance to the program. In order for a corporate wellness program to be effective, employees need to be heard by employers.

Larger companies such as USAA, offer multiple incentives to participate in healthy activities. One incentive is employees can receive increased discounts on gym memberships depending on how often they participate. For employees who go three or more times a week, they can receive a 75% discount off of an annual gym membership fee. The company offers lower health insurance premiums for people who improve their health, and the company will also pay employees up to $550 a year for meeting specific health requirement.

For many people, knowing how to get involved and participate in a healthier lifestyle can be difficult. It is important for companies to clearly state what the program entails, how it works, what is in it for the employee, and how they can get involved. La Torre and Goetzel (2016) mentions that USAA, “describes its communications with workers as relentless and surround sound.” Even seemingly minute gestures can increase the chances of proactively staying healthy. USAA posts mile markers along long hallways to encourage employees to hit specific walking goals throughout the day.

Participating in healthy habits doesn’t just affect the individual, it can also make a significant impact on the company. The wellness program at Corporate Network Services (CNS) costs about $4,500 a year, but can ultimately save the company much more in insurance costs, productivity growth, and absenteeism. Having an effective wellness program also provides incentive for people to strive for employment with that particular organization. Knowing that a company cares for its employees attracts innovative and productive people that are driven to meet the high standards set in the company’s mission and vision statements. If being healthy really is a game of tug-of-war, we need to make sure that employees and employers are pulling in the same direction.